Monday, June 19, 2023

The Sleeper and the Spindle, by Neil Gaiman (author), Chris Riddell (illustrator)

HarperCollins, September 2015

There are brave, hardy, loyal dwarves. There's a beautiful young queen, never identified as Snow White, but there are at least suggestions that her backstory matches that one.

There's a neighboring kingdom, on the other side of the mountains, where the dwarves, seeking a suitable gift for the queen's wedding, find instead a strange sleep spreading across the whole kingdom. They also here of a princess cursed by an evil witch, sleeping in a castle surrounded by thorns, which no prince, no knight, no hero has ever penetrated, to save her.

Realizing there is an evil magic at work here, they head back through the the mountains (yes, through, not over) to their queen.

The queen is about to be married, in just a day. She isn't looking forward to it. Not that her fiancĂ© is objectionable, but it means all the major choices of her life are made. No more adventures. When she hears the dwarves' report, she delays the wedding, tells her first minister that he'll be responsible for the kingdom in her absence. She then prepares her weapons, supplies, clothing suitable for an extended journey on horseback, and rides off with her dwarves.

This is not just a gender-flip of the hero; we also get a different view of the witch, her motive, and the princess herself. We also see the queen and her dwarves having to combat the curse themselves, not just ride through it because this the right hero at the right time.

Riddell's black and white art is beautiful, and gives more life to Gaiman's storytelling, and twist on the Sleeping Beauty story. I thoroughly enjoyed this.

I bought this book.

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