8: The Previously Untold Story of the Previously Unknown Eighth Dwarf by Michael Mullin

Goodreads: 8: The Previously Untold Story of the Previously Unknown Eighth Dwarf
Source: Received from author

Summary: Creepy lives with the seven dwarves of Snow White fame, but has never quite fit in.  The others find his habits peculiar and even a little disturbing.  Finally they lock him in the basement to get rid of him for good.  There, unknown to everyone, Creepy plays a pivotal role in ensuring that Snow White gets her happily-ever-after.

Review: Mullin begins this original retold fairy tale by reminding readers of its roots: oral tradition passed down through the generations.  He simultaneously connects his audience with the rich history of retellings throughout the years and introduces a new chapter in that history.   He invites the audience to become a part of that history with him by reading his story and reflecting upon what a “true” tale is—is it, as the narrator suggests, what really happened, or is it something else entirely?  Readers will probably detect truth in this tale not because they believe an eighth dwarf really belongs in the story, but because his presence adds a dimension to the story often forgotten in whitewashed versions: darkness exists and can be beaten, but it seldom allows a complete victory.

Even as Mullin proposes to restore to the story of Snow White some of the original darkness, however, he calls to mind childhood versions of fairy tales by writing his in verse.  The rhyming format mirrors nursery songs, giving to the story an air of familiarity even as the author introduces new elements.  Darker themes such as lust and loss intertwine with the innocent recollections of childhood, giving readers the sense that the story has grown with them; once they knew only the whitewashed versions, but now they know the full account.  This feels fitting and true since most know from experience that good and bad often mingle.

The snarky observations made by Creepy from his vantage point in the basement add to the readers’ sense of participation in the tale.  They work almost as asides from the author, saying “You knew all along, or would have if you’d thought about it, that this part of the story lacks some logic.  But we’ll go along with it.”  Such observations lend an air of levity to the retelling, reminding readers that, even with the darkness, this story is meant to be fun.

An amusing retelling of “Snow White,” 8 stands apart from other such attempts with its wit and imagination.  Though a quick read, it achieves surprising depth with its look at the role of fairy tales and the roles of the elements contained.  Mullin paints the character of Creepy with sympathy despite his name, illustrating that good, as well as bad, can be found in unexpected places.  This story will surely appeal to all those who love retold fairy tales.

Published: 2010

Look for Mullin’s follow-up The Plight and Plot of Princess Penny.  The introduction can be found on the author’s Goodreads page.

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