Snow White, or Learning to Love Your Stepmother, Part I


Once upon a time, there was a queen who sat sowing by a window. She longed for a child. As she looked out over the snowy landscape, she saw a raven. She started, and pricked her finger with the needle, so a drop of blood fell upon the sill.
She thought, if I had a child whose skin was white as snow, whose lips were as red as blood, and whose hair was as black as a raven’s wing, then I would call her Snow White.
She did have a child, but she didn’t live to watch her daughter grow up. In memory of his wife, the King named the child Snow White. It was a ridiculous name, because the child’s hair was red as red, and she had so many freckles it was hard to tell one from another.
But the King didn’t care, and he went off to mourn his dead wife. The only trouble with mourning someone for years and years—as kings in fairy tales so often do—is that they miss the stuff going on right under their noses, as this king did. He took hardly any notice of Snow white, until one day he brought home a new wife.
As for the child, she hated the name Snow White, and she insisted that all of the servants call her Rocky. No one ever knew exactly why Snow White insisted on her nick name, but neither was anyone willing to argue with her. If they did, Rocky would fly into a temper and stamp her feet.
Rocky wasn’t a bad child, but she did get her way more than she should have. And even if she was loud, she eventually saw the justice in every situation. The old cook, who was like a second mother to the princess, and the only person rocky ever heeded, did her best to raise the child and teach her right from wrong.
So it went until the King brought home his new wife. When the royal coach rolled up to the front gate, the whole castle held its breath.  They all waited to see if Rocky would fly into a temper. But as the King and the new Queen came up the steps and entered the Great Hall, Rocky just watched, a strange expression on her face.
Rocky was just seven years-old, and she didn’t know much about kings and queens and marriage, but she knew that she had already lost her mother, and now  she was losing her father for the second time.
The new queen settled into the castle, and soon she was bossing everyone around and making herself unpopular with the servants. She didn’t like her food, she complained about the drafty castle; the fires were too hot or too low, and Rocky, no matter what, was always in the way. Rocky felt a little sorry for herself, but it didn’t last.
The worst of it was the mirrors. The Queen placed them at strategic points all over the castle, and she was always checking her reflection. No matter what she did, the Queen always had one eye on a mirror, checking to see that she was at her best.
It was weird. It’s like she’s her own audience, thought Rocky.
One day,thinking to play a trick on her stepmother, rocky let herself into the Queen’s apartments. She sneaked over to the tall mirror, and wondered if she could do something to the mirror so the Queen would look fat. One of the coachman had told rocky about a fair in the town where you could stand in front of a mirror that made you look tall and thin or short and wide. Just then, the handle of the door clicked, and rocky knew it was time to hide. Quick as a flash, she jumped behind the mirror and waited.
The Queen swept into her apartments, checking her entrance in one of the wall mirrors. She spent a long time at her bureau touching up her makeup and peering at the effect. She had a smaller mirror for this purpose. Each time Rocky peeped from behind the tall mirror in the corner, the Queen was dabbing at another part of her face.
Finally, the Queen wandered languidly over to the mirror where Rocky hid. “Oh, mirror,” said the Queen. “If you could only tell me I’m the fairest in all the land, then I would at least hear what I know to be true.”
Rocky had an idea. She caught up a tall, glass vase that lay discarded near the mirror. “Oh queen,” she said, speaking into the tall vase. It made her voice sound spooky and weird. “You are the fairest in all the land, save for the lovely Snow White.”
This time, when she peeped out from behind the glass, the queen was glaring at the mirror. “Snow White!” she nearly shrieked. “How can that ragged child even compare to me? Perish the thought.”
The Queen began pacing up and down her room. This is ridiculous,” she said to herself. “I must do something.” And she struck a pose in the centre of the room. Then she sent for the royal huntsman.
Now, the royal huntsman was Rocky’s friend. They had spent many an hour together, making s’mores over the great fire in the kitchen, while the huntsman told her stories about his adventures in the forest. When he arrived at the Queen’s apartments, rocky thought he looked a little confused.
“Huntsman,” cried the Queen, “I have a job for you.”
“Yes, my lady,” said the huntsman, bowing his head.
“I want you to take Snow White into the forest and dispose of her.”
“Dispose,” said the huntsman, looking blankly at the Queen, “of Snow White?”
”Yes,” said the Queen. “Dispose of her in any way you see fit. Drowned her in a pool or feed her to a wild beast. I don’t care. Just get rid of her.” The Queen had certainly heard of such things in stories, and it seemed the best way.
The Huntsman stood for a moment. “Yes, my Queen,” he said finally. But he had no intension of getting rid of Snow White. Was the queen mad? He had half a mind to go straight to the King, but the Huntsman thought better of it. He headed for the kitchen to talk to the Cook.
In the meantime, Rocky waited for her chance, and then she slipped out of the queen’s chambers. So, she thought to herself, my stepmother wants to dispose of me. We’ll see about that. She pelted off to her own room. She filled a backpack with things that would help her on a journey, put on her heavy coat and shoes, and then she slipped out the back door of the castle and headed into the forest.
(To be continued)