Welcome back to Fairy Tale Friday! Today we’re going to take a look at the first “Snow White” retelling of this feature. “Snow White” was one of my favorite fairy tales as a young kid. Apparently I used to watch the Disney movie several times per day, and the illustrations for it in my childhood fairy tale collection (pictured above) were my favorites in the whole book.
My Rating: 4 stars
Warning: Contains spoilers
As a Retelling:
In terms of the elements of “Snow White” in this book, Bashardoust draws exclusively on the German version collected by the Brothers Grimm that we are most familiar with. She doesn’t incorporate all the elements of the story. Notable missing pieces of the tale are the dwarfs, the glass coffin, the poisoned apple, and the prince. However, she greatly expands on the elements she does include and puts her own unique and interesting twists on them.
In the fairy tale, Snow White is the result of her mother’s wish for a child “as white as snow, as red as blood, and as black as ebony.” Snow White famously has pale skin, red lips, and black hair. Bashardoust’s Snow White character, Lynet, doesn’t have these specific features; instead, she is described as looking exactly like her late mother, who was very beautiful. However, Bashardoust does keep the concepts of snow and blood involved in Lynet’s birth. Lynet was created from snow and blood by a magician at her father’s request after the queen died. Because of this, Lynet can magically manipulate snow.
The most important part of this story is the relationship between Lynet and her stepmother, Mina. In the fairy tale, the relationship is wholly negative. The queen is so vain that she immediately despises Snow White when the girl surpasses her in beauty and orders a huntsman to kill her. Bashardoust’s Mina and her relationship with Lynet are much more developed and complex than this. The chapters switch back and forth between the two characters, so the readers are able to see why Mina became the way she is. Though Mina is very aware of her beauty and considers it the only way to get what she wants, vanity isn’t as strong a motivation for her as it is for the queen in the original story. Her main concern is keeping the power she has as queen. Though she ultimately does care for Lynet, she knows that one day Lynet will replace her, and the threat becomes greater and greater as the events of the plot continue. At the beginning of the story, Lynet adores and looks up to Mina, but her feelings become conflicted when she realizes Mina has been lying and hiding her true self.
Even though she is in the role of the evil queen, Mina is not the story’s antagonist. Instead it is her father, Gregory, the magician who created Lynet. We learn early on that he is a horrible and manipulative person when he reveals he replaced Mina’s heart with a magical glass one and claims she can never love or be loved because of it. Creating Lynet drained his life force, so he plans to kill her and take her heart to restore it, which is a nod to the queen wanting Snow White’s heart (or her lungs and liver in some versions) brought to her in the original tale. It is him, not Mina, who tries to poison Lynet. There also isn’t a poison apple. Instead, the poison is put on a bracelet Mina had given Lynet. Gregory uses magic to create a double of Mina who then returns the bracelet to Lynet as a supposed peace offering only to be poisoned once she puts it on. In the German fairy tale, the queen makes three attempts to kill Snow White using bodice laces, a poisoned hair comb, and the famous poisoned apple. Of these three, the bracelet is most similar to the hair comb since they both take effect by simply coming into contact with the body.
Bashardoust also changes the way Lynet wakes up after being poisoned, though it still involves her love interest. As previously mentioned, there isn’t a prince in this retelling. Lynet’s love interest is Nadia, a young surgeon. The prince in the original comes across Snow White’s glass coffin in the woods and is so entranced with her beauty that he decides to bring her back with him. While they are walking, one of the men carrying the coffin stumbles and causes the apple to come out of Snow White’s throat, waking her up. Bashardoust forgoes this and the perhaps more well-known kiss method popularized by the Disney movie in favor of a slightly more practical explanation. Nadia switches the poison out for one that only causes a deathlike sleep. Like Juliet in Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, Lynet appears dead for a period of time but eventually wakes up.
There is also a fantastic twist on the magic mirror. In the German version of the tale, the mirror hovers between being an object and being a character. It’s not human, but it does speak and is ultimately what sets the events of the story into motion. Bashardoust plays with this concept and combines the mirror with the huntsman in the character of Felix. Due to her magical glass heart, Mina can manipulate glass. Soon after coming to live at court and setting her sights on the king, she creates Felix out of the glass in a mirror that belonged to her mother. He is meant to teach her how to love so she can get the king to fall in love with her, though they ultimately fall in love with each other. He becomes a huntsman to explain his presence at court and starts to become more and more human. Despite this, he still retains some mirror qualities; he reflects the feelings of those looking at him. It is him that Mina sends after Lynet when she runs away, though not with orders to kill her. He does almost kill her since he believes it will be easier for Mina with Lynet dead, but as in the original, he can’t bring himself to do it.
I really enjoyed Girls Made of Snow and Glass. I appreciate that the romance between Lynet and Nadia was kept secondary to the relationship between Lynet and Mina. So many books end up dominated by the romantic relationships, and it’s always nice to find a book where that doesn’t happen, especially since the relationship between Snow White and her stepmother is so key in the original fairy tale. And even though it is secondary, Lynet and Nadia’s relationship is very sweet and felt believable. Plus I love finding LGBT+ fairy tale retellings!
I also liked the way Bashardoust structured the book. The chapters switch between Lynet and Mina, and Mina’s chapters in the first half of the book focus on her past. This worked really well to develop Mina, Gregory, and the king as characters and show the readers their motivations. We also get to see the relationship between Lynet and her father at different points in time and from an outsider’s prospective. If Mina’s chapters had started at the same point in time as Lynet’s, we would have missed out on all of this and the story and characters wouldn’t have been as strong.
I do wish there had been a little more world building, especially in regards to the magic. Lynet has magic because Gregory used it to create her and Mina has magic because he used it to make her a replacement heart. That’s all explained and made sense to me. However, we’re never given an explanation for Gregory’s magic. Why does he have it? How does it work? I was also left wondering about the northern and southern halves of the kingdom. The royal court is in the North, which has been cursed with eternal winter. Nothing can grow there and food is imported from the South, which is warm and lovely. Why would anyone stay there, especially the royal family who clearly has the means to move? We’re given a reason that the current king doesn’t want to leave; his first wife is buried there. But why didn’t any of the rulers before him move the court? Questions like this aren’t really important to the plot, but they did sometimes distract me from the actual story.
Other Reading Recommendations:
The starred titles are ones I have read myself. The others are ones I want to read and may end up being future Fairy Tale Friday books. To keep the list from getting too long, I’m limiting it to four that I’ve read and four that I haven’t. This was Bashardoust’s first book, so she doesn’t have more to recommend. Hopefully she will soon!
Other Retellings of “Snow White”:
- Fairest by Gail Carson Levine*
- Mirror Mirror by Gregory Maguire*
- “Snow, Glass, Apples” by Neil Gaiman*
- Beauty by Nancy Ohlin*
- The Fairest of Them All by Carolyn Turgeon
- Snow in Summer by Jane Yolen
- Dark Shimmer by Donna Jo Napoli
- White as Snow by Tanith Lee
About the Fairy Tale:
- Sleeping Beauties: Sleeping Beauty and Snow White Tales from Around the World by Heidi Ann Heiner