I just finished reading Catherynne Valente’s Six-Gun Snow White, and the thought I’m left with is, “What an odd story.” Valente took the Snow White story and transplanted it, lock, stock and (gun) barrel, to the Old West. This version is darker than the story most people are used to. The stepmother is a witch and serious psychological issues. The father is an absent mining baron. The huntsman is a Pinkerton who will do anything for money. The prince is a mutant. But the biggest change is to Snow White. Instead of a virginal girl who relies on the kindness of strangers, Valente’s Snow White is a gun-slinging, hard-drinking, tough-living woman.
I love how Valente has reconstructed the old story here. It’s told in a twisted version of fairy tale language, with hints of Joss Whedon’s Firefly to give it an authentic Western flavor. The chapters are short, titled as though they were other stories. Valente’s narrator hints, over and over, that Snow White’s adventures got turned into myths and legends and that Snow White herself became an archetype*.
I love reconstructed fairy tales. They prove my theory that these stories touch on something important in our cultures. The reason they keep getting told and retold is that there’s something true about them. They point out age old fears and values. They’re like concentrated psychology and sociology rolled up with fantastical creatures and magic. Valente does a great job of preserving all that, while turning Snow White into a story for the twenty-first century.
* Which she is, just not this version of her.