|The Sleeping Beauty|
|Name||The Sleeping Beauty|
|Also known as||La Belle au bois dormant ; (The Sleeping Beauty in the Woods); Dornröschen (Little Briar Rose)|
|Aarne–Thompson grouping||ATU 410 (Sleeping Beauty)|
|Published in||Perceforest (1528) |
Pentamerone (1634), by Giambattista Basile
Histoires ou contes du temps passé (1697), by Charles Perrault
|Related||Sun, Moon and Talia|
"Sleeping Beauty" (French: La Belle au bois dormant), or "Little Briar Rose" (German: Dornröschen), also titled in English as "The Sleeping Beauty in the Woods", is a classic fairy tale about a princess who is cursed to sleep for a hundred years by an evil fairy, to be awakened by a handsome prince at the end of them. The good fairy, realizing that the princess would be frightened if alone when she awakens, uses her wand to put every living person and animal in the palace asleep, to awaken when the princess does.
The earliest known version of the story is found in the narrative Perceforest, composed between 1330 and 1344. The tale was first published by Giambattista Basile in his collection of tales titled The Pentamerone (published posthumously in 1634). Basile's version was later adapted and published by Charles Perrault in Histoires ou contes du temps passé in 1697. The version that was later collected and printed by the Brothers Grimm was an orally transmitted version of the literary tale published by Perrault.
The Aarne-Thompson classification system for folktales classifies "Sleeping Beauty" as being a 410 tale type, meaning it includes a princess who is forced into an enchanted sleep and is later awakened reversing the magic placed upon her. The story has been adapted many times throughout history and has continued to be retold by modern storytellers throughout various media.
Early contributions to the tale include the medieval courtly romance Perceforest (published in 1528). In this tale, a princess named Zellandine falls in love with a man named Troylus. Her father sends him to perform tasks to prove himself worthy of her, and while he is gone, Zellandine falls into an enchanted sleep. Troylus finds her and impregnates her in her sleep; when their child is born, the child draws from her finger the flax that caused her sleep. She realizes from the ring Troylus left her that he was the father, and Troylus later returns to marry her.
The second part of the Sleeping Beauty tale, in which the princess and her children are almost put to death but instead are hidden, may have been influenced by Genevieve of Brabant. Even earlier influences come from thVolsunga saga and the tribulations of saintly female martyrs in early Christian hagiography conventions. Following these early renditions, the tale was first published by Italian poet Giambattista Basile who lived from 1575 to 1632.
The folktale begins with a princess whose parents are told by a wicked fairy that their daughter will die when she pricks her finger on a particular item. In Basile's version, the princess pricks her finger on a piece of flax. In Perrault's and the Grimm Brothers' versions, the item is a spindle. The parents rid the kingdom of these items in the hopes of protecting their daughter, but the prophecy is fulfilled regardless. Instead of dying, as was foretold, the princess falls into a deep sleep. After some time, she is found by a prince and is awakened. In Giambattista Basile's version of Sleeping Beauty, Sun, Moon, and Talia, the sleeping beauty, Talia, falls into a deep sleep after getting a splinter of flax in her finger. She is discovered in her castle by a wandering king, who "carrie[s] her to a bed, where he gather[s] the first fruits of love." He leaves her there and she later gives birth to twins.
According to Maria Tatar, there are versions of the story that include a second part to the narrative that details the couple's troubles after their union; some folklorists believe the two parts were originally separate tales.
The second part begins after the prince and princess have had children. Through the course of the tale, the princess and her children are introduced in some way to another woman from the prince's life. This other woman is not fond of the prince's new family, and calls a cook to kill the children and serve them for dinner. Instead of obeying, the cook hides the children and serves livestock. Next, the other woman orders the cook to kill the princess. Before this can happen, the other woman's true nature is revealed to the prince and then she is subjected to the very death that she had planned for the princess. The princess, prince, and their children live happily ever after.
In Giambattista Basile's version of Sleeping Beauty, Sun, Moon, and Talia, the sleeping beauty is named Talia. By asking wise men and astrologers to predict her future after her birth, her father who is a great lord learns that Talia will be in danger from a splinter of flax. The splinter later causes what appears to be Talia's death; however, it is later learned that it is a long, deep sleep. After Talia falls into deep sleep, she is seated on a velvet throne and her father, to forget his misery of what he thinks is her death, closes the doors and abandons the house forever. One day, while a king is walking by, one of his falcons flies into the house. The king knocks, hoping to be let in by someone, but no one answers and he decides to climb in with a ladder. He finds Talia alive but unconscious, and "...gathers the first fruits of love." Afterwards, he leaves her in the bed and goes back to his kingdom. Though Talia is unconscious, she gives birth to twins — one of whom keeps sucking her fingers. Talia awakens because the twin has sucked out the flax that was stuck deep in Talia's finger. When she wakes up, she discovers that she is a mother and has no idea what happened to her. One day, the king decides he wants to go see Talia again. He goes back to the palace to find her awake and a mother to his twins. He informs her of who he is, what has happened, and they end up bonding. After a few days, the king has to leave to go back to his realm, but promises Talia that he will return to take her to his kingdom.
W After the queen learns the truth, she pretends she is the king and writes to Talia asking her to send the twins because he wants to see them. Talia sends her twins to the "king" and the queen tells the cook to kill the twins and make dishes out of them. She wants to feed the king his children; instead, the cook takes the twins to his wife and hides them. He then cooks two lambs and serves them as if they were the twins. Every time the king mentions how good the food is, the queen replies, "Eat, eat, you are eating of your own." Later, the queen invites Talia to the kingdom and is going to burn her alive, but the king appears and finds out what's going on with his children and Talia. He then orders that his wife be burned along with those who betrayed him. Since the cook actually did not obey the queen, the king thanks the cook for saving his children by giving him rewards. The story ends with the king marrying Talia and living happily ever after.
Perrault's narrative is written in two parts, which some folklorists believe were originally separate tales, as they were in the Brothers Grimm's version, and were later joined together by Giambattista Basile and once more by Perrault. According to folklore editors Martin Hallett and Barbara Karasek, Perrault's tale is a much more subtle and pared down version than Basile's story in terms of the more immoral details. An example of this is depicted in Perrault's tale by the prince's choice to instigate no physical interaction with the sleeping princess when the prince discovers her.
At the christening of a king and queen's long-wished-for child, seven good fairies are invited to be godmothers to the infant princess. The fairies attend the banquet at the palace. Each fairy is presented with a golden plate and drinking cups adorned with jewels. Soon after, an old fairy enters the palace and is seated with a plate of fine china and a crystal drinking glass. This old fairy is overlooked because she has been within a tower for many years and everyone had believed her to be deceased. Six of the other seven fairies then offer their gifts of beauty, wit, grace, dance, song, and goodness to the infant princess. The evil fairy is very angry about having been forgotten, and as her gift, curses the infant princess so that she will one day prick her finger on a spindle of a spinning wheel and die. The seventh fairy, who has not yet given her gift, attempts to reverse the evil fairy's curse. However, she can only do so partially. Instead of dying, the Princess will fall into a deep sleep for 100 years and be awakened by a king's son ("elle tombera seulement dans un profond sommeil qui durera cent ans, au bout desquels le fils d’un Roi viendra la réveiller"). This is her gift of protection.
The King orders that every spindle and spinning wheel in the kingdom to be destroyed, to try to save his daughter from the terrible curse. Fifteen or sixteen years pass and one day, when the king and queen are away, the Princess wanders through the palace rooms and comes upon an old woman, spinning with her spindle. The princess, who has never seen anyone spin before, asks the old woman if she can try the spinning wheel. The curse is fulfilled as the princess pricks her finger on the spindle and instantly falls into a deep sleep. The old woman cries for help and attempts are made to revive the princess. The king attributes this to fate and has the Princess carried to the finest room in the palace and placed upon a bed of gold and silver embroidered fabric. The king and queen kiss their daughter goodbye and depart, proclaiming the entrance to be forbidden. The good fairy who altered the evil prophecy is summoned. Having great powers of foresight, the fairy sees that the Princess will awaken to distress when she finds herself alone, so the fairy puts everyone in the castle to sleep. The fairy 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 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 until a king's son comes and awakens her. The prince then braves the tall trees, 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. Struck by the radiant beauty before him, he falls on his knees before her. The enchantment comes to an end, the princess awakens and bestows upon the prince a look “more tender than a first glance might seem to warrant” (in Perrault's original French tale, the prince does not kiss the princess to wake her up) then converses with the prince for a long time. Meanwhile, the rest of the castle awakens and go about their business. The prince and princess are later married by the chaplain in the castle chapel.
After wedding the Princess in secret, the Prince continues to visit her and she bears him two children, Aurore (Dawn) and Jour (Day), unbeknown to his mother, who is of an ogre lineage. When the time comes for the Prince to ascend the throne, he brings his wife, children, and the talabutte ("Count of the Mount").
The Ogress Queen Mother sends the young Queen and the children to a house secluded in the woods and directs her cook to prepare the boy with Sauce Robert for dinner. The kind-hearted cook substitutes a lamb for the boy, which satisfies the Queen Mother. She then demands the girl but the cook this time substitutes a young goat, which also satisfies the Queen Mother. When the Ogress demands that he serve up the young Queen, the latter offers to slit her throat so that she may join the children that she imagines are dead. While the Queen Mother is satisfied with a hind prepared with Sauce Robert in place of the young Queen, there is a tearful secret reunion of the Queen and her children. However, the Queen Mother soon discovers the cook's trick and she prepares a tub in the courtyard filled with vipers and other noxious creatures. The King returns in the nick of time and the Ogress, her true nature having been exposed, throws herself into the tub and is fully consumed. The King, young Queen, and children then live happily ever after.
The Brothers Grimm included a variant of Sleeping Beauty, Little Briar Rose, in their collection (1812). Their version ends when the prince arrives to wake Sleeping Beauty (named Rosamund) and does not include the part two as found in Basile's and Perrault's versions. The brothers considered rejecting the story on the grounds that it was derived from Perrault's version, but the presence of the Brynhild tale convinced them to include it as an authentically German tale. Their decision was notable because in none of the Teutonic myths, meaning the Poetic and Prose Eddas or Volsunga Saga, are their sleepers awakened with a kiss, a fact Jacob Grimm would have known since he wrote an encyclopedic volume on German mythology. His version is the only known German variant of the tale, and Perrault's influence is almost certain. In the original Brothers Grimm's version, the fairies are instead wise women.
The Brothers Grimm also included, in the first edition of their tales, a fragmentary fairy tale, "The Evil Mother-in-law". This story begins with the heroine, a married mother of two children, and her mother-in-law who attempts to eat her and the children. The heroine suggests an animal be substituted in the dish, and the story ends with the heroine's worry that she cannot keep her children from crying and getting the mother-in-law's attention. Like many German tales showing French influence, it appeared in no subsequent edition.
The princess's name has varied from one adaptation to the other. In Sun, Moon, and Talia, she is named Talia (Sun and Moon being her twin children). She has no name in Perrault's story but her daughter is called "Aurore". The Brothers Grimm named her "Briar Rose" in their 1812 collection. However, some translations of the Grimms' tale give the princess the name "Rosamond". Tchaikovsky's ballet and Disney's version named her Princess Aurora; however, in the Disney version, she is also called "Briar Rose" in her childhood, when she is being raised incognito by the good fairies. John Stejean named her "Rosebud" in TeleStory Presents.
Besides Sun, Moon, and Talia, Basile included another variant of this Aarne-Thompson type, The Young Slave, in his book, The Pentamerone. The Grimms also included a second, more distantly related one titled The Glass Coffin.
Italo Calvino included a variant in Italian Folktales. In his version, the cause of the princess's sleep is a wish by her mother. As in Pentamerone, the prince rapes her in her sleep and her children are born. Calvino retains the element that the woman who tries to kill the children is the king's mother, not his wife, but adds that she does not want to eat them herself, and instead serves them to the king. His version came from Calabria, but he noted that all Italian versions closely followed Basile's. In his More English Fairy Tales, Joseph Jacobs noted that the figure of the Sleeping Beauty was in common between this tale and the Romani tale The King of England and his Three Sons.
The hostility of the king's mother to his new bride is repeated in the fairy tale The Six Swans, and also features in The Twelve Wild Ducks, where the mother is modified to be the king's stepmother. However, these tales omit the attempted cannibalism.
Russian Romantic writer Vasily Zhukovsky wrote a versified work based on the theme of the princess cursed into a long sleep in his poem "Спящая царевна" ("The Sleeping Tsarevna" (ru)), published in 1832.
According to Maria Tatar, the Sleeping Beauty tale has been disparaged by modern-day feminists who consider the protagonist to have no agency and find her passivity to be offensive; some feminists have even argued for people to stop telling the story altogether.
Sixty years later, Disney received "harsh criticism" for depicting both Cinderella and the Sleeping Beauty princess as "naïve and malleable" characters. Time Out dismissed the princess as a "delicate" and "vapid" character. Sonia Saraiya of Jezebel echoed this sentiment, criticizing the princess for lacking "interesting qualities", where she also ranked her as Disney's least feminist princess. Similarly, Bustle also ranked the princess as the least feminist Disney Princess, with author Chelsea Mize expounding, "Aurora literally sleeps for like three quarters of the movie ... Aurora just straight-up has no agency, and really isn't doing much in the way of feminine progress." Leigh Butler of Tor.com went on to defend the character writing, "Aurora’s cipher-ness in Sleeping Beauty would be infuriating if she were the only female character in it, but the presence of the Fairies and Maleficent allow her to be what she is without it being a subconscious statement on what all women are." Similarly, Refinery29 ranked Princess Aurora the fourth most feminist Disney Princess because, "Her aunts have essentially raised her in a place where women run the game." Despite being featured prominently in Disney merchandise, "Aurora has become an oft-forgotten princess", and her popularity pales in comparison to those of Cinderella and Snow White.
The Brothers Grimm tale of “Little Brier-Rose” contains a mythic element of prophecy. This prophecy is revealed to the king at a banquet celebrating his daughter's birth, announcing that Brier Rose will prick her finger on a spinning wheel and die. In desperation to save his daughter, the king tries everything he can to protect his daughter from this fate. However, since this prophecy is foretold, it finds a way to become true. This idea of prophecy is found in other Greek myths, like the story of Oedipus. “Whether recounting the distant past or rapidly evolving in the present, Oedipus the King remains a tragedy of belief, even as the conditions of that belief change over time. Each having disbelieved horrific prophecy and striven to prevent it, Jocasta and Oedipus then join forces doubly to strive against prophecy that has already materialized as fact”. Regardless of the measures taken against it, prophecy will always reign true. For Brier Rose, even though her father demanded all spinning wheels should be burned to stop her from pricking her finger, she still manages to do so.
An example of the cosmic interpretation of the tale given by the nineteenth century solar mythologist school appears in John Fiske's Myths and Myth-Makers: “It is perhaps less obvious that winter should be so frequently symbolized as a thorn or sharp instrument... Sigurd is slain by a thorn, and Balder by a sharp sprig of mistletoe; and in the myth of the Sleeping Beauty, the earth-goddess sinks into her long winter sleep when pricked by the point of the spindle. In her cosmic palace, all is locked in icy repose, naught thriving save the ivy which defies the cold, until the kiss of the golden-haired sun-god reawakens life and activity.”
"Sleeping Beauty" has been popular for many fairytale fantasy retellings. Some examples are listed below:
Avengers Grimm has an adult Sleeping Beauty with powers.
Perrault's La Belle au bois dormant (Sleeping Beauty), illustration by Gustave Doré
Prince Florimund finds the "Sleeping Beauty"
Sleeping Beauty by Jenny Harbour
Book cover for a Dutch interpretation of the story by Johann Georg van Caspel
Sleeping Beauty by Edward Frederick Brewtnall
Louis Sußmann-Hellborn (1828- 1908) Sleeping Beauty,
Sleeping Princess by Viktor Vasnetsov
Sleeping Beauty, statue in Wuppertal – Germany
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Sleeping Beauty.|