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What happens when "happily ever after" has come and gone?
On the eve of her only daughter, Princess Raven's wedding, an aging Snow White finds it impossible to share in the joyous spirit of the occasion. The ceremony itself promises to be the most glamorous social event of the decade. Snow White’s castle has been meticulously scrubbed, polished and opulently decorated for the celebration. It is already nearly bursting with jubilant guests and merry well-wishers. Prince Edel, Raven's fiancé, is a fine man from a neighboring kingdom and Snow White's own domain is prosperous and at peace. Things could not be better, in fact, except for one thing:
The king is dead.
The queen has been in a moribund state of hopeless depression for over a year with no end in sight. It is only when, in a fit of bitter despair, she seeks solitude in the vastness of her own sprawling castle and climbs a long disused and forgotten tower stair that she comes face to face with herself in the very same magic mirror used by her stepmother of old.
It promises her respite in its shimmering depths, but can Snow White trust a device that was so precious to a woman who sought to cause her such irreparable harm? Can she confront the demons of her own difficult past to discover a better future for herself and her family? And finally, can she release her soul-crushing grief and suffocating loneliness to once again discover what "happily ever after" really means?
Only time will tell as she wrestles with her past and is forced to confront The Reflections of Queen Snow White.(Disclaimer: contains some violence and sexual content)
The Macabre Origins of Faerie Tales and The Reflections of Queen Snow White
Once upon a time and happily ever after – these words are synonymous with the faerie tale genre. Just you name it – Snow White, Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, The Little Mermaid – the version of these tales with which most of us are familiar all begin and end with these two phrases, and neatly encapsulate everything that they imply. The poor princess faces adversity. Then the handsome prince swoops in to save the day. They find love and life remains blissful ever after… at least in the Disney-variety retellings, that is…
However, most faerie tales in their original forms were not nearly so benign nor obviously the quintessential juvenile literary fare that we assume them to be these days. Most were dark, violent, and decidedly adult. It is this darkness that I have sought to capture and reintroduce in The Reflections of Queen Snow White, but let me take a moment to illustrate my point.
1. In the original version of Little Red Riding Hood there is no Woodsman and Grandma does not make an appearance. Rather the wolf simply tricks Red into going the wrong way in the forest, kills her, and eats her… The end.
2. Similarly, in the original version of Goldilocks and the Three Bears, the bears find Goldie in Baby Bear’s bed and summarily rip her to pieces.
3. In the original Cinderella, she did in fact have animal friends, only these didn’t sew her a dress. Instead, the pigeons notice copious amounts of blood gushing from the glass slipper as the evil step sisters try it on (having previously cut off half their foot to make it fit) warned the prince, and pecked afore mentioned step-sisters’ eyes out leaving them lame, blind beggars for the rest of their lives.
4. In the original Little Mermaid, the little mermaid character is convinced by her sisters to stab the prince to death in his sleep on his wedding night when he falls in love with and marries someone else and then dribble his blood over her feet to turn them back into a tale. (She chooses to die herself instead at the last minute and turns into sea foam).
5. In the original version of Sleeping Beauty, the handsome prince does not wake her with a sweet kiss. Instead, he rapes her while she’s asleep, gets her pregnant (twice) and it is only when those children reach toddler age and one of them sucks on his mother’s finger (removing the magic splinter that caused the sleeping spell in the first place) that she awakens. She quickly discovers that the prince is in fact married already, but don’t worry! His wife is actually an “evil ogress” so it’s okay when they conspire to murder her. Then Sleeping Beauty lives happily ever after… married to her homicidal, rapist husband.
Originally, faerie tales were stories of folk wisdom and morality intended for adults, but because they were also popular with children many elements (especially overtly sexual aspects) were cut out - (for example in the original version of Rapunzel, the witch discovers about the prince’s visits by asking Rapunzel why her clothes look so tight - implying that she is pregnant). Furthermore, major revisions were made to the literary versions which have survived (as opposed to those of the oral tradition which have largely faded) to make them more kid-friendly (although it should be noted that a lot of earlier revisions, like the Victorian Grimm rewrite for example, actually made the stories more violent, especially when punishing the villain).
I have taken The Reflections of Queen Snow White back to those original adult origins to tell what is essentially a very human story about overcoming a childhood of abuse and neglect, coping with grief, and finding purpose again when “happily ever after” ends, as invariably it must for any who inhabit this mortal coil called existence. My take on the story attempts to see Snow White as a real and very complex human being who must surely have had some serious emotional trauma and psychological baggage after everything she had gone through.
One of the things I like best about faerie tales is that in spite of magic mirrors, glass shoes, and auric fiber-producing textile equipment, they are at their core intrinsically true. They are a stark distillation of human nature in all of its nobility and all of its malignity. They continue to persist in popularity expressly because the stark humanness of the characters and situations described therein touches something deep within us instilling an affection that borders on the primal. It is precisely these feelings of empathetic humanity that I have tried to tap into with The Reflections of Queen Snow White, and portray her as a battered woman of flesh and blood, rather than the saccharine sweet cartoon epitome of purity and beauty that popular media has reduced her to, who overcomes great tragedy and pain to build a life of joy and meaning for herself. I hope you all pick up a copy and enjoy!
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About the author.
David Meredith is a writer and educator originally from Knoxville, Tennessee. He recieved both a Bachelor of Arts and a Master of Arts from East Tennessee State University, in Johnson City, Tennessee as well as a Tennessee State Teaching license. On and off, he spent nearly a decade, from 1999-2010 teaching English in Northern Japan, but currently lives with his wife and three children in the Nashville Area where he continues to write, teach English, and is pursuing his doctoral degree in educational leadership.