UBC Theses and Dissertations

UBC Theses Logo

UBC Theses and Dissertations

Metamorphoses of snake women, Melusine and Madam White Zhao, Zifeng


By comparing the European literary character Melusine with her Chinese counterpart Madam White, my thesis aims to demonstrate that the metamorphosis of females into snakes is presented in both myths as the literary reproduction of the social and historical process whereby men’s power oppressed women’s. The serpentine metamorphosis will be argued to have a mechanism, which consists of three key elements, namely a specific date, religious context, and forced metamorphosis. To do this, first, I will explore the symbolism of snakes in central European and far eastern Asian traditions. Second, in a close reading, I will analyze and compare the negative impact of serpentine metamorphoses of Melusine and Madam White in their stories. Finally, by addressing the connection to real-life contexts (social, cultural and religious) in the development of these characters, I will provide new insights into the role and status of women in China and German-speaking Europe since early modern times as well as the possible roots of their image as femmes fatales in modern literature.

Item Media

Item Citations and Data


Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.5 Canada