Snow White marionette, from Kuno Ossberger’s folk theatre, around 1930, Münchner Stadtmuseum, Puppentheatermuseum (© Photo David Brandt)
A dwarf’s grief is pure and everlasting adoration.
She lies inside the crystal coffin and everyday, after coming back from the mine and before snuggling under the covers, with your eyes closed, you, miserable creature, can glance at the perfection of what has never been, but could be.
You feel melancholy and desire, faith, illusion.
Years go by and Snow White (flawless, well-dressed, lips as red as blood and a face as pale as death) becomes an idea. If you think about it, she has always been an idea. You have got plenty of time to think about it, while the once lively passion has now become bittersweet. This is why in the movie the little miners’ endless vigil around the coffin in the garden (like Sleeping Beauty’s coma, which lasts one hundred seasons) is reduced to a few frames. Naivety and romanticism are of no use: this is a bitter fairy-tale for the dwarfs. If we move from the animated movie to real life, to preserve such a fetish for years is a curse. But, offhand, to keep on dreaming seems a life line. Some more than others, we have all been through it. Hindsight, like time, can help, but there’s a crystal coffin in your garden, a few wise words are not enough to open your eyes.
But let us go back to the dwarfs – there are actually many more than seven.
And to crystal coffins.
And to mourning, because this is a column on mourning.
It can be an old love affair that is over, somebody who has died, or simply an idea of yourself or of the world that has faded. As usual you suffer the blow, you cry, you give yourself up to despair and then you go on. Sometimes pain comes back to strike you when you least expect it, but to live tenaciously – whether you work in a mine or not – can be of help. To be able to deal with grief without looking back, above all without looking back, helps you to understand the loss and get the better of it, to live with the memory. The real – sparkling – trap is a crystal coffin. The temptation may be too strong or we simply cannot do without it. The idea of it is so deeply woven into our life that it makes us comparatively small. Snow White is the True Love from high school or an ex boyfriend or husband, but also Lenin or Padre Pio, ready to be adored and fully equipped.
And we dwarfs, all around, just stare at it.
Who knows what would happen if they woke up some day. Maybe there will be a real happy ending. You can imagine a Disney prince riding a horse or a (tragicomic) episode of The Walking Dead, but obviously the seven dwarfs have never been the main characters in their own fairy-tale.
So keep in mind: don’t trust crystal coffins.