The spiritual Message of German Fairy tales

Little Snow-White and the seven dwarfs

Tale of the Brothers Grimm translated by M. Hunt [1884]
Interpretation by Undine & Jens in green [2018]

Because it is said in the human world “All good things come in threes”, we would like to put this famous fairy tale with the seven dwarfs behind the seven mountains, which has given thought to many generations, in a row to “The twelve brothers” and “The seven Ravens“. That fits well, because here the same topic is probably looked at from a slightly different point of view. On the upper level, this fairy tale is a wonderful message for our children to practice the time-honoured virtues such as compassion, helpfulness, humility and truthfulness and not to be seduced by the greedy ego and the addiction to external beauty. On a middle level we see the usual development of a child from the mothers desire to have children through the carefree childhood, the household duties, the puberty with severe crisis up to the great love with the hoped for dream wedding. And on the deeper level we can find a wonderful journey into our inner being, where the great battle takes place between the greedy ego and the pure self-consciousness, between “I want!” and “I am.”

Once upon a time in the middle of winter, when the flakes of snow were falling like feathers from the sky, a queen sat at a window sewing, and the frame of the window was made of black ebony. And whilst she was sewing and looking out of the window at the snow, she pricked her finger with the needle, and three drops of blood fell upon the snow. And the red looked pretty upon the white snow, and she thought to herself, “Would that I had a child as white as snow, as red as blood, and as black as the wood of the window-frame.” Soon after that she had a little daughter, who was as white as snow, and as red as blood, and her hair was as black as ebony; and she was therefore called Little Snow-White. And when the child was born, the Queen died.

The fairy tale begins with a queen who wants a perfect child. If we had previously symbolized the king as the ruling spirit, we can see the queen here as the ruling nature. Nature looks through her window at perfect beauty and wishes for a corresponding embodiment. Obviously, the King granted her wish and a beautiful child was born. However, as the fairy tale goes on, the pure Mother Nature seems to disappear with the birth of the child and transforms into a new queen with a terrible ego full of desire, hatred and illusion, which is looking for the perfect beauty especially in her own looks. Today we would say: “Typical isolated solution! If that will work out...”

Great symbolism is used here for this development. At the beginning, there is the famous needle prick that leads the thread of fate, which sends the soul on its way through happiness and suffering. Like the mind, nature strives for a harmony that is commonly referred to as ‘beauty’. If we speak of the Holy Trinity of Father, Son and Holy Spirit from a spiritual point of view, then from a natural point of view we can also see three fundamental principles that work everywhere in nature. There is a long tradition of symbolizing these principles with the three colours of white, red and black. We find these colours, for example, in the ancient Song of Songs, where the soul presumably describes its body: “My friend is white and red, chosen from among many thousands. His head is the finest gold. His curls are frizzy, black as a raven. His eyes are like the eyes of the pigeons on the streams, washed with milk and are in abundance. His cheeks are like spice gardens, where balsam herbs grow. His lips are like roses dripping with flowing myrrh ... [Bible, Song of Songs 5.10]” We will even find the raven and the dove mentioned later in the fairy tale.

Similarly, the old Indian epic Mahabharata says about the so-called three Gunas or natural qualities: “Under the influence of Tamas he gets the dark and illusory, under the influence of Rajas he burns with passion, and through Sattwa he achieves what is cheerful and kind. This is how the three colours white, red and black are created. All these colours (and their mixtures) belong to nature (the Prakriti). [MHB 12.303]”

There is a certain ingenuity in this, because one could explain the whole process of the creation of the spiritual and natural world with these three principles in a relatively simple way and perfectly good. That doesn’t necessarily contradict our current science of the laws of nature. Gravity, for example, is part of the principle of Tamas, the inertia that tends to attract and solidify, the frame made of dark ebony, so to speak, which limits and holds everything together in nature. The famous big bang resembles the pinprick mentioned above, which sets everything in motion with a few drops of passion or energy and lets the world appear in the bright light of our consciousness.

However, what is the perfect beauty in the world? Goethe said: “Beauty is a manifestation of secret natural laws that would have remained hidden from us forever without its appearance.” Accordingly, we could also look for beauty in the inner qualities of nature, as the saying goes: “True beauty comes from within.” We already know from the famous golden ratio that beauty does not always mean uniform symmetry. In our fairy tale, too, the following symbol stands for perfect beauty: three drops of red passion on a wide field of white goodness or purity, which is held together in a dark frame of inertia that keeps order. If we could find such harmony in our consciousness, a great deal would certainly have been achieved. And this beautiful child is even born, but meets a terrible opponent in the world, namely an ego full of desire, hatred and illusion, which seems to rule this world like an all-powerful queen and is hostile to all true purity and harmony. This is really a big challenge in our life.

After a year had passed the King took to himself another wife. She was a beautiful woman, but proud and haughty, and she could not bear that any one else should surpass her in beauty. She had a wonderful looking-glass, and when she stood in front of it and looked at herself in it, and said

“Looking-glass, Looking-glass, on the wall,
Who in this land is the fairest of all?”

the looking-glass answered

“Thou, O Queen, art the fairest of all!”.

Then she was satisfied, for she knew that the looking-glass spoke the truth.

The mirror is a common symbol for our self-consciousness, since we recognize ourselves in it as a person and identify with an image. The more desire, hatred and illusion arise in us, the more the self-consciousness changes into a greedy ego, which becomes the cause of great passion, which of course also creates great suffering. We think these two poles, the real and the illusory self, so to speak, are the subject of this whole fairy tale. The tricky thing is, as long as our greedy ego gets enough nourishment and reassurance, it feels really good. Therefore, we like to believe the mirror that confirms our desired image and see the truth in it, although it is only an image. This is not only the case with vain women today, but also with proud men and many scientists who like to believe in objective measured values and see more truth in them than in subjective experiences. Of course, our measuring instruments reflect certain properties of nature, but by no means all, and like the image in a mirror, the measured values should not be confused with the truth. Otherwise, it leads to the point that everything, that cannot be measured, is defined as false and untrue, as can be seen well in the example of homeopathy.

We owe these measuring magic mirrors on the one hand our modern progress, but on the other hand, we also owe them a lot of passion and blind egoism, which lives freely according to the motto: “Devil-may-care!” because it feels extremely threatened in its illusion bubble. And what is threatening illusion the most? The truth, of course, the pure awareness, that we can see here growing up in the form of Snow-White. Because perfect beauty beyond all illusory ideals is basically a pure and harmonious consciousness, which one can also call true love.

But Snow-White was growing up, and grew more and more beautiful; and when she was seven years old she was as beautiful as the day, and more beautiful than the Queen herself. And once when the Queen asked her looking-glass

“Looking-glass, Looking-glass, on the wall,
Who in this land is the fairest of all?”

it answered

“Thou art fairer than all who are here, Lady Queen.
But more beautiful still is Snow-White, as I ween.”.

Then the Queen was shocked, and turned yellow and green with envy. From that hour, whenever she looked at Snow-White, her heart heaved in her breast, she hated the girl so much. And envy and pride grew higher and higher in her heart like a weed, so that she had no peace day or night. She called a huntsman, and said, “Take the child away into the forest; I will no longer have her in my sight. Kill her, and bring me back her heart as a token.” The huntsman obeyed, and took her away; but when he had drawn his knife, and was about to pierce Snow-White’s innocent heart, she began to weep, and said, “Ah, dear huntsman, leave me my life! I will run away into the wild forest, and never come home again.” And as she was so beautiful the huntsman had pity on her and said, “Run away, then, you poor child.” “The wild beasts will soon have devoured you,” thought he, and yet it seemed as if a stone had been rolled from his heart since it was no longer needful for him to kill her. And as a young boar just then came running by he stabbed it, and cut out its heart and took it to the Queen as proof that the child was dead. The cook had to salt this, and the wicked Queen ate it, and thought she had eaten the heart of Snow-White.

This is how it happens: The greedy ego cannot bear it if the reflection in the mirror does not correspond to its wishes. Instead of further developing itself internally, it tries to change the external world until its own autocratic image is correct again. Then it feels a certain relief for a short time. Does that sound familiar to us? The greedy ego even sends death into the world in the form of a hunter, so that its image can be put back in order, and demands a token in order to feel safe. You can already see how difficult it is to ‘preserve’ an illusion. Yet we try our best in life with it. The hunter is not doing better, for how could he kill such a pure being? In the course of the fairy tale we shall see that it is even impossible to kill the pure self-consciousness. This is mainly due to the fact, that death is only an image that the greedy ego creates for itself out of fear for its illusion bubble. As long as we regard external images as truth and do not recognize the inner true being, there will also be this fear of death.

But now the poor child was all alone in the great forest, and so terrified that she looked at every leaf of every tree, and did not know what to do. Then she began to run, and ran over sharp stones and through thorns, and the wild beasts ran past her, but did her no harm. She ran as long as her feet would go until it was almost evening; then she saw a little cottage and went into it to rest herself. Everything in the cottage was small, but neater and cleaner than can be told. There was a table on which was a white cover, and seven little plates, and on each plate a little spoon; moreover, there were seven little knives and forks, and seven little mugs. Against the wall stood seven little beds side by side, and covered with Snow-White counterpanes. Little Snow-White was so hungry and thirsty that she ate some vegetables and bread from each plate and drank a drop of wine out of each mug, for she did not wish to take all from one only. Then, as she was so tired, she laid herself down on one of the little beds, but none of them suited her; one was too long, another too short, but at last she found that the seventh one was right, and so she remained in it, said a prayer and went to sleep.

In this way, the struggle rages within us, and the pure consciousness is liked to be banished deep into nature. However, it doesn’t give up that easily, it goes its way through suffering and all obstacles until it enters the inside of our physical house. While reason was at least at home in the last two fairy tales, all the residents have flown out here. Only the external things suggest seven residents, who are all still small and pure here, which reminds us of the small body of a still innocent child and where the world is still relatively in order. The different beds symbolize the fact that there are seven different beings, and if we think of the five senses along with thought and reason from the last fairy tale of the seven ravens, then the self-consciousness could fit best into the bed of thoughts or even reason. Before it goes to sleep here, it goes from chair to chair and nibbles on the food of the senses. Then it commands itself to God and finds rest. What does that mean? It probably means the same as the beginning of the famous prayer: “Our Heavenly Father, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come. Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven ... [Bible, Luke 11.2]” So not: My name, My kingdom and My will be done ... This can really be a great key to find inner peace.

When it was quite dark the owners of the cottage came back; they were seven dwarfs who dug and delved in the mountains for ore. They lit their seven candles, and as it was now light within the cottage they saw that some one had been there, for everything was not in the same order in which they had left it. The first said, “Who has been sitting on my chair?” The second, “Who has been eating off my plate?” The third, “Who has been taking some of my bread?” The fourth, “Who has been eating my vegetables?” The fifth, “Who has been using my fork?” The sixth, “Who has been cutting with my knife?” The seventh, “Who has been drinking out of my mug?” Then the first looked round and saw that there was a little hole on his bed, and he said, “Who has been getting into my bed?” The others came up and each called out, “Somebody has been lying in my bed too.” But the seventh when he looked at his bed saw little Snow-White, who was lying asleep therein. And he called the others, who came running up, and they cried out with astonishment, and brought their seven little candles and let the light fall on little Snow-White. “Oh, heavens! Oh, heavens!” cried they, “What a lovely child!” and they were so glad that they did not wake her up, but let her sleep on in the bed. And the seventh dwarf slept with his companions, one hour with each, and so got through the night.

Here, too, the senses, thoughts and reason return to their home in the evening, when it gets dark outside in the world, after having worked hard all day in the world. This inner contemplation has become rare these days. Artificial light and modern media bind the senses to the outside world even after work, and worldly worries haunt us up to sleep and dream. It’s a shame, we live almost exclusively in a 2D world and miss the third dimension of depth in us, where real life takes place. Because there we could find these mystical dwarfs behind the seven mountains, who work in secret and are physically so small or subtle that you can hardly see them. Perhaps at that time one imagined our senses and thinking as such small beings who live in our body and look for their respective nourishment in nature. Nowadays you can think of our small nerve cells that do their hard work in the eye, ear, etc. When their sensory consciousness returned from working in the world, they lit their light inside their house and of course noticed that something had changed here and that a previously unknown consciousness had entered. First they noticed it in their food and then in their sleeping places, where they usually come to rest. The fact that their beds are covered with snow-white sheets also goes well with the senses, of which one says: “He who sleeps does not sin.” But one bed was already occupied, and they were amazed at the pure beauty that they saw there. Here, too, one can only speculate about the differences between the dwarfs. Everyone seems to have a slightly different inclination, and the symbolism relates to a normal meal with chair, knife and fork, plate and mug, bread, vegetables and wine. It is difficult to say whether certain clues are hidden there. At least this symbolism also fits the five senses. Because they have a seat in certain sensory organs, use certain tools like knives and forks, they learn and collect memories as on plates and in cups, they have their respective nourishment and, as sensory awareness, their own light. This could also explain the fact that reason sleeps one after the other with the other senses and thinking while its bed is occupied by the purer consciousness. That would be good and could already symbolize a higher inner development.

Comparing our body with a house, a castle or a city is a very old symbolism that we also find in the Indian Mahabharata: “The body is compared with a city. Reason is its king, and the thinking residing in the body is like a minister who brings matters to the king who should decide them. The sense organs are the citizens employed by thinking ... [MHB 12.254]”

When it was morning little Snow-White awoke, and was frightened when she saw the seven dwarfs. But they were friendly and asked her what her name was. “My name is Snow-White,” she answered. “How have you come to our house?” said the dwarfs. Then she told them that her step-mother had wished to have her killed, but that the huntsman had spared her life, and that she had run for the whole day, until at last she had found their dwelling. The dwarfs said, “If you will take care of our house, cook, make the beds, wash, sew, and knit, and if you will keep everything neat and clean, you can stay with us and you shall want for nothing.” “Yes,” said Snow-White, “with all my heart,” and she stayed with them. She kept the house in order for them; in the mornings they went to the mountains and looked for copper and gold, in the evenings they came back, and then their supper had to be ready. The girl was alone the whole day, so the good dwarfs warned her and said, “Beware of your step-mother, she will soon know that you are here; be sure to let no one come in.”

At some point a purer awareness awakens in us that is initially afraid of the dwarfs of the senses. But our senses and thoughts don’t have to be dangerous or, as sometimes said, ‘sinful’. They can also become our friends, make friends with the purer self-consciousness, and even warn and protect us from the greedy ego of the evil stepmother. The senses here in the tale are happy that they have now found a purer awareness, which keeps their house tidy and prepares their food well. We should also wish for something like this in our body, because the greedy ego usually cares far too much about external things and only seeks its happiness there. And inside, chaos often arises, large piles of rubbish accumulate, and it’s so grey and dark that we don’t have to be surprised when depression or strange fears overtake us. For whatever reason should the dwarfs light their lights in a house where there is nothing pure, beautiful and harmonious?

But the Queen, believing that she had eaten Snow-White’s heart, could not but think that she was again the first and most beautiful of all; and she went to her looking-glass and said

“Looking-glass, Looking-glass, on the wall,
Who in this land is the fairest of all?”

and the glass answered

“Oh, Queen, thou art fairest of all I see,
But over the hills, where the seven dwarfs dwell,
Snow-White is still alive and well,
And none is so fair as she.”

Then she was astounded, for she knew that the looking-glass never spoke falsely, and she knew that the huntsman had betrayed her, and that little Snow-White was still alive. And so she thought and thought again how she might kill her, for so long as she was not the fairest in the whole land, envy let her have no rest. And when she had at last thought of something to do, she painted her face, and dressed herself like an old pedlar-woman, and no one could have known her. In this disguise she went over the seven mountains to the seven dwarfs, and knocked at the door and cried, “Pretty things to sell, very cheap, very cheap.” Little Snow-White looked out of the window and called out, “Good-day, my good woman, what have you to sell?” “Good things, pretty things,” she answered; “stay-laces of all colours,” and she pulled out one which was woven of bright-coloured silk. “I may let the worthy old woman in,” thought Snow-White, and she unbolted the door and bought the pretty laces. “Child,” said the old woman, “what a fright you look; come, I will lace you properly for once.” Snow-White had no suspicion, but stood before her, and let herself be laced with the new laces. But the old woman laced so quickly and laced so tightly that Snow-White lost her breath and fell down as if dead. “Now I am the most beautiful,” said the Queen to herself, and ran away.

Not long afterwards, in the evening, the seven dwarfs came home, but how shocked they were when they saw their dear little Snow-White lying on the ground, and that she neither stirred nor moved, and seemed to be dead. They lifted her up, and, as they saw that she was laced too tightly, they cut the laces; then she began to breathe a little, and after a while came to life again. When the dwarfs heard what had happened they said, “The old pedlar-woman was no one else than the wicked Queen; take care and let no one come in when we are not with you.”

Oh yes, it’s not easy for such a greedy ego. It feels betrayed by everyone and even by death and must really do everything itself in the end. Therefore, it thinks up the next crime. It disguises itself and appears in the form of a trader with beautiful goods. Indeed, it can seduce the pure self-consciousness, appeals to the first of the three drops of passion, takes advantage of the great good nature and attacks the snow-white body. The corset is certainly not an accidental symbol and probably stands for the obsession with outer beauty, which for a long time was pursued far beyond common sense. Interestingly, here it is the dwarfs, i.e. the senses with thoughts and reason, who release the ego-consciousness from its constraints. In the two previous fairy tales, it was vice versa, and the ego-consciousness released the senses, thoughts and reason from their animal bonds. This is not really a contradiction, because it is just one consciousness that shows itself in different forms and struggles with itself. Even the greedy ego is basically just pure consciousness, otherwise it would never have been able to find Snow-White behind the seven mountains in this little house and trade with her.

What are these seven mountains? There are probably seven outward forms, behind which seven natural forces are hidden in the form of the dwarfs. First, this reminds us of our physical coverings, behind which the self-consciousness is hidden inside. In practice, it is the walls that we build around ourselves in order to feel like an independent person. These covers also include the five senses with thought and reason, which envelop our true self-inside so that we cannot recognize it. The dwarfs could then symbolize the sense-consciousness associated with every sense. Because the sense-consciousness that digs for treasure in the world is dwarfish as long as it is tied up in our little body. Such ideas were shown in symbolic drawings as an aid to meditation. Medieval alchemy also used them for their own purposes, and thanks to the advent of printing, some of them have been passed on. Let’s think, for example, of the Vitriol seven pointed star from the 16th century:

Here one could interpret the following: On the left side, there is the ruling spirit in the form of a sun king with sceptre and shield on the golden lion of knowledge or the philosopher’s stone, which rules the fire-breathing primordial dragon in the cave. This dragon is like the hissing serpent of Adam and Eve or the Kundalini serpent in yoga. In practice, we are usually fighting with a fire-breathing ego-dragon full of burning passion. On the right side is the moon goddess with the bow of sensual love as the ruling nature over the living beings, which are represented here as a large fish in the water. The cosmic man with pure consciousness inside the circle holds the elements fire and air in the form of candles and fish bladder and stands on the two elements earth and water. His embodiment is the large triangle of soul, spirit and body (anima, spiritus and corpus), and his origin lies in the inner consciousness or pure spirit, which is symbolized there as a smaller triangle. A salamander burns in the fire of purification and change above the animal soul with the worldly sun. Above the spirit is a bird with the cool moon of knowledge in the dark, which reminds us of the white bird of intuition that we find, for example, in Hansel and Gretel, or the white dove as a symbol of the Holy Spirit. In the middle one can see the wings of the Hermes wand as a symbol of the unity of opposites and the spiritual ascent.

The seven-pointed star symbolizes the seven wandering stars (Saturn, Jupiter, Mars, Sun, Venus, Mercury and Moon) with the seven chemical elements (lead, tin, iron, gold, copper, mercury and silver) similar to the seven chakras in our body. In between there is a sequence of images that symbolizes our human development from dark ignorance with the rule of death through purification, knowledge and insight to the resurrection to eternal life. In the outer circle, you can read the Latin inscription “Visita Interiora Terrae Rectificando Invenies Occultum Lapidem” with the initials VITRIOL, in English: “Search inside the earth, through purification you will find the hidden stone.” That could also mean: “Explore the depths of nature with your five senses, thinking and reason, and find the hidden eternal and immortal spirit on the path of purification.” The tips of the seven-pointed star also remind us of the seven dwarfs with their pointed caps behind the seven mountains in the sense of the seven natural forces behind the seven planets and elements, which of course are closely connected to our five senses and thinking, and behind which pure consciousness or God can be found.

However, such diagrams should not be confused with the systematics of our modern science. It should not be viewed as the truth itself, but as a means of concentration and memory that can be used on the path to truth. They represent the same principle as the old fairy tales, and here too it is good to fathom the depths and not get stuck in the superficial design.

In India such aids are called a mandala or yantra. In our case you could imagine the following:

Then the six corners of the star, which consists of the two triangles of male and female, with the inner circle of reason would be the seven mountains around pure consciousness. In this symbolism, the three body covers or levels can be clearly recognized, which are mentioned in yoga, namely the outer gross cover symbolized as a square, the middle subtle cover as a star and the inner spiritual cover as a circle. On the subtle level, we can find all the fairy-tale beings such as dwarfs, trolls, fairies and elves who work as a link between our material body and our spiritual being. Scientifically, one could speak of nerve cells here, small and intelligent cells, so to speak, which connect matter and spirit. The greedy ego in the form of the evil mother-in-law passes through the outer two covers of the body and the senses and tries to poison our pure self-consciousness behind the ‘seven mountains with the seven dwarfs’.

What are these poisons of consciousness? In general, one speaks here of desire, hatred and illusion or attachment, rejection and ignorance. That is why the dwarfs and above all reason say: “Never let the greedy ego in if we are not with you and the gates of the senses are open!”

But the wicked woman when she had reached home went in front of the glass and asked

“Looking-glass, Looking-glass, on the wall,
Who in this land is the fairest of all?”

and it answered as before

“Oh, Queen, thou art fairest of all I see,
But over the hills, where the seven dwarfs dwell,
Snow-White is still alive and well,
And none is so fair as she.”

When she heard that, all her blood rushed to her heart with fear, for she saw plainly that little Snow-White was again alive. “But now,” she said, “I will think of something that shall put an end to you,” and by the help of witchcraft, which she understood, she made a poisonous comb. Then she disguised herself and took the shape of another old woman. So she went over the seven mountains to the seven dwarfs, knocked at the door, and cried, “Good things to sell, cheap, cheap!” Little Snow-White looked out and said, “Go away; I cannot let any one come in.” “I suppose you can look,” said the old woman, and pulled the poisonous comb out and held it up. It pleased the girl so well that she let herself be beguiled, and opened the door. When they had made a bargain the old woman said, “Now I will comb you properly for once.” Poor little Snow-White had no suspicion, and let the old woman do as she pleased, but hardly had she put the comb in her hair than the poison in it took effect, and the girl fell down senseless. “You paragon of beauty,” said the wicked woman, “you are done for now,” and she went away. But fortunately it was almost evening, when the seven dwarfs came home. When they saw Snow-White lying as if dead upon the ground they at once suspected the step-mother, and they looked and found the poisoned comb. Scarcely had they taken it out when Snow-White came to herself, and told them what had happened. Then they warned her once more to be upon her guard and to open the door to no one.

Again, the greedy ego looks in the mirror. This mirror can be found not only in the outer material world, but also in the inner, spiritual world. It is consciousness itself that perceives itself and its surroundings with the help of the senses, thinking and reason. This ‘perception’ is nothing other than looking in a mirror. And this perception has to be cleaned and kept pure, as if you were holding a mirror pure, so that the image is falsified as little as possible. In Zen Buddhism it is said:

The body is like the tree of knowledge,
Consciousness is like a clear mirror,
Always polish it with zeal,
Don’t let dust adhere to it.

Now one could ask: Does the greedy ego come from outside or inside? Both! It comes from within, as far as our self-consciousness develops into a greedy ego through desire, hatred and illusion. It comes from outside as far as we invite desire, hatred and illusion and let them in. One is Snow-White as our inner consciousness and the other the Queen as the external ruling nature. This question of inside and outside has a lot to do with the separation of “mine” and “yours” or “I” and “others”. The pure consciousness really cares little about these limits. It works from the outside as from the inside, and in this regard, no one is completely independent. Everyone also affects other people, and even in the womb we are exposed to the effects of the ‘ruling nature’. Whoever recognizes this becomes aware of his responsibility towards all beings in this world.

The second drop of passion now also shows its effect, the greedy ego finds an access through vanity, regarding the black hair like ebony. The symbol reminds us of hours of combing, hairdressing and applying makeup in front of the mirror in order to shape our external ideal. Thereby, the poison of desire, hatred and illusion comes into our inner being, paralyzes the real life and lets the pure consciousness sink into a dream world. But, even this poison could not completely kill the pure consciousness, just numb it for a while. Again, the dwarfs can help, find the toxic cause and free Snow-White from it. Finally, reason again warns of the greedy ego.

The Queen, at home, went in front of the glass and said

“Looking-glass, Looking-glass, on the wall,
Who in this land is the fairest of all?”

Then it answered as before

“Oh, Queen, thou art fairest of all I see,
But over the hills, where the seven dwarfs dwell,
Snow-White is still alive and well,
And none is so fair as she.”

When she heard the glass speak thus she trembled and shook with rage. “Snow-White shall die,” she cried, “even if it costs me my life!” Thereupon she went into a quite secret, lonely room, where no one ever came, and there she made a very poisonous apple. Outside it looked pretty, white with a red cheek, so that every one who saw it longed for it; but whoever ate a piece of it must surely die. When the apple was ready she painted her face, and dressed herself up as a country-woman, and so she went over the seven mountains to the seven dwarfs. She knocked at the door. Snow- white put her head out of the window and said, “I cannot let any one in; the seven dwarfs have forbidden me.” “It is all the same to me,” answered the woman, “I shall soon get rid of my apples. There, I will give you one.” “No,” said Snow-White, “I dare not take anything.” “Are you afraid of poison?” said the old woman; “look, I will cut the apple in two pieces; you eat the red cheek, and I will eat the white.” The apple was so cunningly made that only the red cheek was poisoned. Snow-White longed for the fine apple, and when she saw that the woman ate part of it she could resist no longer, and stretched out her hand and took the poisonous half.

But hardly had she a bit of it in her mouth than she fell down dead. Then the Queen looked at her with a dreadful look, and laughed aloud and said, “White as snow, red as blood, black as ebony-wood! this time the dwarfs cannot wake you up again.” And when she asked of the Looking-glass at home

“Looking-glass, Looking-glass, on the wall,
Who in this land is the fairest of all?”

it answered at last

“Oh, Queen, in this land thou art fairest of all.”

Then her envious heart had rest, so far as an envious heart can have rest.

Every attempted murder makes the greedy ego more and more angry and aggressive. It’s unbearable when you can’t force your personal goals. Then the ego seems to develop even more intelligence than our reason, comes up with the most insidious ideas, hides behind the most beautiful forms and is very difficult to recognize. Therefore, the third drop of passion demands its right, the self-consciousness does not keep gates and windows closed, but pokes its head out curiously. This time the poison disappears in the red mouth due to the desire for pleasure, can work from within and the magic mirror confirms: The goal has finally been reached!

Does that sound familiar to us? Aren’t our apples in the supermarket particularly attractive and tempting on the outside? We accomplish this with a lot of poison, as the saying goes: “All show and no substance!” This is a very insidious story that makes wide circles, and our greedy ego naturally plays a major role here.

The dwarfs, when they came home in the evening, found Snow-White lying upon the ground; she breathed no longer and was dead. They lifted her up, looked to see whether they could find anything poisonous, unlaced her, combed her hair, washed her with water and wine, but it was all of no use; the poor child was dead, and remained dead. They laid her upon a bier, and all seven of them sat round it and wept for her, and wept three days long. Then they were going to bury her, but she still looked as if she were living, and still had her pretty red cheeks. They said, “We could not bury her in the dark ground,” and they had a transparent coffin of glass made, so that she could be seen from all sides, and they laid her in it, and wrote her name upon it in golden letters, and that she was a king’s daughter. Then they put the coffin out upon the mountain, and one of them always stayed by it and watched it. And birds came too, and wept for Snow-White; first an owl, then a raven, and last a dove. And now Snow-White lay a long, long time in the coffin, and she did not change, but looked as if she were asleep; for she was as white as snow, as red as blood, and her hair was as black as ebony.

This time the dwarfs couldn’t help, maybe because the toxic cause was no longer visible from the outside. At least that fits with our senses, which can usually only recognize external things. When the living light of consciousness is dim in us, of course there arises a great inner grief that we would call a typical depression today. However, it is good never to lose hope and at least to keep the outward form. Then we build a glass coffin inside, write our name on it and at least guard this ideal. Such a person who is drowning in depression with dimmed consciousness even deserves the sympathy of wild animals, which here could symbolize in detail the natural qualities of passion, darkness and goodness, that work everywhere in nature. At least we find the raven and the dove in the above quote from the Song of Songs. As a typical bird of prey, the owl could represent passion. Anyone who has experienced depression will know what is being talked about here and asks himself the big question: Where on earth can you find salvation now?

It happened, however, that a king’s son came into the forest, and went to the dwarfs’ house to spend the night. He saw the coffin on the mountain, and the beautiful Snow-White within it, and read what was written upon it in golden letters. Then he said to the dwarfs, “Let me have the coffin, I will give you whatever you want for it.” But the dwarfs answered, “We will not part with it for all the gold in the world.” Then he said, “Let me have it as a gift, for I cannot live without seeing Snow-White. I will honour and prize her as my dearest possession.” As he spoke in this way the good dwarfs took pity upon him, and gave him the coffin. And now the King’s son had it carried away by his servants on their shoulders. And it happened that they stumbled over a tree-stump, and with the shock the poisonous piece of apple which Snow-White had bitten off came out of her throat. And before long she opened her eyes, lifted up the lid of the coffin, sat up, and was once more alive. “Oh, heavens, where am I?” she cried. The King’s son, full of joy, said, “You are with me,” and told her what had happened, and said, “I love you more than everything in the world; come with me to my father’s palace, you shall be my wife.” And Snow-White was willing, and went with him, and their wedding was held with great show and splendour.

Fortunately, alongside the ruling nature, there is still a ruling spirit who sends his son to redeem consciousness from the darkness. This does not happen through money or gold, of course, but through the great compassion and grace of true love. It is this spirit that carries everything, or at least allows it to be carried, including our self-consciousness. And what else in life we consider as suffering when we stumble over obstacles on the way, that ultimately serves our awakening from the dark dream of illusion. So here, in the fairy tale even the awakening to real life could be meant, as the wonderful words say: “Oh God, where am I? - You are with me!” The soul finally returns to the father, where the mystical marriage of the unity between man and woman or spirit and nature is celebrated. This unity, where all opposites dissolve and every mirror loses its objectivity, is something very big that one can no longer conceive with ordinary thoughts.

There was the following mystical answer to the above-mentioned Zen saying about the mirror from a kitchen boy named Huineng, who then became a famous Zen master in China:

Basically, there is no tree of knowledge.
No clear mirror is set up.
In the origin there is no thing.
Whereupon should dust lay on?

But Snow-White’s wicked step-mother was also bidden to the feast. When she had arrayed herself in beautiful clothes she went before the Looking-glass, and said

“Looking-glass, Looking-glass, on the wall,
Who in this land is the fairest of all?”

the glass answered

“Oh, Queen, of all here the fairest art thou,
But the young Queen is fairer by far as I trow.”

Then the wicked woman uttered a curse, and was so wretched, so utterly wretched, that she knew not what to do. At first she would not go to the wedding at all, but she had no peace, and must go to see the young Queen. And when she went in she knew Snow-White; and she stood still with rage and fear, and could not stir. But iron slippers had already been put upon the fire, and they were brought in with tongs, and set before her. Then she was forced to put on the red-hot shoes, and dance until she dropped down dead.

And what happens to the greedy ego? Well, it curses itself to great agony, and of course, in the end the illusion bubble has to burst apart, otherwise it would not have become an illusion bubble. What sounds so archaic here with the iron slippers is nowadays a widespread torture. You can call it, for example, “burn-out”. We run and dance on the fiery feet of passion and can’t stop until we’re completely burned out. What more can you say about it? If three drops of passion were so painful for our Snow-White, what do we expect when nowadays passion is set above all virtue and reason and floods our whole world?


... Table of contents of all fairy tale interpretations ...
Our Lady’s Child - (topic: The divine sense of nature)
The Frog-King, or Iron Henry - (topic: spirit-nature)
Sweet Porridge - (topic: poverty and abundance)
Cat and Mouse in Partnership - (topic: reason-ego)
The Fisherman and his Wife - (topic: ego madness)
The Golden Bird - (topic: reason)
The Twelve Brothers - (topic: spirit, passion and nature)
The Seven Ravens - (topic: The seven principles of nature)
Little Snow-White and the seven dwarfs (topic: Ego and passion)
The Six Servants - (topic: Supernatural abilities)
The Poor Man and the Rich Man - (topic: The Curse of Wealth)

[1884] Grimm's Household Tales. Translated from the German and edited by Margaret Hunt. With an introduction by Andrew Lang, 1884, Vol. 1/2, London: George Bell and Sons
[Bible] Luther Bibel, 1912
[MHB] Das Mahabharata des Vyasa, 2014, www.mahabharata.pushpak.de
[2018] Text and Pictures by Undine & Jens / www.pushpak.de