Story Analysis of ‘Snow, Glass, Apples’ by Neil Gaiman

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It’s Day 25 of the #A2ZChallenge. This year, I invite you to read and discuss short stories with me. Each day, I bring you a ‘Read of the Day,’ a short story in English, so that we can indulge in the joy of reading. You can visit my site daily for a short story with analysis and participate in the discussion in the comments.

Read of the Day 

Today, we will read Snow, Glass, Apples by Neil Gaiman. You can read the short story online here.

About the Author 

Neil Gaiman is an award-winning English author. He’s won numerous awards for his writings, including the Hugo, Nebula, and Bram Stoker awards. He’s also the first author to win the Newbery and the Carnegie medals for the same book, The Graveyard Book. His other notable work includes The Sandman comic book series, Stardust, American Gods, Coraline, and The Ocean at the End of the Lane. 

Story Analysis 

Snow, Glass, Apples by Neil Gaiman was written in 1994, and since then, has been adapted into various mediums. The graphic novels by Dark Horse Comics won the 2020 Eisner Award for Best Adaptation from Another Medium, and The Horror Writers Association’s Snow, Glass, Apples graphic novel, which bagged the Bram Stoker Superior Achievement in a Graphic Novel Award.

Snow, Glass, Apples by Neil Gaiman is a chilling retelling of the old German fairy tale by the Grimm Brothers in 1812. The story became a worldwide phenomenon after the Walt Disney animated movie Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs in 1937. 

But unlike the Grimm Brothers version, the Disney adaptation was heavily whitewashed. Neil Gaiman’s adaptation of Snow White is in line with the Grimm brothers’ version; it’s as dark, or if not more dark than the original version. The Grimm brothers’ version had themes of revenge, murder, and sexual jealousy. Neil Gaiman’s version has all these and more, including pedophilia, incest, filicide, necrophilia, vampirism, and cannabilism. 

What’s interesting is that Neil Gaiman doesn’t touch or alter the story structure. You have the same characters: the king, stepmother, Snow White or the stepdaughter, dwarfs, and the prince. The same passionate courtship of the king and the stepmother, or the stepmother’s magical mirror and powers. 

As in the original story, the Queen orders Snow White’s heart to be cut out. 

“And some say (but it is her lie, not mine) that I was given the heart, and that I ate it. Lies and half-truths fall like snow, covering the things that I remember, the things I saw. A landscape, unrecognisable after a snowfall; that is what she has made of my life.”

Snow White survives in the forest with the dwarfs. The iconic poisoning of the apple by the Queen to kill Snow White is still there in Gaiman’s version. The prince finds the dead Snow White and revives her to life. In the end, the Queen is executed, and the Prince and Snow White live happily ever after. 

But what makes Neil Gaiman’s story starkly different is the subversion of the characters and their motivations. The story then becomes brand new, even with familiar characters and story plot. 

Neil Gaiman’s Snow, Glass, Apples is retold from the stepmother’s perspective, who is also the story’s narrator. The stepmother who becomes the Queen looks back in hindsight and muses over the past. 

“I did not do this thing, and we pay for our mistakes.”

Gaiman’s description of Snow White is in line with the Grimm Brothers’ version of the fairy tale and yet takes on a wholly different meaning. 

“I shall think instead of the snowflake on her cheek.

I think of her hair as black as coal, her lips as red as blood, her skin, snow-white.”

Neil Gaiman’s Snow, Glass, Apples is so evil that it’s good with its deviant characters and explicit, perverse happenings. 

“You can ride through the forest for a dozen days and never see a soul; but there are eyes upon you the entire time.”

He implored me to say nothing. He spread my legs apart… “Please,” he said, softly. “You must neither move, nor speak. Just lie there on the stones, so cold and so fair.”

Gaiman likened the desired effect of his twisted retelling in Snow, Glass, Apples to that of a virus when he said,

“There are definitely stories where I just wanted to try to essentially do a magic trick – it’s ‘Snow White’, but I’m going to show it to you in a mirror so you’ve never seen it like this before. And you’ll never be able to think of it in the same way ever again”. 

Snow, Glass, Apples is a must-read for all Neil Gaiman fans for its brilliant retelling of a popular children’s story in a whole new dark. And oh, this version is definitely not for children.  

What are your thoughts on Snow, Glass, Apples by Neil Gaiman? 

*I’m participating in the #BlogchatterA2Z Challenge.

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