The Wicked Queen
Full Name: Queen Grimhilde
Premiered in: Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937)
Voiced By: Lucille La Verne
Honors: 10th Greatest Movie Villain (AFI’s 100 Years…. 100 Heroes and Villains)
Though never strictly named as Grimhilde aside from some very old promotional materials and comic books, the woman who would forever be known simply as the Wicked Queen is perhaps one of the scariest villains of Disney fame… and perhaps the most tragic as well.
Though I promised to try and avoid materials beyond the original film, I feel that it is worth mentioning that the book Fairest of All: A Tale of the Wicked Queen reveals far more to the character than the actual film itself, more specifically the origins of her magic mirror and her be-all-end-all goal of being the fairest in the land. In the film, the Queen is obsessed with being the fairest of them all to the point that she was, at first, willing to have her stepdaughter killed and her heart taken as proof. If one word could be used to describe the Queen’s motivations it is vanity, a sin that she personifies to the utmost degree and one that she, rather ironically might I add, breaks upon her disguising herself as a hag.
Out of the entirety of Disney villains, the Queen is one of the few who had the least success in her overall goal. If her goal was to be the fairest in the land and Snow White stood in her way of that, one can argue that from the moment the Queens sets out to rid herself of her beloved stepdaughter, she never once succeeded though she had, at times, believed otherwise. True, the huntsman had tricked her but upon taking her own steps to rectify it herself… I found it rather odd that she would make the choice of putting Snow White to sleep rather than killing her outright. True, one can argue that she believed that the dwarfs would bury Snow White alive and she would eventually die on her own but given that Queen was willing to have Snow White murdered outright in the beginning… I can’t help but feel that some of her true self shined through, even at the end.
Why do I think this? I think this because of the very spell that the Queen had cast to turn herself into a hag. “A blast of wind to fan my hate” was one of the ingredients. Why then, if her hate was enhanced by the spell, did she deem it necessary to put Snow White to sleep rather than to kill her outright with an actual poison rather than a drugged apple?
For you see, as revealed in Fairest of All, the Queen was not always whom she appeared to be in the film and it was all in no small thanks to her greatest henchman, the Magic Mirror. While the huntsman could be argued as a lackey, it is the Mirror itself that both drove the Queen to become what she was in the film. Without spoiling the book too much I will say that it was the spirit within the spirit in the Magic Mirror was as close to the Queen in life as it had become in death and leave it at that.
Overall, I can wholeheartedly agree that the Queen is perhaps one of the greatest Disney villains. Walt Disney himself even went so far as to say that he would never again create a villain so great as the Queen because she was, in a way, too perfect a villain. It was not a hero who righted her, it was not her own villainy that slighted her, but an act of nature, random and happenstance, that brought her end. She bore no weakness, no strange quirk of personality or ability that was ever outmatched or overcome in her story. Still, as I stated earlier, I feel that the Queen is the most tragic of Disney villains in no small thanks to the recent novel and I can’t, in good conscience, rate her as a villain. Still don’t believe me? Then I will end this character review with an excerpt from the novel pertaining to the Queen on her wedding day and her meeting Snow White.
The Queen smiled and said, “Hello my pretty little bird of a girl; you look lovely today.”
Snow blushed and hid behind Verona’s skirts, peeking at her stepmother.
“Doesn’t your new mother look pretty today, Snow?” Verona said.
Snow nodded her head.
“Then tell her, dear,” coaxed Verona as she bent down, smiling at the coy little girl.
“You look very pretty too, Momma,” said Snow, melting the queen’s heart.