Snow White and Rose Red is a novelization of the fairy tale of the same title, written by Patricia C. Wrede for the Fairy Tale Series created and edited by Terri Windling. All I know about the Fairy Tale Series comes from Windling's introduction to Snow White and Rose Red, which cites J.R.R. Tolkien's essay "On Fairy-Stories", and reminds readers that fairy tales were not always considered children's literature, but rather grew out of folktales shared by people of all ages, and were adapted into other forms by some of the greatest writers ad storytellers in history. The purpose of the Fairy Tale Series was to create all-ages retellings of classic stories like Sleeping Beauty/Briar Rose, Tam Lin, and Snow White and Rose Red.

The original story of Snow White and Rose Red has nothing to do with the Snow White of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs --- rather, it is the story of two sisters, whose names give the tale its title. Daughters of a poor widow, they are as good and virtuous as they are lovely, and they and their mother's kindness to a talking bear (clearly the victim of some enchantment) is eventually repaid with happily ever after, as is their kindness to an unlucky dwarf, who is not nearly so grateful. Some versions of the story also mention the girls' encounter with a mysterious being dressed all in white, who prevents them from stumbling over a cliff when lost in the woods one night.

Wrede's version of the story takes all of these elements and expands on them, setting the action in Elizabethan England and the realm of Faerie as depicted in William Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream (as you might expect, there is an appearance by everyone's favorite Puck, Robin Goodfellow). Trouble begins when two human sorcerers, John Dee and his accomplice Ned Kelly, attempt to reach into Faerie with their magic. Their role is similar to that of the dwarf in the original tale. Certain inhabitants of the enchanted realm have discovered the wizards' plot, and attempt to turn it to their own ends, to sever the human world from theirs once and for all. As a result, there is an enchanted bear, and the girls and their mother are kind to him and are rewarded. There's also a subplot about witch hunts narrowly averted, but it's a relatively minor one and in my opinion could have been omitted entirely.

On the whole, I liked Snow White and Rose Red enough to finish it, but not enough to consider reading it again. I was annoyed by the fact that all the dialog was written in Elizabethan English, which felt very out of place considering the explication and action were all done in a more contemporary style. As mentioned before, there was a subplot about accusations of witchcraft that I could have done without entirely, and the ending felt a bit rushed. Still, I'm a big fan of the retold myth and/or fairy tale genre, so it was good to read another novel of that persuasion.


Wrede, Patricia C. Snow White and Rose Red. New York: A Tom Doherty Associates Book, 1989.

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