In Gilmore Girls, the fastest-talking TV dramedy of the 00’s, Rory Gilmore is continually seen reading a wide array of books. Inspired by the blue-eyed bookworm herself, it’s time once more to take a leaf out of Rory’s books and read Rory’s books.
This volume of the Rory Gilmore Reading Challenge is covered by Georgia Coldebella.
“It’s just folklore,” the head Puff says.
“Like Snow-White and Rose-Red,” says her second-in-command. “Or Mariah Carey’s crack up.”
This is the only screen-time for this text in the Rory Gilmore Reading Challenge list. ‘Snow-White and Rose-Red’ is a reference that one of the popular girls at Chilton throws out when Rory asks about their secret sorority at the academy, obtusely named the Puffs (Season 2, Episode 7: ‘Like Mother, Like Daughter’).
It’s a weird reference. For one thing, ‘Snow-White and Rose-Red’ is a fairy tale, not folklore: minor distinction, maybe, but completely different vibes. Folklore is closer aligned to legend or myth. It carries a sense of realism that fairy tale does not: for every ridiculous claim, every impossible mention of the supernatural, there’s a bead of truth that makes a piece of folklore difficult to entirely dismiss. That’s why the Puffs can be folklore, or Bloody Mary in the mirror. Fairy tales, on the other hand, engage with the world but never claim to have once been real. It’s a distinction I like to think that Rory Gilmore would appreciate.
‘Snow-White and Rose-Red’ is probably not the story you expect. It’s certainly not ‘Snow White’, the far more well-known fairy tale used as the basis for Disney’s Snow White and the Seven Dwarves. Snow-White and Rose-Red have a perfectly lovely, living mother who in no way tries to have them murdered for being beautiful: there’s no apple to choke on or true love’s kiss to wake them; there’s only one dwarf, not seven, and he’s the villain rather than the saviour. You can read ‘Snow-White and Rose-Red’ in full for yourself online—it’s fairly short, and features a slew of classic fairy tale trappings: beautiful girls who are kind to a fault, the rule of threes, princes cursed into bearskins, sudden and obligatory happily ever afters.
I can’t help but think that the Puff felt she was being clever when she called to Rose-Red instead of just Snow-White. Like somehow by adding a name, she’s referring to a more true, grownup version of the more well-known tale, adding literary depth to her snippy remark. But instead it just feels off. I wish Rory actually had been shown reading the story: I suspect she’d have similar criticisms. Maybe it would have helped her to see through the Puff façade, although she figures it out well enough on her own. After all, there’s nothing about the Puffs that proves to Rory that she shouldn’t be friends with them: they just aren’t who Rory wants to be.
I confess, Gilmore Girls is not a familiar place for me. I’ve watched a handful of episodes, including this one, and I’m still making snap judgements. Like a Disney fairy tale, I find it slightly sickly, although I can see the appeal. But I find it very hard not to relate to Rory Gilmore in this episode, at least a little bit. I wasn’t a loner in the same way that Rory is here. I didn’t spend my lunchtimes reading alone, and I definitely was never almost accidentally inducted into a secret high school sorority. But Rory is confident in herself in a way that I never was: she is really, truly happy in her lunchtimes alone with her novels. Success for Rory is the end of the episode, where she reads in silent companionship. I was Rory halfway through the episode, stuck at a lunch table talking about homecoming, because that’s where people think she should want to be. Still, I gravitate to transformation stories—princes stuck in bearskins—and work to be comfortable in my own.
Georgia Coldebella is an online editor at Going Down Swinging and writes, among other things, adaptations of fairy tales. She reluctantly wishes she was Rory Gilmore, but is probably more of a Paris.
Want to check out Rory’s library? Browse the full list.