You Can Have My Heart: Fixing the end of the nearly-perfect ‘Snow White & the Huntsman’

I accidentally ended up at the almost-midnight opening of Snow White & the Hunstman. I knew from the trailers that it would be visually intriguiging and was curious how the whole Snow White-as-warrior thing would work out, but I kept my expectations safely low.

Within 30 seconds of the film’s opening, I was rapt and holding my breath. With all the fairy tale revisiting going on these days, this was something different. Unlike many of the current efforts to reframe what it means to be a princess, or even a heroine, this film was not cheap: not in its production, not in its writing, not in its metaphors.

But I’m not going to write a review or talk about why this film seems to bypass most men and speak directly to the female subconscious (in a profoundly honoring and spiritual way). Instead, I’m going to fix the film’s ending, or, as seems more likely, recover the ending that was clearly meant to happen all along but must have been voted down by some market-driven decision maker. I’ve seen it twice, so I’m quoting as much as memory allows and can’t guarantee complete accuracy, but take it as a given, SPOILERS START NOW.

Restoring the True Ending of Snow White & The Huntsman

While the film clearly has no problem with violence, (the battles and fight scenes being expertly edited for maximum thud/scrape/slash-effectiveness), the narrative makes it clear that Snow White does not need to use violence to defeat the Queen. Snow White suiting up in armor and leading the battle charge with her sworn brothers? Great. Snow White driving a dagger into the Queen’s heart? Misdirected.
Here’s why.

1) Snow White’s mother tells her when she’s a little girl, “You have a rare beauty, my love, in here” and touches her heart.

2) When the Evil Queen is preparing for her wedding to Snow White’s father, she tells young Snow White, “you and I share a bond” and points to or actually says “heart.” This is before the Queen learns that Snow White has the power to destroy her. So whatever the Queen might mean at that moment, the audience is given an early clue that the Queen and Snow White have something important in common. Not to mention that Snow White’s mother wanted her daughter to have hair black as a raven’s wing, and the Evil Queen is named Ravenna, her power, often employed by the black birds. We are given enough of Ravenna’s back story and motivation to empathize and understand that if she is evil, it has been her response to evil done to her, not an innate darkness within her. By the first 15 minutes of the film, we recognize that Snow White and Ravenna either represent two aspects of the same woman, or at least are two women who have suffered, but responded differently.

3) We learn the Queen steals strength, beauty and life from others by drawing power directly from their heart, or sucking out their soul through their breath.

4) When the Huntsman finds Snow White and decides to help her to safety, he shows her how to defend herself with a blade. He says to use the opponent’s strength against them, and slide the blade in below their arm and to not pull out the blade until you can see their soul through their eyes. Snow White listens, but then says, “I could never do that.” Directly after this scene, we see the two of them attacked by ferocious bridge troll. When the huntsman is knocked down and disarmed after battling away at it, Snow White stands before it, howls fiercely as if to make it listen, then stares into its soul, face to face.

We see the creature disarm emotionally and physically, walking away demurely. This proves what Snow White has just told the huntsman. She doesn’t need to stab someone and see their soul as their life drains away. Looking into one’s soul is her strength and protection.

5) Snow White tells William (who is actually not William, but the Queen in disguise), that she no longer hates the Queen, and only feels sorrow for her.

6) When Snow White wakes from the poisoned sleep, she says she’s seen what’s in the Queen’s heart and can defeat her.” She doesn’t say “I can kill her.” An important difference.

How It Should End:
Once they’ve made it into the castle, Snow White has her face-off with the Queen. Instead of saying “I’m everything you’re not,” she says “I have seen your suffering” or “I’m the suffering you brought to others, just as others made you suffer.” Then, while fending off the Queen, when Snow White has the opportunity to stab the Queen under the arm, just as the huntsman showed her, instead of stabbing the Queen and saying “You can’t have my heart,” Snow White touches the Queen where she could have stabbed her and says “You can have my heart.”

The willing offering of empathy and looking into the Queen’s soul is how Snow White defeats the Queen. We see the Queen’s shock turn to fear, then relief as she is finally released from her evil eternity of vengeance. She dies, free of the curse. The Queen, whose identity as a beautiful woman marked her as one to be abused by men, had used that same evil against other women. She consumed beauty just as men had consumed her. In the end, instead of stealing Snow White’s physical beauty and vitality, the Queen received Snow White’s rare beauty- the love within her soul. The bond they had shared, through loss of their mothers, as well as mutual suffering, allowed Snow White to break the curse/power Queen Ravenna’s mother had put on her. The cycle of violence of woman against woman in a world where men destroy women, ends. Snow White chooses to lay down her weapon.

Posted on Thu, Jun 28th, 2012 at 11:13 pm
Filed under Bravery, Cultural Shifts, Film, Pop Culture, theology.

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Comments: 13

  1. 1 | Maryann

    June 29th, 2012 at 1:03 am

    Amen! Amen! Amen!!!

  2. 2 | Jonathan Edmund

    June 29th, 2012 at 1:26 am

    Great great ending. It’s a bit confusing with the numbering though – is 1-7 the changes you would make in the movie? 1-6 seem like things you observed in the movie, with 7 being your direct change.

  3. 3 | Kj

    June 29th, 2012 at 1:37 am

    Fixed it.

  4. 4 | Jonathan Edmund

    June 29th, 2012 at 1:38 am

    Awesome. You’re my personal Snow White. The goodness of your heart saves and blesses the souls of everyone you touch, including me.

  5. 5 | Kj

    June 29th, 2012 at 1:40 am

    dying. dying. dying. too much LOVE (not actually dying. Getting more life!)

  6. 6 | Jonathan Edmund

    June 29th, 2012 at 1:42 am


  7. 7 | Daniel Tidwell

    June 30th, 2012 at 12:58 am

    Beautiful, friend. I love the way you read.

  8. 8 | Kj

    June 30th, 2012 at 2:44 am

    Och. thank you Daneil. that just made my heart sigh/explode

  9. 9 | Janet

    July 3rd, 2012 at 8:57 am

    Thank you, thank you!
    I too felt that the ending was wrong somehow, but had not taken the time to think it through the way you have.

    I think you’re right that some marketing powers-that-be demanded a ‘male’ ending rather than the one which would have been truer to the entire story.

  10. 10 | Filmic Light - Snow White Archive

    September 10th, 2012 at 5:14 pm

    Well done. You have saved this movie! You really understand the finer dynamics of the Snow White story. Too bad the Hollywood suits did not.

  11. 11 | Merlita

    October 24th, 2012 at 9:25 pm

    I agree – I was hoping the movie would end the way you described. It wouldn’ve made much more sense, and it would’ve kept Snow White in charater if it had ended that way. And to me, it’s just heartwarming to see two enemies come together (at least mostly) and see Ravenna is lifted from her life-long torment.

  12. 12 | Kate Davis

    November 21st, 2014 at 6:49 am

    I JUST finished watching this. Finally. Two years late. As research for my integrative project (in which I /am/ going to do the whole two-women-one-subconscious thing).

    I thought they took the heart metaphor too literally. When she said “I know what she knows,” I thought it was a sign of integration — SW has integrated QR’s knowledge with her own, which QR never had the vulnerability to do. I was hoping the end would be “You don’t need my heart; you already have a beautiful one; our hearts have been tied all along.” Something along that. Super disappointed with the violent ending. (Tangentially: disappointed she woke with a kiss.)

    Anyway, thanks for publishing your thoughts on the internet so I can cite them properly 🙂

  13. 13 | Kj

    November 21st, 2014 at 9:01 am

    thanks Kate! right? they subverted so many things quite wonderfully- then missed big ol gigantic obvious things. i chalk it up to pressure from studio execs- whenever something seems to go off the rails, that usually looks like too many people had too many opinions and thus too many inconsistent accomodations were made…
    can’t wait to see what you write!

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