Snow White introduced herself and right away the dwarfs’ brains buzzed like metal detectors passing over silver in the sand. “Snow White” was so suggestive of etiolated upper class beauty that its commercial uses seemed limitless. Doc, who had a PhD in economics, summed it up best, “You could launch a million product extensions from that name, boys.”
The little people were obsessed with the power of nomenclature. Their own parents had bound them so strongly to their monikers that Grumpy for one, had never enjoyed a happy moment in his life, whereas Sneezy couldn’t participate in a meal without setting off his mate’s hygienic alarms.
The dwarfs were as sensitive to effective branding as a perfume manufacturer’s nose is to scent. That talent had allowed them to found DDGHSS & B, now the largest marketing agency in the Tri-Kingdom Region.
After a round of handshakes, Snow entered their dwarf household as easily as a key fits into its lock. “Gosh, it’s like the latest model just rolled off the p…p.. production line and into my garage.” muttered Bashful to his sleeve.
Snow had no idea that the advertising campaign the dwarfs had planned for her had a double purpose. The dwarfs wanted to promote the concept of “Snow White” in all its commercial manifestations, but they wanted something more. The dwarfs planned to use Snow to avenge themselves against the taller world.
“Snow White might be just the lure to draw that bastard, Prince Charming, out of his palace,” muttered Grumpy.
The dwarfs had long resented the easy life given the Prince by the effectiveness of his title. They were plotting to change their fate by slipping into the Magic Kingdom while the Prince was out wooing Snow. They intended to seize power by using royal decrees to assume powerful names.
“Under the reign of dwarfs, I shall be dubbed Theodoric the Bold,” exclaimed Happy, “and Sleepy, if he ever wakes up, will be Edward Longshanks.”
But if Snow was clueless about how the dwarfs planned to use her personal image to conquer the world, the dwarfs were equally in the dark about Snow’s intentions. Snow was already thinking ahead to the three-movie development deal promised to her by the old woman she had met in the woods.
The crone had claimed to be a kindly talent agent in need of a fresh face. “Disney says they’re ready to begin production ASAP,” she had cackled, “I’ll return tomorrow with a shiny new contract.”
Snow had no idea that the old woman was actually Grimhilde, the Evil Queen, who, after she had left Snow, went back to her Frank Gehry-designed corporate headquarters to revel in her plan to remove Snow from the dwarfs’ influence.
She had prepared a contract so dense with legalese that even a quick perusal by Snow would send her into an endless sleep. Once she had Snow on ice like a flounder at the fish monger’s, Grimhilde intended to appropriate Snow’s pure image and assume the role of ingénue herself.
Time for a re-branding was what her PR consultants had advised. Once upon a time, it had been so easy just to be bad, but now bad didn’t sell. If she wanted sponsorship, she needed a more positive image, one less associated with dragons and boiling caldrons. She was being marginalized by her association with hardcore violence. Sure, terrorizing peasants was fun, but it wasn’t getting her the “likes” her advertisers wanted to see.
While the Evil Queen swirled her cocktail and imagined herself on the cover of Vanity Fair, her Mirror on the Wall was processing intercepts and formulating an algorithm that would enable him to undercut old-line retailers like Grimhilde and the dwarfs and establish himself as the preeminent electronic marketer in every media outlet.
MOTW had created a program to produce random tag names, each of which would be ranked, cross-checked with consumer sentiment data and tested before a series of focus groups. He clicked through the possibilities like a trader moving beads on an abacus. The process might take a few years, but he was prepared to outlast all the other players in this game.
Snow, of course, was unaware of the various conspiracies that surrounded her. As she brushed the bluebirds off her pillow and adjusted the sleep-setting on her straw mattress, her thoughts were on Red Riding Hood. She didn’t mind a dance or two with the Prince, but Red was her happily ever after. She was hoping that one day soon she might get the chance to change her name to “Snow Riding Hood.” The dwarfs would just have to deal with that.
Chris Bullard lives in Philadelphia. He received his B.A. in English from the University of Pennsylvania and his M.F.A. from Wilkes University. Kattywompus Press published High Pulp, a collection of his flash fiction, in 2017 and Grey Book Press published Continued, a poetry chapbook, this year. His work has appeared in recent issues of Nimrod, Muse/A Journal, The Woven Tale, Red Coyote, Cutthroat and The Offbeat.