Black as Ink is the Story of Snow White and the Seven
Its outward appearance, title, and design immediately make it clear that Zwart als inkt is het verhaal van Sneeuwwitje en de zeven dwergen (Black as Ink is the Story of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs) is more than just the umpteenth reworking of a well-known fairy tale. Hofman has subjected the characters and situations of Grimms’ Snow White to intense psychological examination, thereby creating a new story about good and evil, light and dark.
By allowing room for the thoughts and feelings of Snow White and by expanding on the behaviour of her mother (her real mother, not her stepmother, in this version) and the dwarfs, the narrative line and motifs of the original version have been given a whole new dimension. When she was abandoned by the hunter in the forest, did Snow White really understand why her mother had been so mean? And how awful her life must have been when she was locked up in the dwarfs’ house and had nothing to do all day but cook and clean.
Snow White really could think of nothing better to do than to write letters. To the chair she wrote: ‘Why are you standing there so stupidly? You were given four legs and you hardly do anything with them.’ She wrote to the table, to the nail in the wall, and also to her mother: ‘Dearest Mama, tell me, what did I do wrong?’ They are sad letters, revealing the depth of her struggle. In the face of such despair it is not strange that Snow White, in defiance of the dwarfs’ warning, listens gladly to whoever knocks at the door. The yearning for death is sometimes stronger than the will to live. But luckily there is the prince who takes Snow White to his father’s house and promises to answer all her letters, giving her a new chance of happiness.
Hofman’s interpretation contains many references to gruesome scenes in other fairy tales and biblical stories. Thanks to his style, however, which is rich in imagery, enjambement, enumerations, and neologisms, Zwart als inkt is more than just an adaptation. It is Hofman’s own, mildly humorous vision of what people are capable of doing to each other. The numerous illustrations in red and black ink turn this bittersweet story into a treat.