Friday, November 25, 2011

A grisly but refreshing look at "Snow White"---Jen G.

I purchased the electronic collection of The Fairy Tale Review (all five issues: Blue, Green, Violet, White, and Aquamarine) some time ago, and now that I have some I have been happily perusing the different issues with more depth. As I was reading the Violet Edition (published in 2007), Kim’s Addonizio’s opening poem, “Snow White: The Huntsman’s Story” quickly caught my eye. As you may have seen, Hollywood is churning out its next series of genre/character films, and has turned its eye to none other than Snow White. In a similar fashion to The Prestige and The Illusionist, rival studios are coming out with Snow White and the Huntsman and Mirror Mirror, one an adventure/thriller/romance and the other a romantic comedy. With the movie machine in mind, I unfairly went into “Huntsman’s” expecting something more like “Show White,” or an alternative twist on the story.

Well, it was alternative.

“Snow White: The Huntsman’s Story” isn’t a romance but a lament by the Huntsman who, contrary to the stories he hears, did in fact rape and kill Snow White, his “assignment” (15). In a short number of words, the Huntsman systemically punches holes in the accepted myth, fills the reader in on the grisly truths, and attempts to convey his remorse. Haunted, he says, “ I took out my knife and held her head/back. She closed her eyes. A deer/crossed the clearing, stopped/and turned/ I thought/it watched me,/ I think it watches me still…” (15), the Huntsman is recounting his tale long after Snow White’s death and the romance’s myth’s birth.

One of the more confusing motif’s throughout the poem is that of the references to the Nazis. For example, in one of the more grisly sections, he says, “Believe in the apple, the glass coffin/without its covering flag,/where she lay/as perfectly preserved as Eva Peron/until the prince came to carry her away./Of course he didn’t carry her./ the servants did. And when they stumbled/over a tree stump-/if you believe the story- the piece of apple,/ caught in her throat, popped out” (15-6), and later mentions that in the snow fall there was “white on her blue Aryan eyes” (16). I have a few ideas about the imagery, such as the evil queen has become Hitler-like leader, exterminating rivals like Snow White (but why call Snow White Aryan?), or that the myth we know and love is just that, a myth, which we like to tell ourselves in order to avoid the darker truth. “Snow White” is a part of the Grimm’s collection, and “Huntsman’s” is an effective reminder of that tone. That being said, “Huntsman’s” does not leave even the Grimm version unscathed.

Ms. Addonizio weaves an intriguing and dark work, both grisly and disturbingly refreshing, carefully working with and casting off the different clich├ęs and myths surrounding Snow White, even ending the tale on a twist of the famous “Lips red as rose” lines.

When it comes down to it, the movie treatment will more likely than not focus on the Disney version of Snow White, and I have a feeling that by the time Hollywood has plowed through Snow White tale next summer, I am going to be more inclined to reach for “Huntsman’s” grittier take than buying a ticket.

---Jen G.


Popped said...

This is highly disturbing and somewhat alters my love for the movie I had as a child! You bring up some very interesting points about the piece, however, particularly about the "Aryan" Snow White. It seems as though the author is really using this fairy tale to examine much larger issues which is kind of neat. Disney is known to insert some very adult-esq themes within its movies but this requires a whole nother level of intellectual comprehension.

Popped said...

A very interesting shift of story.

Jen, I'm interested in your Nazi interpretation, because in the quotes you picked, I don't quite see it. Was this mentioned more explicitly in other places? You mentioned the queen being Hitler-esque. But the term "Aryan" is not a Nazi invention. The idea, of course, has set the gears in my head grinding in the wrong direction when they ought to be working to pump out end-of-year essays. Thanks for nothing, gears!

As to the upcoming movies, one at least looks like it's just trying to be Twilight. I don't like that, but the fairy tale upsurge does bode well for my preferred genre of writing.

Julie, if this disturbed you, then you probably don't want to know that Snow White--in Disney, not sure of the original story--is supposed to be fourteen. FOUR-FREAKIN'-TEEN! Someone call child protection!

--Sarah Lawrence