Language and Societies

ANT/LIN 5320 at Wayne State University

Retelling Snow White: The Tale and its Reflection of Western Culture

Retelling Snow White: The Tale and its Reflection of Western Culture

Madeleine Seidel

Folklore is often regarded as a reflection of societal norms and values. When transcribed, each story provides a snapshot of its storyteller’s social environment. Certain tales, such as the Grimms’ version of Snow White, are reissued and retold, displaying the evolving cultural context consistent with the date of each publication. These linguistic changes help audiences to understand their contemporary social challenges. This paper analyzes the linguistic evolution of the English-language printed editions of Snow White and the impact of the Disney film on subsequent printed renditions of the story. Systematic analysis of the narrative style and form of the 19th and early 20th century versions of the story were compared with those published after the film along with the dialogue and narrative structure of the Disney film itself. This study demonstrates that the tale of Snow White evolved linguistically in conjunction with Western culture, reflecting the changing values and societal norms that led to those prevalent today.

April 6, 2015 - Posted by | abstract


  1. I hope that your post-Disney texts include Donald Barthelme’s amazing 1967 rendering. Some of the wordplay, especially taken in context of the feminist revolution then underway, is revealing: “horsewife” as mashup, of repressed-woman-meets-domestic-animal.

    Comment by Dan Harrison | April 6, 2015 | Reply

  2. It would be interesting to explore the metaphors represented in the title itself, and to what extent these metaphors are tied to ideas/ideals of womanhood, purity and sexuality – not to mention race. Also, how did these ideas/ideals evolve over time and with different versions of the story?

    Comment by Glenda Wyatt-Franklin | April 8, 2015 | Reply

  3. Kicking off your abstract with the statement that the folklore you were studying was transcribed is very interesting. While I’ve said this in previous posts, I think it’s interesting to consider how your analysis might differ if you studied this topic not from a linguistic viewpoint, but through an embodied Performance perspective. Thinking about Performance as Richard Schechner does as “(re)stored”/twice-behaved behavior, how can you THEN understand how these performances of folktales vary over time?

    Comment by Kathryn Nowinski | April 21, 2015 | Reply

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