Ellen Datlow and Terri Windling, editors, Snow White, Blood Red (Avon, 1993)

The first volume of Datlow and Windling's collection of original fairy tales for adults, Snow White, Rose Red contains twenty stories by some of today's best fantasy, mythic fiction, science fiction and horror authors. Like the long-ago narrators of the original folk tales, each author brings her or his own vision to each story. In the instances where the same tale is retold by different authors, the stories remain distinctive and unique.

Datlow and Windling each contribute an introduction. "White as Snow" by Windling discusses fairy tales in terms of fantasy while "Red as Blood" by Datlow explores the horrific elements of folk tales. Both introductions are lucidly written and enhance the collection.

The stories represent a range of styles and voices. Susan Wade's "Like a Red, Red Rose" does not retell a specific story but incorporates fairy tale motifs into a poignant love story. Charles de Lint weaves elements of the English folk tale "The Dead Moon" in to "The Moon is Drowning While I Sleep." This story, set in his mythical, magical city of Newford, explores the hazy borders of reality, wishes and dreams.

Freud meets frog in "The Frog Prince" by Gahan Wilson while Jack is older and more cynical -- and less successful -- in "Stalking Beans" by Nancy Kress. Tanith Lee takes a futuristic look at "Snow White" in "Snow-Drop." Wendy Wheeler's "Little Red" is one of two retellings of "Little Red Riding Hood," in which the wolf is a human male, and his red-capped victim is practically delivered to him personally. In the grim "I Shall Do Thee Mischief in the Woods" Kathe Koja contemplates the true nature of the beast in the woods.

Two authors also each retell "Rapunzel." Gregory Frost's "The Root of the Matter" is a moving coming-of-age story while "The Princess in the Tower" by Elizabeth A. Lynn is an amusing -- and appetizing -- take on the tale. Harvey Jacobs offers a neat and witty retelling of "Thumbelina" in the story "Persimmon" while Steve Rasnic Tem chooses a lesser known Perrault tale for his "Little Poucet," one of the grimmer, grittier stories.

Melanie Tem's dark and eerie "The Changelings" has a contemporary setting and theme. "The Springfield Swans" by Caroline Stevermer and Ryan Edmonds is a light-hearted tall tale about baseball and Midwestern magic, based on "The Wild Swans." Neil Gaiman revisits "The Three Billy Goats Gruff" in "The Troll Bridge," a haunting, melancholy story about how much we miss while waiting for life to happen to us.

"A Sound Like Angels Singing" by Leonard Rysdyk tells a familiar tale from an unloved creature's point of view. Esther Friesner's grisly "Puss" is written from the point of view of "Puss in Boots," but Friesner makes it clear that this cat is more than merely extraordinary. "The Glass Casket" by Jack Dann is a dreamy retelling of a lesser known tale by the same name, and Dann adds his own unique spin to the narrative. Jane Yolen's poem "Knives" is a biting commentary as sharp as the objects in the title.

Patricia McKillip brings "The Snow Queen" to contemporary Manhattan in a gem-like story which captures the transformative essence of the Hans Christian Andersen classic. Finally, Lisa Goldstein's "Breadcrumbs and Stones" closes the anthology, a story in which a young woman finds that the story of "Hansel and Gretel" -- a story her mother never told her when she was a child -- holds more meaning for her family than she ever imagined.

A bibliography of recommended reading follows, rounding out the collection perfectly.

Overall, the standards to which the writing is held are consistently high. While readers will invariably prefer some stories over others, there are no significant lapses among the choices. That this title is still in print in indeed a testament to its quality and its appeal.

[ by Donna Scanlon ]

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