Colorful Thoughts: White!

This is part of a series.  Check out previous posts on purple, blue, yellowredorange, brown, and black! (I know I skipped green – it’s my favorite, so I’m saving it for last.)

White is the color of the week, and as with black, we are not going to address the argument about all colors vs. no color.  Instead, we’ll talk about white in writing, as usual.  🙂

White is often considered the color of purity, most likely because it is easy to get it dirty.   From purity it gets the connotations of innocence and goodness.  We often see white on angels, “good guys,” and endearing small children.  It can also be an austere color, filling a similar role to black.  Even in modern times, there are sects of nuns who wear white instead of black.

In Western culture, white is also the typical color of wedding dresses (and the associated connotations of purity), but I have a word of caution.  In a fantasy novel, be very careful about putting a bride in white.  Eastern cultures associate white with funerals and mourning, not celebration, so a traditional Asian bride would never wear white.  (Red is their traditional wedding color.)  White as a wedding color is also a modern tradition, not an old one.  Queen Victoria got married in white in 1840; until then European brides wore whatever color they liked, and even after the queen wore white it took a while for the tradition to really take hold.

Besides its role as a color of innocence and purity, white also functions to denote age and wisdom.  This is probably related to the whitening of hair as many people age.  In an age when the typical person rarely lived past 50, a person who was smart enough, wealthy enough, or lucky enough to survive to old age (and white hair) was given great respect.  Because of this, white has become synonymous with sagacity and wisdom.

We see both of these meanings used for magic users as well.  Mages in white are either pure in intent or have reached a high level of wisdom, or even both.  Magic creatures that are white tend to have similar roles, like unicorns (pure or wise or both) or dragons (wise or pure in intent).

There is another use of white, which is related to winter or snow.  People who live in a snowbound climate wear a lot of white, animals that live in the snow are white, magical creatures or beings that are affiliated with snow or ice are white or have white features (like eyes or hair).

And, like the rest of our colors, you can use white in the opposite way (for example, someone evil who wears only white) just to make things interesting.  You are the author, and it is your world.

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2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Trackback: Blog Series « Butterflies and Dragons
  2. Trackback: Colorful Thoughts: Green! « Butterflies and Dragons

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