Guess what archetypal plot we have? Watch these in order and guess the similarities.

MODERN VERSION (watch up to 4:35 of this)

ORIGINAL VERSION (watch up to 4:25 of this)

You guessed it! Our archetypal story is SNOW WHITE!!! This part of the story can be called ADOPTION or INCORPORATION. Note that both videos are made by Disney.

The Story We All Know and Love:

Disney Movies, the ones that each and everyone of us know about, seem to leave lasting effects on our childhood memories. But in case you have forgotten our little snow white princess, here is a reminder for the tale of her enchantment. :)

Snow White, a beautiful girl finds jealously of the queen to be her ticket to death. Thankfully, the woodsman that planned to kill her, took her into woods and told her to run away instead, (thank god for him). But now what was Snow White to do?!


To a small cottage Snow White did travel. There she found seven small little chairs and mess all about, so Snow White did what any loving beautiful princess would do, and she cleaned the house of these so called "children" that she thought were living there. She fell asleep because of all her hard work she had accomplished and oh my she must have woken up to a sight she had never seen, for seven little dwarfs were standing about her. Thankfully for Snow White the dwarfs invited her to stay. Oh but the story gets better you just wait!


The evil queen, being the witch that she is, finds out that Snow White is still alive and plans to kill her herself.


With one red juicy poisen apple she travels to Snow White's new humble abode. Disguised as a witch she gives the innocent Snow White one bite of her apple....and.......BAM shes dead. No silly people, that's not the end!! Of course a handsome prince comes to Snow White's rescue, kills the Queen, and gives Snow White the kiss of life, bringing her back to the living and they live happily ever after. Welcome to Disney stories!




The Snow White storyline is supposed to appeal to women who are dealing with the struggles as they grow and mature. This may seem kind of weird now but it'll become more clear later. The story encourages growth and change and highlights two dilhemas: the first representing hitting puberty and the second the transition from adolescence into womanhood. These are both stressful changes in status that are eventually achieved by the heroine.

This brings us to our next section:


Arnold Van Gennep theorized on social rites of passage, and the steps necessary to acheive these. He has three: SEPARATION, LIMINALITY, and INCORPORATION.

SEPARATION is when the person in question is broken from the comfort of their social and sometimes physical home. In Snow White, she is banished from her home in the palace by her evil stepmother. In Step Up 2, she is kicked out of her crew because attending private school takes up all her time.

LIMINALTY sounds super technical, but the concept is easy. Here's the online dictionary definition

the transitional period or phase of a rite of passage, during which the participant lacks social status or rank, remains anonymous, shows obedience and humility, and follows prescribed forms of conduct, dress, etc.

I call it the no-zone. It's the time when the main character is out of the loop. They don't have a group; they're just bangin' around; they don't know what's up. In Snow White, this is when she's running around in the woods at night, getting freaked out by all the creepy wilderness stuff. In Step Up2, this is when she's crewless, still attending private school, and her life sucks.

INCORPORATION is the last stage Van Gennep describes. This is when the main guy finds his place in the world, be it adoption by dwarves or creation of a new dance crew. This may be temporary, however, like in both are examples.


So the basis of the story structure is two parallel sections: one symbolizing puberty and one womanhood. Here's a skeleton overview for the different sections:

This is pretty self explanatory, but a different format from Van Gennep. There are three sections that are repeated twice, with the second repetition being more intense than the first. This creates a foreshadowing, predictable tone to the story and increases emotional drama. The first part, a threat, starts off the story with discontent and tension. Then the physical act of hostility occurs. After the hostility, things settle down as the heroine since the heroine escapes. We can see how the second half is more intense than the first: being kicked out of the house is not as bad as being poisoned by an apple, and deciding to live with dwarfs for a while is not as officially binding as marriage.

Try plotting another book, movie, or play with the same chart. It just might have a Snow White archetypal storyline!


The effect of this story structure as an organizational tool is REPETITION OF PERSECUTION towards the heroine, increasing the drama factor of the story and making it more exciting (sometimes; that's the point at least. Snow White is a pretty slow movie, I think.) It also allows for SYMMETRY, creating a balanced, organized storyline based off the first climatic event symbolizing puberty and the more intense climatic element representing becoming a woman.


The Ego: In Snow White, Snow White plays the part of the archetypal "hero," common in Disney princess movies. She struggles through life, has a heart of gold, and, in the end, is deservingly rescued by her "Prince Charming."
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Similarly, Disney's Cinderella and The Little Mermaid follow a princess character sharing these characteristics. Cinderella, facing struggles as a slave to her wicked stepmother and stepsisters, ends up being rescued by her Prince Charming when he returns a glass slipper in order to marry her. Ariel trades her fins for legs to an evil witch, in order to walk on land and be with the Prince Charming (this one named Eric) that she had saved priorly. He eventually must fight the witch in order to free and save Ariel. Lastly is Penelope from Margaret Atwood's The Penelopiad. An original version of this ego, Penelope is the loving wife of Odysseus, remaining loyal to him while facing struggles with the many suitors infesting her home. In the end, Odysseus returns to defeat them all. And they all live happily ever after.

The Shadow: In Snow White, The Queen plays the part of the archetypal "shadow," also common in the Disney princess movies. Although beautiful, she is wicked- plotting to kill Snow White. However, she ends up being killed, and her plan foiled.
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In The Little Mermaid, Ursula plays the shadow: An ugly, fat, octopus-typed witch who tricks Ariel into eternal silence and attempts to take over her father's kingdom. In the end, she is defeated. In Cinderella, the wicked stepmother (as well as the sisters) attempts to keep Cinderella from marrying the Prince that fell in love with her at the ball when she was dressed up as a princess, but she doesn't succeed and Cinderella ends up with the Prince. None of the shadows live happily ever after.

The Animus: In Snow White, the Prince (who remains nameless) saves her in the end. Also serving as animuses, but not of the romantic kind, are her friends the Seven Dwarves.
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As with Snow White's Prince, Cinderella's prince is also a handsome man, who comes to save Cinderella from her stepmother. She also has male friends, two mice named Jacques and Gus who help her along the way. Prince Eric from The Little Mermaid comes to save Ariel from Ursula in the end as well, and she too has male friends, a fish and a lobster named Flounder and Sebastian. (Remember, the princesses are rescued only because they are HEROS and therefore are deserving of being saved.) Finally, we find a relation to The Penelopiad with Odysseus, who finally comes to save Penelope from the suitors.

Missing from the Snow White list of archetypal characters are the animas and the mentor. She seems to serve as her own mentor, and there are no other women featured in the story.


Disney. “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.” Snow White. Fanpop. 19, September 2010



Einfield, Jann, ed.
Fairy Tales. San Diego: Greenhaven Press, 2001.

Minor, Gwen. “The Ancient Worl Now: The Odyssey.”
Gwen Minor: Stories From the Ancient

World. 16, September 2010 [http://www.gwenminor.com].

Salvati, Jim. “Snow White on Balcony.” Snow White.
Alexander Ross. 19, September 2010

[http://www.alexross.com/snowhite balcony.html].