Monday, July 16, 2012


Snow White and Rose Red
One of my favorite Grimm’s Fairy Tales growing up was ‘Snow White and Rose Red’.  This tale is not to be confused with the much more popular ‘Snow White and the Seven Dwarves’.  The Snow White of ‘Snow White and Rose Red’ is a different character, with a distinct background, personality and story. 

Snow White and Rose Red are sisters who live with their widowed mother deep in the woods. Together they befriend a bear in winter time and rescue an ungrateful dwarf from a variety of unpleasant fates.  Little do they know the bear is actually a prince under a curse cast by the dwarf.  Each time they rescue the dwarf, they inadvertently take away some of his magic. This eventually results in the bear being able free himself from the curse by killing the dwarf.  The prince takes Rose Red as his bride, and as luck would have it, successfully matches up his brother with Snow White. Both sisters not only live happily ever after, they live happily ever after together.

The Ingalls sisters:  Caroline, Mary and Laura
Sisterhood is a repeated theme in many tales, and it has always appealed to me. Growing up, I was an avid follower of the Ingall's sisters in Laura Ingalls-Wilder’s classic Little House series. 

When as an adult, I read The Other Boleyn Girl by Philippa Gregory, what impressed me most was not so much the retelling of Anne Boleyn’s story (after all, by then I knew how it all began and how it all would end), but the exceptional skill with which Gregory captured the essence of sisterhood:  the love, the admiration, the jealousy and rivalry, the bond of blood and affection capable of withstanding almost anything, even the fatal political and sexual intrigues of the court of King Henry VIII. 

I wasn't very happy with the film interpretation of Gregory's
novel, but Natalie Portman and Scarlett Johansen made
for a nice-looking pair of sisters.

More recently in the Hunger Games, the power of sisterhood has resurged with Katniss Everdeen taking the place of her sister Primrose, and becoming a hero – oops!  I mean, a heroine -- before even stepping foot inside the Games. 

I have been blessed with having a sister; so every time I read a story about sisters, I’m reminded of that relationship, and all that my sister has meant to me and given me over the years. Love, encouragement, faith in my ability to achieve my dreams, an example to aspire to, someone to care about, support and depend upon.  Big sisters are especially wonderful because they so often serve the role of pathfinders. They are the ones who forge ahead into life’s unknown territories, and come back to share their wisdom with younger siblings. 

Katniss and Primrose from The Hunger Games have recently
been added to the list of famous sisters

In Eolyn’s world, sisterhood also has a special meaning.  Eolyn herself has no biological sisters, but in the tradition of the Magas, all followers of the very first maga, Aithne, are sisters in magic.  For the Magas, sisterhood transcends boundaries of time, place and bloodlines.  One can even speak of ‘sisters’ who lived centuries ago. The Magas believe that all practitioners who have passed into the Afterlife continue to watch over their sisters in the world of the living.  So while Eolyn is on her own for much of her journey, she is never truly alone with her magic. 

These are some of my thoughts on sisterhood; it’s importance in our stories as well as in our lives.  Now it’s your turn.  What does “sisterhood” mean to you?  Who are your favorite sisters in fiction and history, and why?  How have your sisters, in blood and in spirit, made your life easier, more interesting, more fulfilling? 

Posted by Karin Rita Gastreich

The Munro sisters, Cora and Alice, from the film
The Last of the Mohicans.  Like many sisters that live on in our
imaginations, their fates will not be happy ones.


Terri-Lynne said...

I, too, am blessed with a sister. She's been my biggest fan since infancy. She's looked up to me, emulated me,depended upon me, loved me like only a sister can love a sister, all our lives. I can only remember having one fight with my sister--ever. I was choreographing a ballet she and I would perform for our brothers and parents (we were all of about ten and seven) and we both wanted the same flower head-dress to wear. I, being choreographer, and older, gave myself the coveted head piece (very unlike me, even as a child, because I always gave her what she wanted!) There was a bit of screaming and hair-pulling, after which we both cried for having hurt the other and hugged. And of course, we both wanted the OTHER to have the headpiece.

I honestly can't remember who got to wear it, but I do remember the ballet, and my baby sister made a glorious flower awakening to my fairy wand.

I'm getting all teary writing this. My sister means the word to me, as do my brothers--but this is about sisters. When she was diagnosed with cancer, and had to undergo three months of chemo, I never cried. I drove the hour and some to her house every Thursday (Monday was chemo, and Thursday was usually the first day she felt human thereafter) to spend the day with her. Despite the circumstances, I will always count those days as some of my best.

It wasn't until the Thanksgiving after she finished treatment that I cried. She was cancer-free. Her hair had grown back. We were headed over to her house for Thanksgiving dinner. Driving that same route, my family in the car, it all just HIT me. My baby sister--what she went through--how I could have lost her but didn't. Wham. Just slammed me.

Anyway, yeah, sisters--it's a special relationship.

Karin Rita Gastreich said...

Hi Terri!

What a wonderful and moving story.

Yes, we need to do brothers at some point. Brothers of brothers, and brothers of sisters.

Eolyn does have a brother, as you know. And also, I would say Akmael serves a role as her surrogate brother during the first years of their friendship.

But that's a topic for another post...

batgirl said...

I suppose it's partly due to the Orphan Syndrome of fantasy protagonists, but I come up pretty short with sisters - lots of 'chosen sisters' but not so many sisters by birth.
Barbara Hambly's Stranger at the Wedding has a mage-sister returning to her estranged family because she's had visions of her beloved younger sister's death. A good story with a strong and nuanced relationship between the sisters.
And of course, Patricia Wrede's adaptation of Snow White and Rose Red!

Terri-Lynne said...

Barbara--I hereby decree that you are NOT allowed to suggest ANY MORE BOOKS!!! They inevitably end up on my TBR pile (I cannot even begin to number how many you've put there!) and that just will not do!

At least I always know where to go when I need a book suggestion. You always have something I absolutely NEED to read at the ready. Thanks!

Karin Rita Gastreich said...

I will definitely have to get a copy of Wrede's adaptation. Sounds like fun!