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HaBO: Snow White

StarOpal writes:

Okay, here’s the deal, there’s a movie called Snow White: A Tale of Terror. For those who haven’t seen it, it’s a dark adaptation of the Grimm story with the stepmother being more crazy than evil, and “Snow White” chooses an outlaw type over “Prince Charming.” Every time I see it I think to myself ‘Man I wish that was based off a book so I could read it’ or ‘Man I’d like to read a good Snow White retelling.’ But I never know where to start looking for this particular idea (it doesn’t seem to be as popular as, say, Beauty and the Beast or Sleeping Beauty) and just give up in frustration.

So I saw the movie again a couple days ago and thought I’d put out the call here. It doesn’t have to have the same exact plot points, but if you gals could turn me on to a good Snow White retelling I’d really appreciate it.

I’m a sucker for fairy tale retellings, and since Snow White is more obvious than most about the purity themes working through the narrative, it would seem ripe for romance adaptation. Anyone have any ideas?


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  1. 1
    so-meta says:

    That movie’s pretty cool. If anyone’s up for some retellings of Snow White, I totally have some recommendations, although most of them are not romances, per se, and most of them are at least as dark as the above-mentioned film. Neil Gaiman has a short story called “Snow, Glass, Apples” and Tanith Lee has a short story called “Red as Blood” in her anthology Red as Blood or Tales from the Sisters Grimmer, which, as you might suppose contains a bunch of fairy tale retellings. Lee also has a novel-length retelling called White as Snow, which also mixes the Snow White story with the Persephone myth. Angela Carter’s “The Bloody Chamber” also has a Snow White retelling in there. Additionally, there’s a series of short story anthologies by Ellen Datlow and Terri Windling that are all fairy tale based stories. I really recommend the series (there are six books, and they all have titles like “Black Swan, White Raven,” “Black Heart, Ivory Bones,” etc. Some of them might be out of print, but they are SO worth looking for). Also, if you like reading comics, there’s a comic book series by Bill Willingham called Fables that tells a totally new story using a lot of characters from fairy tales, nursery rhymes, myths, etc. Snow White plays a huge role in it, and also is one half of the series’ biggest romance.  Also, if you like fairy tale retellings in general, check out Donna Jo Napoli. I don’t think she’s taken a whack at Snow White yet, but Spinners, her Rumpelstiltskin, and Zel, her take on Rapunzel, are especially good.

  2. 2
    Lindz says:

    The only book I can think of is “Mirror Mirror” by Geoffry Maguire.  The evil stepmother figure is Lucrezia Borgia.

    There is also the short story “Snow, Glass, Apples” by Neil Gaiman.  If you haven’t read this one, definitely give it a read.

  3. 3
    Cat Marsters says:

    I wrote one once where the wicked stepmother was a vampire and she bit Snow White.  The Prince had to give her blood instead of kissing her.  I was about sixteen at the time. : you could call it a sign of things to come.

    It’s always seemed to be a story ripe for erotica: a virgin moves in with seven men?  Wheee!

  4. 4
    runswithscissors says:

    Adele Geras wrote an excellent YA trilogy based on Rapunzel, Sleeping Beauty and Snow White.  Set in England in the 1960s, quite magical.  The Snow White- inspired book is called ‘Pictures of the Night’ and the heroine runs away to be a jazz singer.


  5. 5
    YewTree says:

    If you want twisted re-tellings of fairytales and don’t mind comics, then i highly recommend Ludwig Kakumei. I’m not usually a fan of Japanese manga, but this is an exception. The Snow white story is particularly shocking but the Rapunzel one is very good as well.

  6. 6
    Sadie says:

    “The Bloody Chamber” by Angela Carter’s a good bet if you’re after a somewhat more, er, erotic re-telling of your old bedtime favourites. Some of them might make your eyes water tho’, although they never get to Anais Nin level of total filth.

  7. 7
    Kelly Bishop says:

    Mercedes Lackey did several fairy tale adaptions. Some didn’t work very well but the Snow White version – The Serpent’s Shadow was excellent. I highly recommend it. Also her version of Beauty & the Beast, The Fire Rose, is wonderful too.

    Kelly B.

  8. 8
    RStewie says:

    Robin McKinley has several adaptations of fairy tales to her name, and her writing is wonderful.

  9. 9
    Cassie says:

    “Enchanted: Erotic Bedtime Stories for Women” has a Snow White story, although frankly I didn’t think the anthology was that great. The stories were interesting retellings of fairy tales, but none of them really grabbed me.

  10. 10
    katiebabs says:

    Anne Rice anyone? I haven’t read them but I heard her Sleeping Beauty trilogy is really erotic and shocking (at least for the time they were published)

  11. 11
    Betsy says:

    I’m focusing on folktales and fairy tales in my major, and retellings are where its’s at!  The greatest I’ve read so far are all collections: “The Bloody Chamber” by Angela Carter and “Kissing the Witch” by Emma Donoghue (both short story collections) and “Transformations” by Anne Sexton (poetry).  All three of those include Snow White retellings, and they’re all so wonderful.  I’m glad people have mentioned Angela Carter!

  12. 12
    Betsy says:

    Oh, and I’m writing a fairy tale retelling collection myself, so I might be a little biased.

  13. 13
    Carin says:

    I’m putting in a second for Mercedes Lackey.  I love her versions.  I consider them fantasy (a world with magic) with a healthy side of romance.  Of all of them I think The Fire Rose (Beauty & the Beast) is my favorite.

    The Fire Rose
    Gates of Sleep
    The Serpent’s Shadow
    Phoenyx And Ashes
    Wizard of London

  14. 14
    Anony Miss says:

    Totally agree that of Lackey’s fairytales, “Fire Rose” is the best.  The Serpent’s Shadow is great too.

  15. 15
    aninsomniac says:

    I adore Robin Mckinley’s fairy tale adaptations, especially her 2 versions of Beauty and the Beast.

    For those who like a further twist, there is an amazing version of Beauty and the Beast by a non-published (till now) author in livejournal under the name “jeanauvray”. The twist is that Beauty is also a guy. So those who like gay romance or would like to try something different should definitely give that one a try. And it is free! You might need to friend her though.


  16. 16
    StarOpal says:

    I knew I came to the right place!

    So far The Bloody Chamber is the only one I’ve already read, so this is becoming a great list for me to work me through.

    Thanks and keep ‘em coming!

  17. 17
    Sarah W says:

    The Godmother by Elizabeth Ann Scarborough includes the story of a neglected girl named Snohomish (the daughter of a famous rock star who imarried a real witch, so to speak) and seven Vietnam vets Sno meets in the woods.

    I love Mercedes Lackey, too.  Reserved for the Cat (a riff on Puss in Boots) is one of my favorites.

  18. 18
    Staple says:

    I haven’t read it, but Tanith Lee’s White as Snow looks really interesting.

    I’m going to second anything by Lackey and McKinley. McKinley doesn’t have a sleeping beauty /snow white retelling I don’t believe, but everything she writes seems to be wonderful.

  19. 19
    Mfred says:

    A lot of public libraries have subscriptions to the NoveList database.  NoveList lets you plug in an author, book title, even theme or genre, and generate lists of “similar” novels. 

    Of course, you won’t get the same quality of opinion as bitchery members, but its worth a shot. 

    And I’m a librarian.  We’re like drug dealers, always pushin’ the product.  Have you had a little library today?  Takes the edge off, man.

  20. 20
    Elizabeth Wadsworth says:

    Back in the Eighties, TOR books published a whole series of Faerie Tale re-imaginings by known fantasy authors.  They included Tam Lin, Snow White and Rose Red, Thomas the Rhymer, and several others.  Snow White and the Seven Dwarves may have been one of them.

  21. 21
    Lizzy says:

    There’s an adaptation of ‘Snow, Glass, Apples’ with Bebe Neuwirth as the Queen, too. Kind of cool …

  22. 22
    Lindsey says:

    I second the recommendation of Bill Willingham’s Fables for anyone who likes comics/graphic novels. A great take on Snow White as well as other fairy tale characters.

  23. 23
    M says:

    If you like YA fiction there’s also “Waking” by A. Harvey-Fitzhenry (Sleeping Beauty) and “Broken”. A. Harvey-Fitzhenry (Cinderella)

  24. 24
    Leslie Kelly says:

    I read an online read by Bettie Sharpe last year, called Ember, and absolutely loved every word of it. It’s a dark re-telling of the Cinderella story. And she still has it on her website, for free, at

    It is well worth a read.

  25. 25
    Bhetti says:

    One of the books on my To Buy list is Fairest by Gail Carson Levine based on my love of her Ella Enchanted book. It’ll be loosely based on Snow White.

    I now have to overcome the temptation to buy it now. Resisting. Resisting.

    Failed., here we come.

    Smart Bitches, Trashy Books: using the power of Luuuuurve™ to help me find a million ways to spend too much of my student loan.

  26. 26

    I don’t believe the Fairy Tales series of retellings (edited by Terri Windling, initially for Ace and later for Tor) did get to Snow White, though as noted there was a very good version of Snow White, Rose Red by Patricia Wrede. 

    I’ll endorse Scarborough’s The Godmother as well; it isn’t precisely a retelling, but covers its ground particularly well.  The Mercedes Lackey retellings are—the best word I can use is odd, I think.  There are two series—the “Elemental Masters” books (mostly for DAW, although Fire Rose from Baen is almost certainly part of its continuity), and the “Five Hundred Kingdoms” books from Luna; the earliest of each are IMO the best, and Firebird from Tor is better than both.  My main issue with Lackey’s series are her protagonists, who start to look a lot like “Mary Sue” characters after awhile.

    More interesting by a mile is a brand new book by Jim C. Hines called The Stepsister Scheme.  This is also not a retelling, but rather a slantwise sequel to “Cinderella”, in which the Cinderella character is teamed with Snow White (a mirror sorceress) and Sleeping Beauty (called Talia, a martial arts master) when her happily-ever-after is rudely spoiled by a kidnapping.  It isn’t structurally or thematically a romance, but it’s very, very good, both highly amusing and well characterized.  At least three sequels are forthcoming, but the book works effectively as a standalone.

  27. 27

    And a completely different recommendation in a similar revisionist-fairy-tale vein: this post links to a scratch recording of “Wicked Girls Saving Ourselves” by incipient fantasy novelist Seanan McGuire (and if you like that one, she’s got three excellent CDs available).

  28. 28
    Lizzie (greeneyed fem) says:

    StarOpal, run, do not walk, to get a copy of Tanith Lee’s White as Snow. As so-meta said, it’s a combination of Snow White and the Persephone myth retold into a new story. It is AMAZING—and definitely dark. (And now I totally need to go re-read it.) It was originally published as part of the Terri Windling-edited Fairy Tale series, which others have mentioned.

    so-meta, I think we must have a lot of the same books. :) I love re-did fairy tales.

    I double-triple-quadruple the Bettie Sharpe Ember recommendation. A dark, perfectly-turned-on-its-head retelling of Cinderella with razor-sharp writing—go read it right NOW!

  29. 29
    Erin says:

    You should give “Beauty” by Sheri S. Tepper a try – I’m pretty sure the snow white story makes an appearance at some point, and besides, it’s a great read!

  30. 30
    Ann says:

    I have to third the mention of Wrede’s “Snow White and Rose Red”.  I really, really, really liked that one.

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