The Fairy Tale of Sleeping Beauty has a Long and Colorful HistoryOne of everyone's favorite princesses is Sleeping Beauty. As with the story of Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty comes out of the mythic foklore of Europe. The first major version was by a French author, Charles Perrault, who some consider the father of the modern fairy tale. While the Brothers Grimm are much better known these days, it was Perrault who wrote up earlier versions of Sleeping Beauty, Cinderella, Little Red Riding Hood and Puss in Boots. While they are not the versions we know today, they show the long tradition of the classic princesses, especially when you consider that Perrault was simply transcribing stories that had existed long before him. Perrault included a second part to the tale that is not widely known and usually is left out of modern re tellings.
|The classic Disney portrayal|
Earliest Versions of Sleeping BeautyAs usual with fairy tales, there were versions kicking around Europe for centuries became they became codified into a final form not long after the invention of the printing press in 1453. An Italian namesd Giambattista Basile wrote "Sun, Moon and Talia" in 1634. The further back you go, the less familiar the story sounds, but there are striking similarities with what we know now as the fairy tale of Sleeping Beauty. The story is a bit raw for modern eyes, though, showing that our times remain more politically correct than during medieval times.
Basile's "Sun, Moon and Talia"Upon the birth of a great man's daughter Talia, the court Astrologers and assorted Wise Men predict that Talia will be harmed by a splinter of flax. The father immediately bans flax from his castle. When Talia grows up, though, she becomes curious about how clothes are made and finds an old woman spinning flax on her spindle. Talia spins the flax, but quickly gets a splinter of flax under her fingernail. The pain is so intense that Talia falls unconscious and is presumed dead. Her father can't bear to bury her and instead has her body brought to one of his other villas.
|Talia at the flax wheel|
A king later is hunting in the area and finds the house. He follows his falcon inside and finds Talia, still unconscious. He cannot awaken her.After making love to her, he leaves. Talia later gives birth to twins, a boy and a girl. The little boy one day manages to suck the splinter out of his mother's finger, which awakens the sleeping girl. She names her children "Sun" and "Moon" and the continue to live in the house together.
The king returns and finds Talia awake with his two children. Being already married to the queen, however, he cannot marry Talia. He is so besotted with her, though, that he calls out her name in his sleep. The queen hears this, and then commands that the children be brought to her immediately. Ordering the cook to kill the children and prepare them for the king's supper, the queen prepares to take her revenge. However, the cook hides the children and substitutes lamb instead. The queen still thinks it is the king's children that he is eating and makes fun of him while he eats.
|The castle overgrown with thorns|
The queen then has Talia brought before her. Ordering a huge bonfire lit, the queen commands that Talia be thrown into it. Talia asks that she be allowed to take off her fine clothing before being burned, to which the queen agrees. While undressing, Talia screams with each garment that she removes. The king hears this, but when he arrives, the queen reveals that he ate his own children. Incensed, the king orders that the queen, his secretary and the cook be thrown into the bonfire instead. The cook talks his way out of this fate, though, by revealing that he saved the children. The king rewards the cook by making him his personal servant, and the king marries Talia.
"The Beauty Sleeping in the Wood" by Charles PerraultA king and queen long have hoped for a child, and when a girl is born, they invite seven fairies to be the child's godmothers. There was an eighth fairy, though, who was not invited because she had been missing for many years, locked up in a nearby tower and presumed dead or incapacitated. This fairy shows up, however, and is offered a seat, but not one as luxurious as those of the other fairies because she was unexpected. Six of the seven fairy godmothers offer the child enchanted gifts of talents and natural grace and beauty that will enrich her life. The eighth fairy, irked at being slighted, offers her own enchantment: the baby princess, she proclaims, shall prick her hand on a weaver's spindle and die. The seventh fairy godmother then amends the curse so that the princess shall only fall into a deep sleep for a hundred years and then be awoken by a prince.
|This is probably a little closer to how the medieval folks really thought about this fairy tale|
One hundred years later, a handsome prince is hunting near the princess's castle and is told by an old man about the sleeping princess. The prince enters the castle, the prickers and thorns parting to allow him passage. He awakens the princess, the castle comes back to life, and the prince and princess are married in the castle chapel.
|Beauty fast asleep|
|"Dornröschen" is an alternate German name for "Sleeping Beauty"|
The Brothers Grimm: "Little Briar Rose"Over a hundred years after Charles Perrault wrote his story about Sleeping Beauty, the Brothers Grimm were compiling their own collection of fairy tales. Instead of calling it "Sleeping Beauty," though, they gave Sleeping Beauty a name but left almost everything the same as in Perrault's version. The Princess now was called "Briar Rose," though in some versions it became Rosamund. The Brothers Grimm also ended the tale before the Ogress mother-in-law came into the picture. This is the version that became widely known as the "official" version, even though it was almost a completely plagiarized from Perrault.
The Walt Disney VersionWalt Disney Studios had its greatest hit with the 1937 animated classic "Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs." Disney could just as easily have done "Sleeping Beauty" then instead. After World War II ended and the studio returned to normal, Disney finally decided to tackle the tale of Sleeping Beauty. As will be seen, Disney adopted the Brothers Grimm version of the tale, with some minor changes, in their classic 1959 animated film, "Sleeping Beauty."
"Sleeping Beauty": Maleficent on the Prowl Against Princess Aurora
|An uninvited guest|
|Touch the spindle!|
|Maleficent has an idea|
|Maleficent talking to her bird|
|Maleficent in her palace|
|Mary Costa, voice of Princess Aurora|
As portrayed, the character of Maleficent is one of the great villains of all literature. From time to time, you even read about someone like Tim Burton being interested in making a film focusing squarely on her. There actually is a film called "Maleficent" nearing completion, starring Angelina Jolie. It will be interesting to see a Disney move fairy tale villainess from her own point of view. "Sleeping Beauty" may be a fairy tale you subconsciously have filed away in the back of your brain as passé, but it is has been and remains front and center to very powerful people in the creative arts in the past, today, and always.
|Aurora, beautifully drawn|
|Aurora, like Snow White, is a friend to nature|
|Aurora in her chamber|
|Maleficent the Dragon|
|The Prince finds his love in front of a looming enemy. Isn't this animation design awesome?|
|True love's kiss is what it takes|
Below is a link to the entire film.