I admit it, I am a Neil Gaiman fanboy. There are two shelves in my library devoted to his works and this short story, Snow Glass, Apples, sits among the greatest pieces he has created. So what is it about? Take the story of Snow White, keep all of the elements of the story we are familiar with (the stepmother, the dwarves, the stepmother’s attempt to kill Snow White, the Forest, etc.), then invert some, distort others and create a whole new perspective on a story that most of us take for granted at this point.
Snow, Glass, Apples is the tale of the stepmother (please note, NOT evil) who marries a king and then encounters his rather unusual daughter. This daughter feeds on blood and is a threat to all around her. So the stepmother eventually has her killed and her heart brought to her as proof. This does not kill her, so the queen uses a poison apple (see, I told you Neil kept all the story elements you remember) to try to end Snow’s life and is almost successful. The dwarves bury her in a glass coffin and there she remains. Until the necrophiliac Prince comes along and wakes her.
One of the aspects of this story that I love is that Neil never explains what Snow is. She is a monster, of course, one who feeds on blood. But she does age, so is not a vampire. How she got this way is never explained, but it is implied that her mother may have been similarly afflicted.
This is an unabashed feminist tale where a strong woman uses her power and intelligence to seduce a king, then rules a kingdom wisely for a time, with her wisdom and knowledge known and respected throughout the land. It is also telling, however, that once Snow White returned the people turned on her immediately, even though she had ruled them well. Why? My guess is that it is because Snow came back with the Prince and they felt more comfortable being ruled by a couple than a woman alone. This reaction is one that is totally believable to me even though the part of the couple is a monster who was feared and the Queen was respected. What that says about human nature I leave for you to decide.
A quick word about the artwork in this edition, which is amazing. Colleen Doran’s work really enhances the story and provides some visual cues that are tremendous, such as the King being shown as progressively smaller and weaker. If you are a fan of Gaiman’s work, I cannot encourage you enough to pick up this edition