by Anna-Marie McLemore
“Snow-White married the prince, and Rose-Red married his brother . . .”
This line is a summary at the end of “Snow-White & Rose-Red.” It appears in the third-to-last sentence, almost as an afterthought, a slight elaboration on the idea of happily ever after.
But that line at the end of one of my favorite fairy tales always caught me. Who was the bear-prince’s brother anyway? What had he been doing the whole time his brother was enchanted and missing from their kingdom? How did Rose-Red even feel about marrying him? How did he feel about marrying her?
I recognize that in the universe of the Brothers Grimm, none of this is all that strange. The bear-prince finds a wife, Snow-White, and brings her sister home to be his brother’s wife. It’s far from the only time something like that happens in the world of fairy tales.
But I never thought it was fair to Rose-Red that the way she’s married off is reduced to an afterthought. And I never thought it was really fair to the bear-prince’s brother either.
“Snow-White & Rose-Red” is still one of my favorite fairy tales. But the version I imagined in Blanca & Roja reads a little differently. Snow-White isn’t interested in the bear-prince in the first place, and the lack-of-feeling is very mutual. The bear-prince’s brother is the genderqueer son of local apple farmers, and is part of the story from the beginning. Rose-Red defies her place as an afterthought to her sister, the same way the bear-prince’s brother comes as much to the forefront of the story as the bear-prince.
None of them are afterthoughts. None of them are footnotes. And even if they were, a story’s footnotes, that which seem to be afterthoughts, so often hide its best secrets.