Snow, Glass, Apples, Feminism

“Mirror, mirror, on the wall, who is fairest of them all?” Due in part to the Disney animated movie, Snow White is a very popular and widely loved fairy tale. Especially, the easy to remember details such as the mirror rhyme and the line “red as blood, white as snow, black as ebony” provide wide appeal to children. Like most fairy tales, Snow White has been retold many times over in movies, television, and literature. One of the most chilling and unique variations that I have encountered is Neil Gaiman’s short story “Snow, Glass, Apples,” which flips the roles of villainess and heroine for Snow White and the Queen by implying that Snow White is a child vampire. Gaiman certainly changes many details from the Brother Grimm’s version, but what is most interesting is that he does not change the actions of the Queen. In the Grimms’ version, the Queen is decidedly portrayed in an anti-feminist light; but with only a change in rationale, Gaiman is able to create a feminist figure from her.

In the Grimms’ version, the Queen is “beautiful but haughty, and she could not tolerate anyone else who might rival her beauty.” (213) This jealousy of other beauty is her sole motivation throughout the tale. The Queen envies the beauty of a seven year old child, which is quite unrealistic of a grown woman who is supposed to be “fairest of all”. Such a portrayal implies that all women have no need to be jealous of anything else, or have anything else to drive their motives. The Queen in Gaiman’s story, however, is seen as “wise… or so they said” (Gaiman, Smoke and Mirrors 331) by many of her people. Instead of jealousy, she is driven by the urge to protect herself and her people due to Snow White’s nature: “I do not know what manner of thing she is.” (331) Instead of being inspired by vanity, this Queen is a smart, straightforward woman – a woman who was punished “by history” for her feminist actions. Such a rationale makes sense, as such a woman would be regarded as a villain, too.

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