The love of parents for their children has always been a theme on the TV series “Once Upon a Time.” Mothers and fathers have gone to great lengths – both good and evil – to keep their children safe. In the cases of the show’s villains, learning to love a child selflessly has been the path to virtue and redemption.
But on a recent episode entitled “The New Neverland” (written by Andrew Chambliss and directed by Ron Underwood), the show approached parenthood from a slightly different angle: the wisdom of giving birth to a child in a dangerous world.
In flashbacks, we see Regina, the Evil Queen (Lana Parrilla), confront Snow White (Ginnifer Goodwin) and Prince Charming (Josh Dallas) on their wedding day, vowing to destroy their happiness and that of their whole kingdom. Consumed with anger, Snow plots to stop Regina immediately, while Charming simply wants to go on their honeymoon and ignore the threats for now.
Snow finally agrees, but has a secret motive. Unbeknownst to Charming, she chooses to go to her parents’ summer palace because it’s near the lair of Medusa, the mythical creature that turns people into stone when they look in her eyes. Snow’s plan is to cut off Medusa’s head, carry it with her, and somehow get Regina to look into its eyes so she will turn to stone and cease being a threat to them forever.
Charming discovers her plan and, despite not understanding his new wife’s fury, reluctantly agrees to help her. But the actual confrontation with Medusa goes spectacularly awry, resulting in Charming being turned to stone.
When Regina’s spirit appears in Medusa’s lair to taunt Snow on her misfortune, Snow tells her, “This is all your fault.” Regina responds, “No dear, it’s yours…I didn’t realize I could sit back and let you destroy your own happiness.”
Snow realizes the truth behind Regina’s words, admitting, “I defeated myself.”
Using that insight, Snow devises a way for Medusa to “defeat herself” by looking into a mirror. In so doing, she restores Charming to life. This leads Snow to finally reveal her motivation for stopping Regina at all costs short of killing her.
Snow: When you asked me why I wanted to turn [Regina] to stone, I said I didn’t know why. But I did. I was just afraid of admitting it. I want to start a family.
Charming: So do I. Why is that to be feared?
Snow: Because I couldn’t imagine bringing a child into a world where Regina’s always a threat. That’s why I was so obsessed with defeating her. How could I bring something good into a world where there was always something bad out there?…But I was wrong. Losing you made me see that. We can’t wait anymore. We have to start our family now. Regina will always be a problem. If not her, there will be someone or something else. There will always be something else. We can’t let it define us. We have to find the good moments in between all of the bad ones. What better way to make a good moment than with a child?
Fairy tales often incorporate moral or spiritual lessons, and this modern update is no exception. The first is about letting the bitterness over an injustice consume you and define you.
As Snow discovered, her blind quest to stop evil almost resulted in the destruction of the greatest good in her life: her husband. And as Regina points out, that loss would have been entirely on Snow’s conscience. Her choices resulted in her defeating herself.
Though most of us will never be threatened by a magical evil queen (hopefully), we do all carry resentments in our hearts from time to time based on small or large grievances. When these resentments are nursed, they can grow larger and all-consuming.
The righteous indignation that anger produces can lead to good, but there’s also a point where it can turn darker, where it can cause you to lose the things you claim to be fighting for. You need to be self-aware enough to discern whether hatred is taking up more room in your mind and heart than love.
When Life is Safe, Then I’ll…
The second lesson involves fear: specifically, the fear of bringing a child into a world that’s threatening. While Snow’s reluctance to do this is understandable because she doesn’t want to subject her child to a life of potential pain, the truth is that none of us avoids pain or danger. If every parent delayed having children until the world was free of all danger, humanity would have ceased after Cain killed Abel.
And while we’re all inclined to think that the era of OUR existence on earth is the most troubling, previous generations have dealt with plagues, wars, genocides, etc. Our troubles are not as unique as we think they are.
Babies are signs of hope, however. They provide the opportunity for a new generation to get right what the last one got wrong. They also offer untold moments of love and joy that are totally unique.
In a way, Snow White’s epiphany is reminiscent of 1 John 4:18 in the Bible: “There is no fear in love, but perfect love drives out fear because fear has to do with punishment, and so one who fears is not yet perfect in love.”
Kudos to “Once Upon a Time” for highlighting the mindset of hope, faith and love that drives out fear.