Sleeping Beauty is certainly one of the classic fairy tales and I’m not sure why I haven’t looked at it until now. Maybe I’ve been a little worred. It’s such a romantic story, the sleeping princess wakened by a kiss and finding true love. I didn’t want it ruined. So many of the fairy tales are much meaner or disturbing than they were in my head, I was afraid Sleeping Beauty would be too. Today, I’m discussing Perrault’s version of the story. Some other time, I’ll talk about Basile’s Sun, Moon and Talia, a very similar story but rather more unsavory.
So, Sleeping Beauty. The first half is very similar to the story I know. At the christening of a king and queen’s long-wished-for child, seven fairies are invited to be godmothers to the infant princess. After dinner, the fairies then offer their gifts: beauty, wit, grace, dance, song and ability of musical instruments. An old wicked fairy then places the princess under an enchantment as her gift: the princess will prick her hand on a spindle and die. One last fairy uses her gift to partially reverse the wicked fairy’s curse, stating that the princess will instead fall into a deep sleep for 100 years and be awoken by a king’s son.
The king forbids spinning on spinning-wheels or spindles, or the possession of one, throughout the kingdom, upon pain of death. But of course, up in the tower there is an old woman spinning and one day, while the king and queen are away, the princess, who is now 16, finds her. The princess asks to try the unfamiliar task and the inevitable happens: the curse is fulfilled. The old woman cries for help and attempts are made to revive the princess, but to no avail. The king has the princess carried to the finest room in the palace and placed on a bed covered in beautiful fabric. The good fairy sees that the princess will be distressed to find herself alone when she wakens and so puts everyone in the castle to sleep. The king and queen kiss their daughter goodbye and depart, proclaiming the entrance to the castle is forbidden. The good fairy’s magic also summons a forest of trees, brambles and thorns that spring up around the castle, shielding it from the outside world and preventing anyone from disturbing the princess.
A hundred years pass and a prince from another family spies the hidden castle during a hunting expedition. His attendants tell him differing stories regarding the happenings in the castle until an old man recounts his father’s words: within the castle lies a beautiful princess who is doomed to sleep for a hundred years, whereupon a king’s son is to come and awaken her. The prince then braves the tall tress, brambles and thorns which part at his approach, and enters the castle. He passes the sleeping castle folk and comes across the chamber where the princess lies asleep on the bed. Trembling at the radiant beauty before him, he falls on his knees before her. The enchantment comes to an end and the princess awakens and talks with the prince for a long time. Notice the enchantment just ends. He doesn’t have to kiss her or anything, although they are both overcome with emotion and fall in love immediately. Convenient, huh? Meanwhile, the rest of the castle awakes and go about their business. The prince and princess head dine and are later married by the chaplain in the castle chapel. They had very little sleep the next night, either because it’s their wedding night or because the Princess has had more than enough sleep.
The second part is rather odd, and I had never heard it before. The Prince visits the Princess regularly and they have two children, Morning and Day, but he keeps his marriage a secret from his mother, who was an ogre, and everyone knows that ogres like to eat children. But once the King dies and the Prince becomes King, he brings his family to live with him. He soon has to go to war, leaving the Queen and children behind. I don’t know why he thought it was safe then, stupid really.
The ogress sends the young Queen to a house secluded in the woods, then orders her cook to prepare the boy, Day, for her dinner. The cook substitutes a lamb, which satisfied the Queen Mother, who several days later demands the girl, but is satisfied with a young goat. When the Ogress demands the cook serve up the young Queen, the Queen offers to have her throat slit, so that she might join the children she imagined were dead. There was a tearful secret reunion in the cook’s little house, while the Queen Mother was satisfied with a deer. Soon she discovers the trick and prepares a tub in the courtyard filled with vipers and other awful creatures to throw the young Queen and children into. The King returns in the nick of time and the Ogress, being discovered, throws herself into the pit she had prepared and is instantly devoured. Everyone else lived happily ever after.
To be honest, I could have done without the second half. Isn’t a hundred-year sleep and a forboding wood enough hurdles for true love to overcome. Did we really need another evil mother? And what about the new King- he’s half-ogre. I guess we’re assuming he doesn’t have the same desire to eat people as his mom.
I read Perrault’s “Sleeping Beauty in the Wood” as retold by Andrew Lang in The Blue Fairy Book, originally published in 1889. You can find it on-line several place, including Sur La Lune.
Thursday’s Tales is a weekly event here at Carol’s Notebook. Fairy tales, folktales, tall tales, even re-tellings, I love them all.
On a side note, I’m very proud of myself today. I ran for twenty minutes straight this morning, no breaks. Granted I run slowly, but still, I’m pretty happy.