Arthurian Legends, Snow White and the Huntsman, and Perception

by Katie Ann


*Spoiler's in text

This summer for classes I decided not only to take Shakespearian literature but also Arthurian, thinking I would read wonderful tales of Arthur and his knights gallivanting through the country side saving damsel after damsel in distress.  So far I have read Chretien de Troyes Perceval and Lancelot and Gottfried Von Strassburg's Tristan, and after reading all of them I felt extremely disappointed.  I've realized that my love for Arthurian literature was based on what I thought it was, an over idealized Disney version.  In the tales that I have read the knights, while great, are very sinful men who allow their passions and ambition to cloud their better judgment which leads to their downfall.  The love stories between the knights and the ladies are nothing that I would want to emulate.  Instead they are full of lust and deceit and the knights, not wanting to stay in one place, tend to abandon the one's they profess to love, leaving the women with empty promise of coming back.  Granted these knights have their moments and there is some redemption in these tales, but the constant struggle seems to be that the knights do not know how to live out the chivalric code.  The balance between the high ideals of knighthood and the temptations of the world plague the tales and for the last week I've been thinking that the characters fallen nature was what was disappointing.

Then I saw Snow White and the Huntsman and I loved it.  I thought the imagery and the symbolism was spectacular and I was completely mesmerized the whole time.  Amazingly, the movie made me realize that the characters that I loved the most, like the Huntsman, were fallen human beings.  The Huntsman has become a drunk pitiful man after the loss of his wife and it takes the job of keeping Snow White safe to make him realize the man he should be.  The fallenness of the characters also allows for sympathy, no matter how evil they are.  I was even able to find a little sympathy for the evil Queen, whose life is ruined by what her mother believed would keep her safe, everlasting beauty. The characters ability to overcome their fallen nature is what leads to the beautiful restoration of everything at the end, that was what I was missing.

You can't escape the fall of man in telling a tale, that would be even more empty and disappointing.  But the difference between the Arthurian literature that I've read and Snow White and the Huntsman, is that the heroes in the Arthurian legends don't realize their fallenness or try to fix it.  They don't have a moment of perception.  Instead, they pray to God for help in their situation with the belief that they won't have to change anything.  In stark contrast to this behavior, is the Huntsman's moving and beautiful confession to the "dead" Snow White and it is a great example a hero realizing his fallen nature and deciding he's going to change.  From the movie, I've come to realize that it's those moments of understanding and change of one's character that I miss in the legends that I've been reading, not the actual faults themselves.  No one can be perfect, but that still means that we not only have to be aware of those imperfections but give them up daily to God who is the only one who will give us the grace to covers us in our imperfections.