Origins — Sleeping Beauty

 

By: Noel Bleu

Sleeping Beauty is the tale of a young maiden who fell under a magical spell after being cursed by an evil fairy. The basic story line starts at the christening of a king and queen’s long-wished-for child. They rejoice and celebrate their child’s birth; seven fairies are invited to be godmothers to the infant princess. At the banquet back at the palace, the fairies seat themselves with a golden casket containing golden jeweled utensils laid before them. However; a wicked fairy who was overlooked, having been within a certain tower for many years and thought to be either dead or enchanted enters and is offered a seating, but not a golden casket since only seven were made. The fairies then offer their gifts of beauty, wit, grace, dance, song and ability of musical instruments. The old 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 has yet to give her gift and uses it to partially reverse the wicked fairy’s curse, proclaiming that the princess will instead fall into a deep sleep for 100 years and be awoken by a king’s son.

The title sleeping beauty is from the French title “La Belle au bois dormant” meaning  “The Beauty sleeping in the wood” by Charles Perraultor and the story “Little Briar Rose” of German origin by the Brothers Grimm. It is a classic fairytale involving a beautiful princess, enchantment of sleep, and a handsome prince. Written as an original literary tale, it was first published by Charles Perrault in “Histoires ou contes du temps passé” in 1697.

Sleeping Beauty’s earliest influence apparently comes from “Perceforest,” a French romance first printed in 1528. While not a Sleeping Beauty tale, Perceforest contains many elements similar to the later Sleeping Beauty tales.

The basic elements of Perrault’s narrative are in two parts. Some folklorists believe that they were originally separate tales, but became one afterward in the Grimm’s’ version, and were joined together by Basile, and Perrault following him.

The next known version of the tale came from Giambattista Basile’s “Sun, Moon, and Talia” also known more formally “asIl Pentamerone, Day 5, Tale 5” (1636). This is the tale which is thought to have influenced Perrault’s Sleeping Beaut. Perrault included his version, the first to use Sleeping Beauty as a title.

After the curse was cast the king forbids spinning on spinning-wheels or spindles, or the possession of one, throughout the kingdom, upon pain of death. When the princess is fifteen or sixteen and her parents are away on pleasure bent, she wanders through the palace rooms going up and down and then chances upon an old woman who is spinning with her distaff in the garret of a tower and had not heard of the king’s decree against spinning wheels. 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 her, but to no avail. 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 good fairy who altered the evil prophecy is summoned by a dwarf wearing seven-league boots and returns in a chariot of fire drawn by dragons. Having great powers of foresight, the good fairy sees that the princess will be distressed to find herself alone and so puts everyone in the castle to sleep. The king and queen kiss their daughter goodbye and depart, proclaiming the entrance to be 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 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. 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 converses with the prince for a long time. Meanwhile, the rest of the castle awakes and go about their business. The prince and princess head over to the hall of mirrors to dine and are later married by the chaplain in the castle chapel.

Usually the story ends with a happily ever after, however there is another ending after having been secretly wed by the reawakened Royal almoner,(a priest) the Prince continued to visit the Princess, who bore him two children, L’Aurore (Dawn) and Le Jour (Day), which he kept secret from his step-mother, who was  an ogre . Once he had gained the throne, he brought his wife and the talabutte (“Count of the Mount”).

The Ogress Queen Mother sent the young Queen and the children to a house secluded in the woods, and directed her cook there to prepare the boy for her dinner, with a sauce Robert. The humane cook substituted a lamb, which satisfied the Queen Mother, who then demanded the girl, but was satisfied with a young goat prepared in the same excellent sauce. When the Ogress demanded that he serve up the young Queen, the latter offered her throat to be 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 hind prepared with sauce Robert. Soon she discovered the trick and prepared a tub in the courtyard filled with vipers and other noxious creatures. The King returned in the nick of time and the Ogress, being discovered, threw herself into the pit she had prepared and was consumed, and everyone else lived happily ever after.

This is not the usual way the story is told, however, older versions of the story have been found. There are earlier elements that contributed to the tale, in the medieval courtly romance Perceforest , the 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, he draws from her finger the flax that caused her sleep. She realizes from the ring he left her that the father was Troylus; he returns after his adventures to marry her.

Another variation of this exact story tells of how wise men warned the great King that his daughter Talia was in grave danger, there was poison in the palace’s flax.  A ban was put on flax but as expected, Talia still ran across a splinter while spinning flax on the flax-spinning wheel.  In great despair, the king placed her sleeping (or dead) body on a velvet clothe and left her in the forest.

Some time later, a rich nobleman was hunting in the woods when he ran across the abandoned body of Sleeping Beauty.  Far from planting a kiss, the nobleman instead raped her sleeping body, from which resulted a pregnancy.  Nine months later, Sleeping Beauty gave birth to two children (and named them Sun and Moon) and the forest fairies took care of them while Sleeping Beauty continued her slumber.  Whilst placing the babes to Sleeping Beauty’s breasts, one of the children accidentally mistook her thumb for a nipple and sucked out the poison splinter.  Talia awoke from her deep sleep.

Months later, the nobleman decided to return to the woods to have more sex with Sleeping Beauty’s body when to his surprise, he found her awake.  The nobleman confesses that he raped her and they again had sex in the barn. The nobleman then returns home to his wife.
The nobleman’s wife found out about the sexual encounter and ordered the children be kidnapped and cooked alive.  The cook prepared the fiendish disk and served it to the rich nobleman at his dinner.  As the nobleman finished his meal, the wife boldly announced “you are eating what is your own!”.  Alas, as it turns out, the cook had a soft heart and instead of killing and cooking the children, he substituted a goat instead.  Talia and the children and her rapist new love interest lived happily ever after.

Earlier influences come from the story of the sleeping Brynhild in the Volsunga saga and the tribulations of saintly female martyrs in early Christian hagiography conventions. It was, in fact, the existence of Brynhild that persuaded the Brothers Grimm to include the story in later editions of their work rather than eliminate it, as they did to other works they deemed to be purely French, stemming from Perrault’s work.

The second half, in which the princess and her children are almost put to death, but hidden instead, may have been influenced by Genevieve of Brabant.

In the Video Game “Kingdom Hearts A Sleeping Beauty world appears in the Kingdom Hearts games, based on the Walt Disney adaptation, where throughout the games, Maleficent (the wicked fairy godmother) is featured as a major antagonist in almost all of the installments. The princess (named Aurora) is one of the seven princesses of heart, a major story element, and appears briefly in the first game, with only a mentioning of her in the second game. A world based on Sleeping Beauty appears in the prequel game, Birth By Sleep, called Enchanted Dominion. The story is told slightly differently here. After the good fairies put the city to sleep, antagonist Xehanort arrives to study Aurora, whose heart of pure light he believes will help him in his scheme. Maleficent uses the protagonist character Terra by taking control of him temporarily to capture Aurora’s heart. Later, Ventus, another original character, arrives to the world and helps the good fairies storm Maleficent’s castle to free Aurora’s heart. After this, Terra and Ventus’s friend Aqua appears after Ventus and Terra depart, and helps the prince (Phillip) to defeat Maleficent and deliver true love’s kiss to Aurora.

In a more modern and humorous tale as is with most Shrek movies, Sleeping Beauty’s character is more tongue in cheek. Sleeping Beauty is first mentioned at the start of Shrek 2, when Shrek is reading Fiona’s diary. It says that Fiona wasn’t allowed to go to Sleeping Beauty’s sleepover because of her curse. She is later seen, where she tumbles out of her carriage at the Royal Ball after being announced. She has a greater role in Shrek the Third, which involves helping Fiona and the other princesses fight guards to gain access to the castle.

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