Girardot explains the tale “Snow White” in the context of the main character’s initiation and transition into adulthood. Fairy tales, she argues, are not simply for amusement and escape, but also for gaining knowledge and broadening the imagination. Folklorists place “Snow White” into a “Banished Wife or Maiden” tale category. Fairy tales cannot be removed from the magical and religious spheres, as some critics have tried to do, because they are not simply meant to teach readers how to adjust to adult reality. The magic plays an integral part in “Snow White,” as well as other fairy tales. As for religion, fairy tales place angels inside heroines and fairies, and devils inside villains. Girardot acknowledges that Disney’s Snow White maintains the darker side of the original tale, especially in the evil stepmother character.
It is necessary to analyze multiple versions of a piece of folklore before creating an overarching analysis on the story’s meaning. For “Snow White,” this is a more difficult task, because many of the versions have been influence and changed by the Grimms version. However, the basic framework of the story has remained the same throughout the years. The message that the tale promotes, for example, has remained unchanged. On the surface level, the meaning of the story concerns the triumph of a beautiful and good heroine over the evil, jealous stepmother. However, the story goes deeper than that. It is a tale of maturation, the transition between childhood and adulthood, natural to cultural life, and asexual to sexual life.
Girardot analyzes “Snow White” by placing the girl’s story into five steps associated with initiation rituals: Prologue and Problem, Separation, Liminal Period, Reincorporation and Rebirth, and Epilogue. The first step is the introduction of the tale, from Snow White’s birth to her banishment into the woods. The Separation period entails her trek through the forest and eventual discovery of the Dwarfs’ cottage. Snow White’s stay with the dwarves and her “death” encompass the Liminal Period, and her revival and marriage to the prince are her Reincorporation and Rebirth. The last step is Snow White’s revenge on her stepmother during the wedding ceremony. Disney’s version of Snow White involved these steps as well, making it also an initiatory tale of a girl’s transition into womanhood.