Wednesday, February 20, 2013

By Fairest Blood...

Last year, two new movies based on the classic "Snow White" fairytale were released in theaters. The first, Mirror Mirror, came out at about the time I started this blog, and it became the first movie I talked about here. The second, Snow White and the Huntsman, came out a few months later, and while Amber and I saw it at the theater, I didn't write about it here at the time. As we recently watched this second iteration again, though, I was reminded of so much rich symbolism I wanted to share with you.

Snow White and the Huntsman
In Mirror Mirror, Snow White stood as an example for us because of her exemplary behavior, but Snow White and the Huntsman actually takes it one step further, going to great lengths to set her up this time as a type for Christ. In other words, like Superman and a few others I've talked about from time to time, Snow White in this film shows us something about the nature of our Savior. There are also several lessons for us from the examples of Snow White's father, the evil Queen and her brother, the dwarfs and the huntsman.


Since the movie begins with a narration about Snow White's parents, let me begin there. Snow White's father is a good king, and the land flourishes under his reign. He is full of joy when Snow White is born, but when his wife becomes sick and dies during a particularly harsh winter, the king is crippled by grief. Suddenly, a dark army comes to take advantage of the king's grief by attacking the kingdom. The king somehow defeats them, but soon after, as the narrator says, "something much darker" comes. The king is seduced by the beautiful Ravenna, and he is so spellbound, they marry the next day. But on their wedding night, she kills him and allows the dark army to take over the kingdom. Soon the land is laid to waste, and people begin to turn on each other.

As Queen Ravenna, Charlize Theron illustrates
the seductive nature of temptation and
how Satan masquerades as an "angel of light".
Right away, I see some important points. The dark forces attacked the king in his grief because they knew he was vulnerable. This reminds me that the devil is an opportunist - he loves to exploit our weaknesses - and just because we overcome one attack, that doesn't mean he won't try again from a different angle. That's why it's so important to be alert at all times, so we can defend ourselves (1 Peter 5:8). The evil Ravenna points out the seductive nature of temptation, which promises something good but rewards momentary pleasure with long-term destruction (James 1:14-15). The Queen is like Satan, who disguises himself as an "angel of light" (2 Corinthians 4:14-15). Like the adulteress in Proverbs, her path of carnal pleasure leads only to death for those who give in to her! (Proverbs 7)

It's bad enough that the king died for his mistakes, but worse is the fact that his weakness ended up destroying his family and his kingdom. Sin has a way of doing that. How many friendships, relationships, marriages and families are destroyed because of one person's sin? We often don't think about it at the time, but one indiscretion can have long-term consequences for ourselves as well as others!

The way the destruction of the land and the people was described in the movie, it reminded me very much of the story of Adam and Eve, when the earth fell into a curse after their original sin (Genesis 3). From that point on, the world has been in a progressive state of decay, and humanity has sunk deeper and deeper into sin, both in desperate need of a Savior (Romans 8:19-25).

In our story, Snow White is that Savior, and the filmmakers go to great lengths to establish this, inserting references to her as "the child of the king" and "one of the blood", talking about how she fulfills a prophecy and even having one of the dwarfs exclaim:

"She is life itself! She will heal the land! She is the one! 
Can't you feel it? Are your ailments not gone? 
Gold or no gold, where she leads I follow!"

The dwarfs in this rendition are a rough bunch, but they represent the people of God. They explain that they "used to be noble gold miners, because we could see the light in the darkness," but one day, emerging from the mine, everything seemed different. They became weary because of the destruction they saw in the world around them, and many of them began to lose hope and focus only on survival. Yet they still have a place they call "Sanctuary" where they retreat from time to time to recharge and prepare to go back into the dark forest. Likewise, we as the church need to have "Sanctuary" time to connect with God so we can recharge ourselves and prepare to go back into the darkness. But instead of focusing only on how to make the next buck, we need to reclaim our mission to show others the light we can see in Jesus!

Unlike Snow White, Jesus died
willingly for you! (John 10:17-18)
But while the dwarfs are inspired by Snow White to the point they are willing to die for her, the evil Queen hates her for her beauty and purity. At first, she tries to keep Snow locked up, but the Queen finally decides the innocent girl must die because she realizes that Snow's pure heart is the only thing that can undo all of her evil power! A line often repeated in the film explains the theme:

"By fairest blood it was done,
and only by fairest blood can it be undone."

Similarly, we recall that it's only by the pure blood of Jesus that all of Satan's power comes undone! (Revelation 12:10-11)

When the evil queen's minions are unable to kill Snow White, she sends the huntsman. At first, he doesn't know who Snow really is, but he's motivated by the Queen's empty promises. He decides not to kill her, though, when he learns that the Queen can't deliver what she promised, and he decides to help Snow when she promises riches in return. When he finally discovers Snow's identity, however, the huntsman wants nothing to do with her. He blames Snow's father, the king, for the terrible state of the world, instead of rightfully blaming the Queen. His heart only changes later because, after spending time with Snow, he grows to love her.

Like the huntsman, there are many who put their trust in the devil's empty lies. Satan promises a better life with everything the heart desires, but he can't deliver. Jesus offers greater riches in heaven than we can imagine (John 14:1-3; Matthew 6:19-20), yet so many people turn away because they blame God for the hurt and destruction in the world. But the blame really belongs to the devil and our own sin! (see Genesis 3 again) In fact, those who spend time with the Lord will discover that he loves us and has good things in store. Jesus died to show us that great love! (Romans 5:8; 1 John 4:10, 13-18).

And so, like the Savior, Snow White dies for her followers (at least symbolically) when she bites into the poison apple. They hold a funeral and place her in a tomb, and they think they've all failed. They're scared and begin to argue amongst themselves. Here, they very much resemble the apostles after Jesus' death. But one of Snow's followers speaks up with a truth that should inspire Christians today, as well:

"She died for us, for our cause! 
We cannot just hide behind these walls 
and watch this land die with her!"

Just before this line is spoken, love's kiss somehow breaks the death-spell and resurrects Snow White, just as Jesus arose by the power of God's love! And just as Jesus leads his own to ultimate victory over Satan, so Snow leads her followers to defeat Ravenna in battle - herself destroying evil Queen once and for all!

"See, I am making all things new."
- Revelation 21:5b
Finally, the Queen's defeat ushers in a new era of beauty and prosperity under Snow White's reign, fulfilling the prophecy alluded to earlier in the film and - for us - pointing to the promise of Revelation 21-22.

Overall, this is a much grittier version of the Snow White story than any other I've seen, but because of the rich symbolism, it's still a beautiful story, though it may not be for all audiences. As you watch the film, you may notice that the analogies aren't always perfect, but they are at least interesting, and perhaps they can still teach us something about the importance of guarding ourselves against the attacks of the devil, the significance of the blood of Jesus, never losing sight of the reason for our hope, giving our lives in service to the Lord and always trusting him to lead us to victory in the end!

O precious is the flow          
          that makes me bright as Snow,
No other fount I know...          
           Nothing but the blood of Jesus!

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Please comment on this post. Do you agree with me? Do you disagree? Is there something I left out or should have covered? Was something confusing? I want to know what you think!