After reading Snow, Glass, and Apple, a question popped in my head: Does a piece of fiction that requires supplemental reading hinder its quality?
The original story of Snow White told by the Brothers Grimm depicted a message that said beauty always beats intellect: a message that is pretty outdated for readers in this day and age. Nowadays, we praise cunning over simply looking attractive (for the most part).
Naturally, Neil Gaiman, the author, would write an adaptation that would argue against the notion that beauty is more valuable than intellect.
In Brothers Grimm, the narrative favors beauty over intellect and has the queen brutally murdered. In Snow, Glass, and Apple, the narrative favors intellect over beauty and has the queen brutally murdered.
This might seem counterproductive, but I think this works in Gaiman’s favor. Because he is applying a horror twist to the tale, he had the queen die to harness a universal fear. A fear of failing, despite how hard we prepare and educate ourselves.
Instead of attempting to murder Snow White out of vanity, the queen acts out of justice for her husband’s death and the security of her kingdom. The queen studies all forms of magic but remains defeated. None of her knowledge could best Snow White because the young princess is the first vampire and, therefore, none of her weaknesses have been documented yet.
The whole beauty versus intellect concept does get a bit muddled, though. The moral should be you shouldn’t quickly judge someone for the way they look, like the dwarves and prince blindly risking their lives for an attractive stranger.
With this modern interpretation, I thought the queen would be more inclined to talk about a person’s character before mentioning someone’s outward appearance, but nah. When she talks about the dwarves and a random monk, she can’t talk enough about how hairy and weird looking they are to her. Even when she thinks of her stepdaughter, all say even mentions is how white she is.
Speaking of Snow White, making her a vampire was an interesting choice. Aside from the obvious parallels of them having pale, white skin, it just seemed so random to me at first. There’s no epic vampire battle. She just sort of bites people here and there and shoves her heart into her chest.
Knowing that in the original story, Snow White was able to compel people to do anything for her made me understand why Gaiman went this route. What monster could better represent a compelling, dangerous aspect of beauty than a vampire? It works thematically, even though there’s no cool vampire fight.
It was before my second go-through of this story that I read the original Brothers Grimm version. With a better knowledge of what Gaiman was basing his story on, I had a better appreciation for it.
That being said, I still kind of thought it was boring.
One aspect I did find funny was the prince. This guy went to a bunch of dwarves that live in a forest to resurrect a blood thirsty vampire in a glass case, all because he had a bad one-night stand; this dude’s extra.
At the end of the day, a piece of art should stand on its own. Further reading should be optional, not essential.
You should read his Sandman books. They’re more fun.