The Snow Song by Sally Gardner is a spellbinding fairytale and magical love story, but what inspired her to step into Edith’s world in a small village in Transylvania? Sally shares some of the historical, literary, and cultural influences behind her enchanting story with us.
What Inspired The Snow Song
After you finish a book, it’s hard to remember why you ever started it in the first place.
Though if I am honest, I find the first few weeks after publication the most anxious making. It’s like watching your child taking its first tentative steps.
So where did the idea for The Snow Song come from?
For the first time ever, an idea was put to me to write a book about snow. Perhaps a retelling of The Snow Queen. I had no desire to do that because, after all, there is Frozen.
Then in a second-hand book shop, I found an excellent book by Emily Gerard called The Land Beyond the Forest. It was about her time in Transylvania in about the 1880s and her observations of the communities that lived there. I became utterly fascinated by the Saxons: how they stuck religiously to the old Germanic way of life; how they believed that they were the descendants of the Pied Piper; and how they managed to travel through the mountains into Transylvania.
It was this idea of a closed community cut off from the outside world that really set my imagination on fire. And the role women played in propping up a patriarchal society. They adhered so closely to tradition and suspicion that they eventually become imprisoned by them.
The great fear for Saxon villagers was that of an outsider. Their fairy stories portray the stranger more often than not as a vampire. I decided that the term ‘vampire’ wouldn’t work whereas ‘bloodless’ did.
When I started writing I knew I wanted my main character Edith to lose her power of speech but to learn perhaps the more difficult art of listening.
For a long time, I wondered if this story had any relevance to the world we live in. And then there was the pandemic and lockdown and suddenly, being relatively isolated, I began to see what I wanted to do with the story.
I don’t think it would be the novel it is without lockdown. Already I had festivals, schools and other engagements lined up which would have kept me away from my writing. When life got cancelled, I was able to do what I love doing, which is writing. Every morning I would take my coffee, climb the mountain and find Edith to ask what is the story and how deep is the snow?