East of the Sun, West of the Moon Wrap-up
This month, we’ve looked at four different novelizations of the fairy tale East of the Sun, West of the Moon: East by Edith Pattou, Ice by Sarah Beth Durst, Sun and Moon, Ice and Snow by Jessica Day George, and Once Upon a Winter’s Night by Dennis McKiernan. Of those four, three hit every point on the checklist. But which novel hit each point the strongest?
If we’re looking purely at “kick-ass-itude,” it’s gotta be Cassie from Ice. I mean, the things that girl goes through: diving into the Arctic Ocean to make a point, surviving an Arctic snowstorm with nothing but a sleeping bag and a bunch of bears, jumping off a cliff again to make a point? She’s not just kick-ass, ladies and gents, she’s badass.
However, in terms of complexity and three-dimensionality, I’m going to have to go with Rose from East. She’s my favorite of the four, and feel like she is the most human of the four as well. I love the wanderlust put into the story, and I feel like it’s the best reason any of the four have for leaving home. Cassie made a deal to get her mother back, the Lass went to try and help her brother, Camille got guilt-tripped into it, but Rose? Rose went because she wanted to. More than just wanting to help her family, this was her opportunity for adventure, to explore the North with her white bear as she’d been pretending to do for years. I love that dimensionality. And speaking of dimensions . . .
Dimension given to other players?
It’s interesting to me to see how the various novels handled certain similar characters, especially the mother. Of the three applicable examples (I’m discounting Ice because the mother was barely there), two of them (Sun and Moon, Ice and Snow and Once Upon a Winter’s Night) made the mother into this horrible, selfish, closed-off harpy. She doesn’t care about her youngest daughter; she only cares about wealth and success and the potential her daughter has to bring those. And that’s a perfectly valid interpretation, given the original story. However, I think I like how East drew the mother better. She’s a bit smothering, a bit overprotective, and overly superstitious, which leads to her making a mess of things, but she also genuinely loves her daughter, and I think that’s a stronger combination. It’s certainly more interesting to me.
I also like how many of the versions gave one of the brothers a stronger connection to the heroine (though it was interesting that it was always a brother, never a sister). Rose had Neddy, the Lass had Hans Peter, Camille had Giles, and Ice gets left out again. And I really like all these characters (even Giles!), and thought they played their individual roles in the story very well.
Lastly, I’m always impressed by authors who can handle large casts of characters, and this story certainly has room for them. Each of the four authors did their casts very well, even McKiernan. My favorite supplemental characters were probably Thor the Viking from East (I’m a sucker for a curmudgeon with a heart of gold), Jamie the munaqsri from Ice, Mrs. Grey the gargoyle from Sun and Moon, Ice and Snow, and the three Seasons from Once Upon a Winter’s Night.
Elimination of Repetition?
I felt all the stories did this well except for Once Upon a Winter’s Night, in which it was even worse than in the original. East turned the winds into people with their own adventure attached to them, and eliminated the women entirely, replacing their gifts with the three dresses Rose sells along the way, and replacing their symbolic weaving with Rose’s own gift for weaving. Ice had the various munaqsri replace the women, though the winds were still there, and while Ice did get a bit bogged down in the middle, it recovered well. Sun and Moon, Ice and Snow used the repetition to its advantage within the story it was trying to tell, so it became purposeful. And Once Upon a Winter’s Night . . . failed this checkpoint entirely.
So where does that leave us this month? Well, the standings are thus:
Ranked first, East by Edith Pattou: Definitely recommended. This book sits right at the top of my favorites list, and will be my first recommendation for this fairy tale.
Tied for second, Ice by Sarah Beth Durst and Sun and Moon, Ice and Snow by Jessica Day George: Both recommended. I would recommend these two differently depending on who was asking.
And in last place, Once Upon a Winter’s Night by Dennis McKiernan: Not recommended. I mean, I’m not going to tell you not to read it; you should come to your own conclusion, and if it sounds interesting to you, then go for it. But I’m not going to be picking it up again.
Thanks for reading along this month!
June’s fairy tale: Beauty and the Beast.