The Real Reason the Queen Hated Snow
by Anntte Marie Hyder, 2006
Reviewed by Erzebet YellowBoy
In The Real Reason the Queen Hated Snow, Annette Marie Hyder has put together a neatly packaged “collection of poems, stories and mythos miscellany” in which she explores the archetypal meanings of some of our best-loved fairy tales. Culling references from such diverse fields as mathematics, folklore, botany, myth, religion and more, Hyder provides us with a wealth of information packed into the book’s 159 pages.
Several of the poems in this volume first appeared in such publications as The Pedestal Magazine, Mentress Moon, Verse Libre Quarterly and Wicked Alice; all of them evoke a sense of the personal. The prose is informal and light-hearted; one can almost imagine the author in the room, chatting about subjects that are obviously very dear to her. The collection begins with the title story, a cautionary tale of greed, or perhaps a comment on giving too much of oneself away. We are then taken immediately to her poem Archetype Enablers, inspired by the tale of Bluebeard. Poetry is interspersed with fiction, and woven among it all are small essays explaining why the author has chosen the material she includes. There is no apparent single narrative thread, nor much of a linear structure, but it seems there isn’t meant to be. In her introduction, Hyder expresses her hope that we can “just leaf through and pick a page at random, and surprise upon something delicious” and indeed we can.
Poetry is something upon which I generally do not want commentary and Hyder’s could easily stand on its own. While I find the “gilt-edged esoteric” addenda interesting, I felt as though I was being lectured on more than one occasion. This is, however, a book with a cause — several of them, in fact. Hyder is evidently a woman of conscience who shows her support for such groups as the Rugmark Foundation readily, and so it is no real surprise that The Real Reason the Queen Hated Snow often reads as a piece of propaganda. This is not a bad thing. Hyder understands story, she knows its power, and it is in this she finds her strength.
Hyder’s work as a whole provides no new insights into the old tales, possibly because she does not attempt to reinterpret them. Instead, she delves deeply into their commonly held associations. The real value of her work is to be found in her modernization of those associations. For example, she uses the story of Alladin to highlight a form of child slavery in which children are “employed” to weave carpets, tying thousands of knots each day, often with little or no pay. It isn’t all bleak, however. There are also celebrations of tradition to be found in these pages, most especially in her treatment of challah, that delicious bread eaten on the Sabbath. The Real Reason the Queen Hated Snow is peppered with such ephemera, so we cannot say this is a book that concerns itself strictly with fairy tales. Hyder is concerned with the power all old stories hold.
The Real Reason the Queen Hated Snow is, at its heart, a political book. It’s pages are a platform from which Hyder challenges the authority that has created a world in which basic, human rights are still not granted to all humans, a world where entire ecosystems disappear without comment and in which women often still struggle to be taken seriously. She also challenges the authority of story itself. She writes of how stories change and are changed from telling to telling, and I believe it is her hope that we, as a whole, will change the stories of injustice and injury, and maybe find a happily-ever-after after all.