Friday, September 21, 2007

Not Quite Snow White:
A Mixed-up Fairy Tale to Read Aloud

Not Quite Snow White

Once upon a time in a faraway land where people put horseradish on their waffles and butter on their tacos just to spice them up, there lived a beautiful queen. Her long hair was like the down of ducklings, and her eyes the hue of the summer sky. Her skin was so fine, you could sometimes see her thoughts flitting past inside: lovely thoughts, helpful thoughts, thoughts the color of sweet nectar. Her name was Daffodil.

Daffodil lived all alone in a beautiful castle with only her terrible, evil, vicious stepdaughter for company. The king, you see, had recently died. He died the same way his first wife died long ago: I'm sorry to say that he was poisoned! Everyone knew, or everyone kind of thought, or everyone almost guessed that their terrible, evil, vicious daughter, the princess, had poisoned both the old queen and the old king, but no one could ever prove it. Because of this, Daffodil lived in terrible fear that she would be next to be poisoned, and every drop of water she drank, every strawberry she tasted, gave her the greatest concern.

The young princess on the other hand ate everything she could find, without a second thought. She had a particular fondness for apples, and used to go haughtily through the king’s orchards, plucking the fruit from the tree, taking one bite, and then throwing the rest in the ditch. You see, besides being vicious and cruel and poisoning her parents, she was also wasteful with food, which is almost worse, don’t you think? She made quite a picture, thundering through the countryside on her mad red mare. She had hair the color of a crow’s wing, and lips the color of blood, and her skin was so pale, so white, it was like a layer of chalk upon her flesh, or of mason’s paste, it was that flat and thick. They called her Snow White.

Everyone knew, or thought, or guessed, that Snow White would be queen one day, as soon as she got around to poisoning Daffodil and getting her out of the picture. It was only a matter of time.

Now the frightened queen had a magic mirror, which would answer truthfully any question put to it. She had the nervous habit of asking the mirror thus:

“Mirror mirror, in my hand, who is the one true queen of the land?”

And the mirror, dutifully, maddeningly, inexorably, showed the queen a picture of the evil Snow White, looking as smug as a cat who has swallowed a horse. Licking her blood-red lips, smoothing her crow-black hair, glowering behind her pasty skin. Daffodil knew that she and the kingdom were both certainly in for it, if Snow White were to become queen. One day, it all got to be too much for Daffodil to consider. She called up the king’s army, set them onto the evil princess, and had her thrown down the mountain and banished from the castle forever. I will tell you that the effort of so much logical behavior took so much out of her, she had to lie down on a pillow for the rest of the afternoon.

Snow White plummeted down the mountain, crashing against rocks, scraping down branches, hurtling over cliffs, and all the while she was cursing, cursing the laziness which had made her postpone Daffodil’s poisoning, cursing the fact that the castle was so ridiculously high up the mountain, and also swearing vengeance on the queen. When she got down to the bottom, she was quite perfectly dead except for her one little snow white finger, which was still alive. She lay there for the rest of the day, broken over a rock, waiting.

That night, when the sun went down, the trolls who lived under the mountain and mined it for coal came out to hunt for food. When they found this plump young human lying practically on their doorstep, they jumped for joy and started discussing sauces. However, as they got near enough to swoop her up, the one finger still alive stood up and shook its fierce little head, demanding that they stand back. The trolls were so spooked by the living finger that they felt sure Snow White must be a powerful witch, who shouldn’t be trifled with. So they took her back to their troll hole and nursed her back to health. As Snow White regained her former strength, she became fixated on regaining her former position in the kingdom as well. Irritated with the way the royal army had made such short work of her, she began to train the trolls to fight.

Meanwhile, back at the castle, Daffodil had got up the courage to check the mirror again. “Mirror Mirror in my hand, who is the one true queen of the land!” Guess whose picture she saw? You’re right. Still Snow White. No change. Meaning that, of course, Snow White was not dead. After asking around in the village, she ascertained that the trolls under the mountain had found a new, scary kind of witch to lead them. Being not as dumb as she was kind, she put two and two together.

Daffodil disguised herself as an old woman, and went to the king’s apple orchard to fill her basket with apples. Then she coated them with some of Snow White’s own poison, which she had carelessly left lying around in her dressing room, under some old socks. Thus prepared, she traveled down the mountain to the troll hole and knocked on the door. Snow White answered.

“Yes?” she asked haughtily. She was busy, teaching one of the trolls how to use a two handed sword.

“Please, ma’am,” said Daffodil, quaking with fear under her disguise, “Will you buy an apple, from the king’s orchard?”

“You must have stolen them, you old filth,” said Snow White, “I’ll have the whole basket, and give you no money for them. You’re lucky I don’t turn you in to the palace guard.”

Daffodil ducked her head, backing away, and made a run for it. Snow White slammed the door to the troll hole. Can you imagine what happened next? Do you think that bad little princess took a bite out of that stolen apple? I’ll tell you what she did – she took a bite out of three of them, yes, three apples with one bite each, and threw the rest in the corner! By the third one, she was quite poisoned, and had to lie down on the floor, paralyzed. Which means, unable to move. Except for, again, that darn little finger. There she waited for the trolls to come home.

The finger instructed the trolls to build a beautiful diamond coffin for her, lay her in it, dressed in her finest gown, and set it close to the main highway through the forest. The trolls, of course, being coal miners, had ready access to sheets of diamonds enough to build 10 coffins, if they wanted, but they built the one, loaded her into it, and set it out by the road. Then, being trolls, they went and ate a bunch of rabbits. Who knows what mad scheme was in her mind, but it doesn’t matter, because here’s what happened:

There she lay, stiff as a rock, her chalk-white skin like a death mask over her face, her glittering gown in brilliant waves around her, her red lips glowing like frozen rubies. And who do you think came down the road? Correct. A perfectly handsome, nice, caring, thrifty, clean, brave prince came thundering down the road on his milk-white steed, on his way to Daffodil’s castle. He had heard that the queen was quite alone now, and had always considered her very interesting, and thought the position of king might be open.

When he saw the diamond coffin of Snow White, he stopped in his tracks. You know, or you might not know yet, that bad people often have quite a fascinating attraction about them. This must have been what happened to the nice, kind prince. He must have been bewitched by her wildness, by her dark qualities, by her undeniable beauty. Or maybe it was the tiny little finger, still alive, calling him, speaking to him, instructing him on what to do. Lift your sword, bring it down, crash the diamond casket, and kiss the princess. Now you know, in this faraway land, diamonds aren’t that hard, right? I already told you they put butter on tacos, can you not imagine that diamonds might be easier to break than sugar candy? Well then. Even though the little birds were calling out their warnings, even though the very stream that ran beside the road shouted out for him to stop, he brought his sword down and the coffin exploded into a bazillion glittering jewels.

Up from the fray rose Snow White in all her dark and terrible glory. She whipped a small dagger out of her belt, called for her troll army, and began to battle with the prince. She would prevail, she would lay waste to him, and then she and her soldiers would march on the castle and bring down the simpering whipped cream queen. Except that, of course, she didn’t. The prince was victorious. With good old-fashioned valor and virtue, and the fact that trolls are really bad at weapons and she would have needed way way longer to make them competent with swords, he hacked through her and her minions, and left them behind on his way to the castle. Once there, he wowed Queen Daffodil with his awesome battle story, and she married him immediately. Later, they checked with the mirror. Who is the one true queen of the land? Only Queen Daffodil. And the kingdom rejoiced.

Now lest you think in your secret heart that Queen Daffodil was a bit too good, and Snow White might have made a more interesting Queen anyway, let me tell you that good Queen Daffodil, just to make sure things were good and settled, ate that bad little finger of Snow White's. And that's just about the most interesting thing I've ever heard in my life.

Would you like to print out this story? Try the print-friendly version! It's a PDF.

Would you like to read another story? Try
Johnny Appleseed!

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