Friday, 19 November 2010

Friday is for Fairytales: Neil Gaiman's Snow White

This is a meme hosted by me every Friday.

My post today is about: Neil Gaiman’s re-telling of Snow White

In Neil Gaiman’s collection of short stories titled Smoke and Mirrors, one can read his re-telling of Snow White: “Snow, Glass, Apples”. I can assure you that once you’ve read his re-telling, you will never see Snow White the same way again.

We all know the tale about the girl with snow-white skin, blood-red lips and black hair and how her stepmother demanded that she be killed because the stepdaughter had been proclaimed as the prettiest woman in the realm by the evil stepmother’s magical mirror. Snow White found solace with dwarves, then had a misfortune with a poisoned apple, but recovered after being kissed by a prince. And then, they lived happily ever after.

Not in “Snow, Glass, Apples”. In this story narrated from the stepmother’s point of view, the stepmother is the victim and Snow White the villain. The family into which the stepmother married is twisted. The elements from the original are kept, but darkly twisted. I cannot summarise the plot for you to avoid spoilers, but I can tell you what you will encounter in this dark tale: incest, necrophilia, paedophilia and even vampirism. These are not spoilers; you will have to read the story to know to which characters they belong.

I would like to comment on the element of necrophilia briefly. I believe Gaiman included it because there has been much discussion about whether necrophilia is present in the Brother Grimms’ story. In their fairy-tale, the prince falls in love with Snow White while she’s lying dead in a glass coffin. He begs the dwarves to let him take the coffin to his home, to keep the beauty he loves by his side. On the way to his castle, one of the servants carrying the coffin trips and the jerking movement dislodged the poisoned apple from Snow White’s throat and she returns to life. She falls in love with him too and they live happily ever after. But one can ask this question, “What would have happened had she remained dead?” Is it healthy to keep a dead person in your house because you love them? (It puts to mind Juana La Loca.) Or, should the story simply remain a piece of fiction for us to enjoy and not read too much into it?

What do you think?

In any event, Gaiman’s re-telling is available online and you can read it HERE. It surely is a very dark and twisted version of Snow White.


Jan von Harz said...

Very intertersting question and one that until you asked I certainly never thought about,probably because, I never actually read the original, Snow White. the Disney version, was my first foray into the movies as a child, and I adored the animated version of the fairy tale. I even had a puzzle of Snow White dancing with all the dwarves. Anyway, I am off to check out Gaiman's retelling. Thanks for the link!

Enbrethiliel said...


Disney's version of Snow White is arguably the first one that comes to mind for many of us--and we forget the darker side of the fairytale.

Well, I really don't think the prince was planning on getting dodgy with what he thought was a corpse. He probably just wanted to look at her. Not that that's any healthier in the mental sense--but it's a fairytale! And I'm sure all the kids who think it's perfectly reasonable for someone to want to kiss the lips of a dead woman he has never met wouldn't have a problem with this twist.

On the other hand . . . fairytales were created by grown ups and told to other grown ups as often as to children. What this darker element of Snow White might mean to people who understand the more disconcerting parts of the human psyche, I really don't know. =S Nor do I know if I want to go there! I had a Psych major "friend" who gleefully ruined Sleeping Beauty for me, and I still feel a bit traumatised.

Enbrethiliel said...


PS--Thanks, Irena, for putting my post in the linky. =) I had forgotten that I had scheduled it to be published hours before I could get back to my PC.

The Insouciant Sophisticate said...

Thanks for the link-I definitely want to read this twist on the story of Snow White.

Blodeuedd said...

Ewwww, yes he was such a perv

Irena @ This Miss Loves to Read said...

@Jan: Disney also introduced Snow White to me and I read the original much later, in high school. Disney's version is the one I prefer. And I still have a puzzle with Snow White and the dwarves. My puzzle has Snow White in a clearing in a forest and she is singing to the dwares and several animals. Enjoy the twisted version!:)

@JMJ: Exactly, children don't go that deep. Sometimes, I think people try to read too much into texts. I have a friend who is big on psychology in fairytales and he's managed to kind of ruin several fairytales for me.:) I don't think they're supposed to have any meaning; they were only something like creepy stories in those times, written for adults. That's why they have more macabre settings and elements, I believe, than a story originally written for children would have had.

OK, so the prince in Snow White is a bit weird to want to keep a dead woman in a glass coffin in his castle, but I think the story just boasted her beauty and how even in death, she remained beautiful and pure and the prince, another pure soul, could recognize that.

You're welcome about the linky, no problem.:) I really enjoyed your post!

@Bookworm: No problem. I'm glad you're intrigued. I hope you enjoy the story! It's macabre, but it's still an interesting take on a well-known story, I think.

Irena @ This Miss Loves to Read said...

@Blodeuedd: Hehe, perhaps he was. I agree, it's kind of weird of him to want to keep a dead woman by his side. That's why I prefer the Disney animation.

Unknown said...

I think this story sounds incredibly creepy and morbid too. I love the subversion of genre idea but the content sounds shudder-worthy. A really interesting post! We were talking about fairy tales in writing class last week. Maybe I will do a post to join in with your meme and share our thoughts in the next couple of weeks.

Meytal Radzinski said...

This is an interesting look at a different side of fairy tales. This is one of the things I love most about fairy-tale retellings - they so often present you with things that you just never would have thought of through the innocence filter.

I'm curious to read Gaiman's retelling (and not just because it's Gaiman!) but also because I'm interested to see how he handles these issues without having the story bog down into too much darkness...

Anonymous said...

In the earliest Grimm version the prince indeed had carried Snow- White body to his castle, and had it placed in a room where he sat by it the whole day, never taking his eyes from it. Whenever he had to go out and was unable to see Snow-White, he became sad. And he could not eat a bite, unless the coffin was standing next to him. Now the servants who always had to carry the coffin to and fro became angry about this. One time one of them opened the coffin, lifted Snow-White upright, and said, "We are plagued the whole day long, just because of such a dead girl," and he hit her in the back with his hand. Then the terrible piece of apple that she had bitten off came out of her throat, and Snow-White came back to life.

Creepy! :D