Reading Fairest this spring started us on the lookout for other retellings of Snow White, and this flight was born. Snow White is one of the most famous of the Brothers Grimm tales. And of course, made even more famous by the Walt Disney version which dominates images of this heroine worldwide. For a fascinating look at the history behind the story, you’ll want to read The Twisted History of Snow White . In Adam Gidwitz’s piece, you’ll learn the rather bloody, and well, “grim” original tales. Yes, they penned more than one version. You’ll also learn that the original dwarves had no names, and the 1812 version had no step-mother! That’s right, the wicked queen was Snow White’s own Mom! It’s the 1857 version by the Grimms that revises the tale so that it is the wicked Step-mother who is so cruel and vain, not the real Mom. Honestly, you have got to read this blog!
To start your journey on the versions of Snow White, you might want to read an early translation (1884):
Then, turn to some adaptions by fine picture book writers and illustrators:
Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs: A Tale from the Brothers Grimm Translated by Randall Jarrell, illustrated by Nancy Ekholm Burkert
This important fairy tale deserves the best writer possible. Randall Jarrell is a favorite poet and fine writer of classic children’s literature. (The Bat Poet and The Animal Family sit on my ideal bookshelf.) I appreciate that he keeps the original ending, where the wicked Queen must dance to her death. And Burkert’s illustrations are simply magical. Rich with detail, and double-paged, it’s easy to see why this book was named an Caldecott Honor Book. It’s far from the Disney version–and that’s a good thing!
Snow White by the Brothers Grimm Retold by Paul Heins, illustrated by Trina Schart Hyman
This retelling has its dark moments, but they occur more in the lush illustrations rather than the poetic lines. I appreciate the dwarves (again, not the happy little gnomes of the Disney version, but rather small kindly men). The tale follows most of the same major points as the Jarrell version, but is probably appropriate for a younger audience. ( I would say as young as 4 would be fine with it.)
Snow White by Josephine Poole, illustrated by Angela Barrett
The illustrations and retelling make this book a wonderful companion to the other Snow White picture books. The narrative itself is along the classic lines of the original. Most versions of the story omit the fact that the Evil Queen made two attempts on Snow White’s life before the apple: first by suffocating her with corset strings, then by placing a poisoned comb in her hair. The illustrations also hark back to the Germanic roots of the fairy tale: dark, moody, reminiscent of German Romanticism.
It’s hard to narrow down to just a few retellings and world-wide versions, but you might begin with these favorites:
Snow White Stories Around the World by Jessica Gunderson
Gunderson has collected and retold Snow White stories from 4 different cultures: Albania, Germany, Mozambique, and Turkey. How about “slight” variations like 40 dragons instead of 7 dwarves or a shining bright star in the middle of Snow White’s forehead? Check it out!
Snow White in New York by Fiona French
Not just a different setting, but a different time period: 1920’s New York City! Snow White in the Jazz Age? You bet! Instead of an evil Step-Mother, Snow White’s enemy is The Queen of the Underworld. And for a unique Prince Charming, how about an ace reporter (for the New York Mirror, no less) ? Snow White herself, of course a beautiful Jazz baby, is protected by none other than seven hot jazzmen. Still not sure if it’s for you? Well, the words and images are so compelling and beautiful, it is the winner of the Kate Greenaway Medal.
Snow White by the Brothers Grimm, Illustrated by Camille Rose Garcia
This re-interpretation is all in the illustrations. The text is an unabridged translation of the Brothers Grimm (the step-mother version). But the images are dark and wild. Snow White is beautiful, but also has a punk-goth spin to her. “Vibrant” and “whimsical” are the two most-often used words to describe Garcia’s art. If you like the paintings here, be sure to take a look at her illustrations for Alice in Wonderland.
Seriously, Snow White was SO Forgetful: The Story of Snow White as Told by the Dwarves by Nancy Loewen, illustrated by Gerald Guerlais
Nancy Loewen has a whole series of “the other side of. . .” fairy tale versions. This one is a fun spin with the poor dwarves having to put up with a somewhat ditzy Snow White who stumbles into their woodland cabin. Children love the “what-ifs” of this story, and are drawn to the sweet, but quite forgetful heroine. It’s a fun and funny version, just right for younger readers. A great readaloud as an introduction to parody, too.
Alaska’s Snow White and Her Seven Sled Dogs by Mindy Dwyer
A very different take on our Snow White, who in Alaska, has “lips redder than a salmonberry.” In a variation of the earlier Grimm tale, the evil Ice Queen disguises herself as a trapper to deliver a constricting fur coat. Finally, she gets to Snow White as a friendly homesteader offering a peppermint drink that freezes the Alaskan beauty. I like the idea of seven sled dogs to care for Snow White, and of course a handsome Musher (Jacob) to rescue her. Bright, enticing illustrations by award-winner Mindy Dwyer.
Snow White Red-Handed by Maia Chance
I loved this first in a new series ( “A Fairy Tale Fatal Mystery”). A Gothic romantic tale for adult readers, this retelling takes place about the time of the Brothers Grimm’s original tale (the mid-1800’s). Actors Ophelia Flax and Pru Bright find themselves in a castle in Germany’s Black Forest. And, as you might guess, they discover they are in a fairy tale world–one where Snow White’s original cottage may have been discovered. Is it a hoax? A set-up for the murders that follow (death by poisoned apple, for example)? Or are fairy tales more history than fantasy? Original and clever!