Sisters in _Rose Daughter_

I’m reading Robin McKinley’s Rose Daughter (1997), for the first time. I’m sorry to say that it’s not quite grabbing me yet, though it’s growing on me as it goes on. (I’m nearly a quarter of the way through it.)

But there’s one thing I love about it: the portrayal of the three sisters who love and like and support each other, and have different and complementary strengths that they all respect. I haven’t done a comprehensive study or anything, but I feel like having a set of supportive sisters is very rare in fairytales and fairytale reworkings—I feel like in these kinds of stories, siblings in general (and maybe sisters in particular) tend to range from ignorable to outright evil.

(In the original 1740 Villeneuve La Belle et la Bête, according to Wikipedia, the merchant had six daughters and six sons; in the 1756 Beaumont abridgement/revision, it was three daughters and three sons. I’m not sure, but I gather that in neither version did Beauty have supportive sisters. Nor are they particularly supportive or well-delineated in the 1889 Andrew Lang version.)

Anyway, I’m really liking the three sisters and their interactions in the McKinley book.

…While I’m here, a couple of quotes that have caught my eye so far:

[Beauty] would much rather scrub a floor—not that she ever had scrubbed a floor, but she assumed it would be hard, dull, unpleasant work—than attend a ball, which was hard, dull, unpleasant work that didn’t even have a clean floor to show for it afterwards. [p. 8]


[The salamander talks to Beauty.] Listen to me, my friend. I give you a small serenity. I would give you a large one, but I am uncertain of human capacity, and I furthermore believe you would not wish it. This is a serenity you can hold in the palms of your two hands—even smaller than I am. [p. 18]


[Beauty holds roses near her father’s face as he’s waking up, to remind him of her dead mother’s rose perfume.] He murmured her mother’s name, but gently, knowing she was gone but happy in the memory of her[…] [p. 46]

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