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The Fairest of Them All Reviews

The Fairest of Them All by Maria Tatar

The Fairest of Them All: Snow White and 21 Tales of Mothers and Daughters

Maria Tatar

4.00 out of 5

3 reviews

Category: Non-fiction, Fiction
Imprint: The Belknap Press
Publisher: Harvard University Press
Publication date: 24 Apr 2020
ISBN: 9780674238602

Versions of the Snow White story have been shared across the world for centuries. Acclaimed folklorist and translator Maria Tatar places the well-known editions of Walt Disney and the Brothers Grimm alongside other tellings, inviting readers to experience anew a beloved fantasy of melodrama and imagination.

4 stars out of 5
Kathryn Hughes
23 May 2020

"The Snow White tales that Tatar presents here are not as slick as the confections of the Grimms and Disney."

What Tatar urges in her deft and thoughtful introduction is that we read each variation, whether it is from West Africa, Afghanistan or China, with equal attention. For once Snow White, “the fairest of them all”, migrates into cultures with a history of slavery and race discrimination, a whole new of possible meanings emerges. This provides a way of thinking about how fairytales reveal more than the essentially early 20th-century upper bourgeois insights of Freudian psychoanalysts. There are plenty of examples of mother-daughter rivalries in these tales to be sure, but there is so much more of the material and temporal world – food, hunger, disease and war – too.

Reviews

4 stars out of 5
Lucy Lethbridge
1 May 2020

"a properly magical, erudite book "

Shocking yet familiar, these stories of regeneration and transformation even when written down retain the secret whisper of storytelling. This is a properly magical, erudite book that follows Snow White’s trail into the darker forests of the human psyche in which she originated.

4 stars out of 5
25 Apr 2020

"As a study of perhaps the best known of all fairy stories, this one is original and thought-provoking"

Visually it is stunning, with vibrant colour and brilliant line presenting vivid contrasts between light and dark, beauty and ugliness, goodness and wickedness. It is partly sentimental, like most Disney confections, but also very frightening. Children who take a reading of the story in their stride have to be escorted out of the cinema version. Tatar makes some strong points about both Disney and Grimm; but everything, even the book’s title, hangs on one key erroneous assumption — that in fairy stories, as in many other contexts, the designations ‘mother’ and ‘stepmother’ are synonymous and interchangeable