Read as part of the Fairy Tale Retelling Challenge.
On the eve of her wedding, a young queen sets out to rescue a princess from an enchantment. She casts aside her fine wedding clothes, takes her chain mail and her sword and follows her brave dwarf retainers into the tunnels under the mountain towards the sleeping kingdom. This queen will decide her own future – and the princess who needs rescuing is not quite what she seems. Twisting together the familiar and the new, this perfectly delicious, captivating and darkly funny tale shows its creators at the peak of their talents.
(Tekst fra goodreads)
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I first discovered this beauty of a book in the late fall last year, and when I spotted an on-line sale, I immediately purchased it. Neil Gaiman has a special way of telling stories that appear normal and ordinary but then he has a way to do things that make them extraordinary and all the way compelling to read from cover to cover. Which is what I did with this one, granted it is a short story so I read it in about an hour – but I could easily have read it again and have it continue for much longer. Or just wish the story in itself had been much longer. It is a combined retelling of Snow White and Sleeping Beauty with a Gaiman twist as there ought to be.
“Have you noticed,” asked the shortest of the dwarfs, “something unusual?” They had names, the dwarfs, but human beings were not permitted to know what they were, such things being sacred. The queen had a name, but nowadays people only ever called her Your Majesty. Names are in short supply in this telling.”
It was of course this retelling aspect that drew me to this edition, other than the fact that it is absolutely beautiful in its illustrations and it brings another dimension to the story completely. Suddenly the book comes to life and the story becomes something else entirely had I just read it in text form. Even so, Gaiman has a way with words and twisting what we know into something otherworldly. I adored his creation of this fairy tale world, and I wished to have stayed in it for some time longer because it alluded to so much more potential. Questions are aroused as you read but they are left unanswered, leaving you wanting more even after turning the last page.
I love the style of Gaiman’s writing in this short story, precisely because he manages to allude to much more than there already is. It is almost like we are placed in the middle of the story and only get to hear the end of the story – there’s a beginning somewhere that still needs to be told.
“Yes,” said the queen. She said nothing, but sat on the moss beneath an oak tree and tasted the stillness, heartbeat by heartbeat. There are choices, she thought, when she had sat long enough. There are always choices. She made one. The queen began to walk, and the dwarfs followed her.”
I liked Gaiman’s interpretation of Show White’s character as the silent queen, who takes on this quest for her people and how loyal she seems to be in her hearts of hearts. I also liked the wickedness of this story, hopefully without giving too much away – the witch in this story is so much more cunning than I would have thought. But Gaiman’s interpretation of the happily-ever-after is also something completely different than what one might expect.
You should read this short story if you love Gaiman, or if you love fairy tale retellings, or if you love stories with a twist or if you love all of the above. Either way, I just think you should read it to put a smile on your face for at least an hour, during and after you read it. (I docked one star, for the simple reason that I felt it was too short. I wanted more after reading it.)