Once upon a time there was Little Snow White and her stepmother, the queen, who in an earlier version of the tale was actually Snow White’s biological mother. How enthralled we were when we read this captivating story. We were engrossed by the cold-hearted, cruel queen who filled us with dread. We were never fully impacted by the queen’s treachery because we believed there would be a happy ending. If instead, we had focused on her personality and conduct, we might have caught our first glimpse of a female psychopath.
“Mirroring” and the female psychopath
The story lays out the simple facts. “She could not bear to be outdone by anyone…”1 She required constant reaffirmation and so kept asking her mirror: “Who is the fairest one of all?”2 Female psychopaths often project in a similar way and seek “mirroring-back” affirmations from others.3 When her mirror told her: “Lady Queen you are the fairest here, but Snow-White is a thousand times more fair,” “the queen was horrified and turned yellow and green from spite.”*4
Psychopaths are destroyers of goodness
The queen grew so envious of Snow-White that she went into a rage and ordered a hunter to kill the child and bring her lungs and liver as proof that the child was dead. This extreme envy is typical of the female psychopath. “Behind the envy is the rage toward that which is idealized but cannot be possessed.”5 After all, the queen could not return to her youth – the youth and beauty now belonged to Snow White. To preserve the queen’s pride, Snow White had to vanish one way or another. Like the psychopath, the queen becomes a “destroyer of goodness, in other words, … evil.”6
When the hunter found Snow White, he showed pity, allowing her to escape, and brought back the lungs and liver from a wild boar. The queen had the palace cook make a stew from the lungs and liver with plenty of salt and pepper so she could eat them. What better way for a murderous psychopath to seek her revenge! When the queen’s mirror tells her that Snow White is still the fairest, she personally pursues and attempts to murder Snow White three separate times by strangulation or poison and is ultimately thwarted in every case.
The impact of a female psychopath on her spouse
Where is Snow White’s father throughout this tale? After all, he was king of the land and there were enough people who knew what was going on. How did all of this escape the king’s attention? Did he leave his land to get away from the domineering queen? Or had he been so browbeaten by her that he was driven into a state of oblivion so as to coexist with her? We don’t know.
In real life, your mother may not be a queen, but if you have a situation like this, your father may be like Snow White’s. In a household run by a female psychopath, she must dominate and control. If he wants to remain in the house with her, he has no choice but to look the other way. As a result, the children are abused by their mother while the father stays on the sidelines saying little or nothing to spare his children. Though Snow White’s father is the king, the power must rest with his wife. The children are at her mercy while he chooses silence or absence.
Can there be a happy ending?
How well I know the feelings of an abusive mother and a conniving, sly sister who both displayed dominant psychopathic characteristics. Their behavior had no boundaries – everyone was prey. My father’s eyes widened with joy when he saw me. But when my mother and sister were around, he was distant and spoke little. I knew I had no ally with my father when they were around. Those of us in Snow-White’s situation may go on with our lives living happily. But in the case of Snow White, how happy could she be, knowing her stepmother persisted in trying to murder her while her father was nowhere to be seen.
1. Grimm, Jacob, Ludwig Grimm and Karl Grimm. "Little Snow-White." The Brothers Grimm Popular Folk Tales. Translated by Brian Alderson. (Garden City: Doubleday & Company, Inc., 1978) 61.
2. Grimm. 61.
3. Smith, Jason M., Gacono, Carl B. & Cunliffe, Ted B. (2021). Understanding Female Offenders: Psychopathy, Criminal Behavior, Assessment, and Treatment. Cambridge, MA: Academic Press. 176.
4. Grimm. 62.
5. Meloy, J. Reid. The Psychopathic Mind: Origins, Dynamics and Treatment (Northvale: Jason Aronson Inc., 2002) 105.
6. Meloy. 104.
Tatar, Maria. The Hard Facts of the Grimms' Fairy Tales (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1987)