There are several important lessons to be learned from the tale of Snow White. It can be used as a great starting point to explaining to children what jealousy and envy are. It is a great cautionary tale of what happens when one lets jealousy go too far, and the consequences of the horrible behavior that results.
Ask your child or students what jealousy means to them. They may have felt a little bit of jealousy before when seeing a new toy that a friend got but they wanted, or if a classmate got a better grade than them on a test. Explain that jealousy is the feeling of wanting something that someone else has and you don’t. Jealousy may be a feeling we get sometimes, but how you deal with the jealousy you feel makes all the difference. You can then read Snow White with your child or students to show an example of the worst way of dealing with jealousy; explain that afterwards you will have a discussion on the proper way to react to feelings of jealousy.
In the story, it is Snow White’s stepmother who experiences the feeling of jealousy. She wants something that she doesn’t have but someone else…Snow White…does: the distinction of being the most beautiful in the land. She lets this jealousy get the best of her. She wanted what Snow White had, and the only way to get it was to get rid of Snow White. The evil stepmother tried on two separate occasions to get rid of Snow White by killing her. The story describes the jealousy as having grown in her heart like a weed. A weed grows quickly, spreads rapidly, and is hard to remove. Unfortunately many negative feelings can grow like this.
Have a discussion after the story about what would be a better way of dealing with feelings of jealousy. There are several good answers. Your children may come up with the fact that it’s better to be happy for the other person. It’s also important to be happy with what one has rather than looking to what others have. Explain that sometimes it can be helpful to look instead to those who have less than you. That way, you’ll be thankful for what you do have rather than looking to what you still could have. Have your child or students come up with an alternate ending to the story of Snow White, one in which the stepmother realizes the downfalls of jealousy and deals with her feelings in a better way.