Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (According to Cassie)

Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (According to Cassie)

So, basically, there’s a queen who can’t have a kid, which is the start of about twelve dozen fairy tales, and half of them continue like this: the queen in question then pricks her finger on a needle and wishes on the drops of blood that she’ll have a child. Because that’s totally how infertility and conception work. Anyway, in this case, the queen specifically wants a child with hair as black as the wood of the window, skin as white as the snow around her, and lips as red as the blood from her finger. Clearly a queen with a high amount of creativity. Evidence: when her daughter is born to these specifications, the girl is named ‘Snow White.’ Personally, I feel we should all start naming our children according to their complexion types: Slightly Ivory, Deep Chocolate, Vaguely Cinnamon. Seems like a solid choice.

Anyway, because this is a fairy tale, the queen gives birth to little Snow White and promptly dies.

A year later, the king marries again, and, once more, because this is a fairy tale, the woman he marries is cold, cruel, vain, and vindictive woman with absolutely no affection for her stepdaughter. Her biggest thing is that she has to be the most beautiful – she can’t stand the idea of anyone else being prettier than she is. She even has this mirror specifically for the purpose of keeping tabs on all the people in the world and reassuring her that she’s still number one in looks. Clearly, she wasn’t married for political reasons.

But Snow White was born from a wish-granting drop of blood, therefore, she will one day be more beautiful than her Queen. And that day comes when Snow White is seven years old, which doesn’t have any sort of creepy implications of all. I mean, seriously. Seven, and the most beautiful woman in the entire land? Really??

The Queen’s hatred toward Snow White from that day forward, and she keeps asking the mirror, just to see, just to check. You know, because maybe she’ll hit puberty early and turn totally ugly overnight, it’s possible.

So, finally, the Queen goes, “I can’t take it anymore!” and summons her huntsman to take the child into the forest, kill her, and bring the Queen back her heart. Now, depending on the version you read, she either wants to keep it as a trophy or eat it. Personally, I can’t decide which of these is more disturbing.

The huntsman obeys and has his knife in the air ready to strike this seven-year-old down, but she says, “Hey, could you not kill me please?” I like to imagine puppy eyes were involved, especially since we hear that her beauty was involved in stilling his axe. The huntsman says, “Yeah, okay,” and lets her go free. Though he doesn’t have a lot of faith in her survival time; after all, she’s seven and he’s leaving her on her own in the wilderness, but as long as her death’s not directly on his hands, it’s fine.

Well, she stumbles away, and he goes and kills some other animal and cuts out its heart to bring back to the Queen, and because she has no idea what a human child’s heart looks like compared to a doe’s or a boar’s or what have you, his plan works!

Meanwhile, Snow White manages not to get herself killed in the forest, and stumbles upon a cottage in the middle of the woods. Because she was raised on the same system of manners as Goldilocks, she goes on in and makes herself at home. Seriously, this part echoes Goldilocks pretty closely – she eats their food, sits at their table, and tries all their beds until she finds one that suits her. Then she falls asleep, and when the dwarfs who own the cottage come home and discover that their dishes have been used and their food eaten, they’re understandably upset (and spend a long time waiting for each of their number to point out something that is out of place) – until they see how beautiful Snow White is.

Seriously. I mean, I know a lot of cute seven-year-olds, don’t get me wrong, but I’ve never met one that elicits this response in everyone she encounters, you know?

Anyway, when she wakes, she tells the dwarfs her story, and they offer her safe haven. She’ll cook and clean for them while they’re in the mines, and they’ll do all they can to keep her safe and hidden from the Queen, because they’re pretty smart and they know the Queen’s gonna figure it out soon.

And yeah, she goes to her mirror, expecting to hear that she’s the loveliest again, but no dice. Snow White’s still alive, it seems, and the Queen learns the valuable lesson of not farming out the really important jobs. She uses her mirror to locate Snow White and decides to go take care of the child herself, because apparently she doesn’t have anything else like ruling to do. Can I ask where the King is through all this? Or am I not supposed to worry about it, given that this is a fairy tale?

Anyway, the Queen disguises herself and goes to the dwarfs’ house. Despite the fact that the dwarfs warned Snow White to beware strangers lest they visit on her stepmother’s instructions, Snow White can’t resist the peddler who comes with ribbons. It’s the Queen, obviously, and she uses her ribbons to lace Snow White so tightly she can’t breathe, and falls down as if dead. And the Queen, not thinking this through, assumes the girl is dead and runs away in victory.

I mean, come on Queenie. This really should be something you think through a bit more. Tying some ribbons around her chest really tight? Not the best murder plan, hon. And you really ought to make sure she’s really dead before you start crowing.

The dwarfs come back, find Snow White, cut the laces, and revive her because she wasn’t very dead. And they warn her again, don’t open the door to strangers. But because Snow White is seven, dumb, and easily distracted by shiny things, she forgets these simple instructions when the Queen returns, having learned that her super amazing murder plan somehow failed.

A titch more intelligent this time around, the Queen has a poisoned hair comb that she pricks Snow White’s scalp with, and she falls down as if dead. Not smart enough, though, to finish the job for sure or take the body away with her, the dwarfs are able to revive Snow White again by removing the comb because that’s totally how poison works.

Again, the dwarfs say, “Seriously, Snow White, stop letting in beggar women who clearly want to kill you, you stupid little girl!” Okay, they were probably gentler than that, but seriously, kid. This is not a difficult concept. The people who find you in the forest want to kill you. Pretend you aren’t home. Stay alive.

Well, the Queen learns yet again that Snow White is still alive and goes into a towering rage. With her magic, she crafts an apple poisoned on one side, begging the question of why she hasn’t used magic before this point to end her stepdaughter, but whatever.

She takes the apple to the dwarfs’ and because Snow White is still stupid, she says she can’t let the Queen in, but she can still talk to her through the window and eat an offered apple. The poison takes effect and she falls down dead, almost for realsies this time.

It seems to work this time – the mirror says Snow White is dead, and when the dwarfs return home, they cannot revive her. But they also can’t bear to shut her beauty away in the ground, so they build her a glass coffin and keep her on a hillside instead. You’d think the fact that she doesn’t start rotting might be a giveaway that she might not be totally dead yet, but again, whatever.

Well, one day, an unspecified length of time later, a prince riding by happens to see Snow White in her coffin guarded by dwarfs and this is where things get really creepy, even beyond the wanting to eat young children’s hearts. The prince says, and I quote: “Let me have [the coffin] as a gift, for I cannot live without seeing Snow-white. I will honour and prize her as my dearest possession.”

. . . Um, what? You realize this is a dead girl in a box, right? You want to put that in a lounge somewhere? You want a dead girl to be your dearest treasure? Creepy, dude. Super creepy.

And forget that waking with a kiss bit you think you know; that’s not how it happens here. As they somehow carry the solid gold and glass coffin down a mountain, they hit a tree root, which jostles Snow White, and out pops the bit of apple! Surprise! She’s alive! Again, because that’s totally how poison works!

The prince confesses love and proposes on the spot, and good lord, I hope several years passed in that coffin because otherwise . . . but Snow White agrees to marry him.

But it’s not happily ever after yet, folks. The Queen is still around, after all, and Snow White and her prince invite her to the wedding, because that’s what you do to the woman who tried to kill you on four separate occasions. I mean, it’s not like she crashed the party, guys. She was invited. Repeatedly. For justice! Because she showed up, was strapped into red-hot iron shoes, and forced to dance until she died! Yay . . .

My thoughts? Man, this one’s grim (no pun intended). I mean, seriously people. This fairy tale has never done all that much for me, to be honest. It’s super problematic and gory and a little on the creepy side, and if Disney hadn’t been fascinated with it, I don’t think it would be one that we still really talked about.

So what am I looking for in an adaptation?

Some brains for Snow White. Yeah, I know she’s seven, but could she not be a mindless ninny, please? Give her some grit, some dimension, some intelligence. Something. I beg you.

Strengthen the Queen’s motivation. She’s pissy because a talking mirror thinks a seven-year-old is prettier than she is? It’d be lovely if there was a bit more to it than that.

Understand how poison and murdering works. Please?

Fill in the background. I have so many questions surrounding this story – where is Snow White’s father and why isn’t he stopping this? Where did this prince come from and why doesn’t he find the dead girl in the box a little creepy? What was Snow White doing all day long while the dwarfs were off mining? Who was doing the governing in Snow White’s kingdom? Things like that.

The line-up:

Week 1: Snow by Tracy Lynn
Week 2: Snow in Summer by Jane Yolen
Week 3: Fairest by Gail Carson Levine
Week 4: Fairest of All by Serena Valentino

Feel free to read along, and I’ll see you on Friday! I swear!

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