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Sleeping Beauty

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Sleeping Beauty

"Sleeping Beauty" (French: La Belle au bois dormant "The Beauty Sleeping in the Wood") by Charles Perrault, or "Little Briar Rose" (German: Dornröschen) by the Brothers Grimm, is a classic fairy tale which involves a beautiful princess, a sleeping enchantment, and a handsome prince. The version collected by the Brothers Grimm was an orally transmitted version of the originally literary tale published by Charles Perrault in Histoires ou contes du temps passé in 1697. This in turn was based on Sun, Moon, and Talia by Italian poet Giambattista Basile (published posthumously in 1634), which was in turn based on one or more folk tales. The earliest known version of the story is found in the narrative Perceforest, composed between 1330 and 1344 and first printed in 1528.


Perrault's narrative

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.

Part one

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, enchants 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 hasn't 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 kiss from a king's son.

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 by a kiss and the princess awakens and 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.

Part two

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.

Basile's narrative

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. Unlike the version of Sleeping Beauty known today, Basile's version consists of a more gruesome plot. After the Sleeping Beauty named 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 "...gathered 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.

When he arrives back in his kingdom, his wife hears him saying "Talia, Sun, and Moon" in his sleep. She bribes and threatens the king's secretary to tell her what is going on. 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.


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. Tchaikovsky's ballet and Disney's version named her Princess Aurora. John Stejean named her "Rosebud" in TeleStory Presents.

The Brothers Grimm included a variant Little Briar Rose in their collection (1812). Their version ends when the prince arrives to wake Sleeping Beauty, unlike the stories of Basile and Perrault. Some translations of the Grimms' tale give the princess the name "Rosamond". 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. Still, it is the only known German variant of the tale, and Perrault's influence is almost certain.

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, as in the second part of Perrault's tale, and her mother-in-law attempting to eat her and the children. Unlike Perrault's version, the heroine suggested an animal be substituted in the dish, and 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.

Italo Calvino included a variant in Italian Folktales. The cause of her sleep is an ill-advised wish by her mother. As in Pentamerone, the prince rapes her in her sleep and her children are born. He 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, but instead serves them to the king. His version came from Calabria, but he noted that all Italian versions closely followed Basile's.

Besides Sun, Moon, and Talia, Basile included another variant of this Aarne-Thompson type, The Young Slave. The Grimms also included a second, more distantly related one, The Glass Coffin.

Joseph Jacobs noted that the figure of the Sleeping Beauty was in common between this tale and the Gypsy tale The King of England and his Three Sons, in his More English Fairy Tales.

The hostility of the king's mother to his new bride is repeated in the fairy tale The Six Swans, and also features The Twelve Wild Ducks, where she is modified to be the king's stepmother. However, these tales omit the attempted cannibalism.

Myth themes

Some folklorists have analyzed Sleeping Beauty as indicating the replacement of the lunar year (with its thirteen months, symbolically depicted by the thirteen fairies) by the solar year (which has twelve, symbolically the invited fairies). The basic elements of the story can also be interpreted as a nature allegory: the princess represents nature, the wicked fairy godmother is winter, who puts the Court to sleep with pricks of frost until the prince (spring) cuts away the brambles with his sword (a sunbeam) to allow the Sun to awaken sleeping princess (nature).


  • Alfred, Lord Tennyson wrote two poems based on Sleeping Beauty, "Sleeping Beauty" in 1830, and an expanded, rewritten version, "The Day-Dream," in 1842.
  • In 1949, the story was made into a Finnish film, Prinsessa Ruusunen, directed by Edvin Laine and score by Erkki Melartin's incidental music from 1912.
  • In 1955, the story was made into a German film, Dornröschen, directed by Fritz Genschow.
  • In 1959, Charles Perrault's version and Brothers Grimm's version were adapted into a Walt Disney animated film. The film was notoriously expensive to produce and, at the time, not very successful. However, it has come to be regarded as the quintessential adaptation and a film classic in its own right. It is also notable for expanding the character of Maleficent, the wicked fairy godmother, significantly and features music from the ballet.
  • In 1982, Twilight Zone Magazine had the short story "The Father of the Bride" which dealt with the consequences of the kingdom being asleep for a century. Sleeping Beauty's father wonders due to how the world has changed in that century if, in a way, the dark faerie had ultimately won.
  • In 1987, Charles Perrault's version was adapted into a musical film direct-to-TV, directed by David Irving.
  • In 2009, Mattel Entertainment was supposed to adapt the story into a Barbie film, titled Barbie as the Sleeping Beauty, due to the success of two previous films based on Tchaikovsky's ballets. But everything was shelved because of a trademark controversy, in which the Walt Disney Company acquired the rights for the adaptation of the film. When the trademark was granted back on January 17, 2012, the film production was completely abandoned.
  • Sleeping Beauty has been popular for many fairytale fantasy retellings. These include Alex Flinn's "A Kiss In Time", Robin McKinley's Spindle's End, Orson Scott Card's Enchantment, Neil Gaiman's The Sleeper and the Spindle, Jane Yolen's Briar Rose, Sophie Masson's Clementine, and Anne Rice's (as A. N. Roquelaure) erotic series Sleeping Beauty Quartet.
  • Mercedes Lackey's Elemental Masters novel, The Gates of Sleep, set in Edwardian England, includes many elements from "Sleeping Beauty." A notable difference from the original is that in Lackey's version, the Sleeping Beauty's analogue does not sleep passively waiting for the Prince to wake her, but rather while her body lies unconscious, her spirit is very much awake, waging a magical battle to the death with the witch's analogue.
  • Jim C. Hines in Princess Series portrays the prince as raping Sleeping Beauty- AKA Talia- while she slept. After Talia wakes up after giving birth, she uses her gift of grace to become a highly skilled martial artist. She develops a strong dislike of fairies and unrequited feelings of love for her friend and ally, Snow White.
  • In the ABC TV show Once Upon a Time, the Sleeping Beauty (named Princess Aurora after the Disney version) is portrayed by Sarah Bolger, and Prince Phillip is played by Julian Morris. Maleficent who is played by Kristin Bauer van Straten appears in a different context, but it is mentioned that she is the one who cursed Princess Aurora and that she once cursed Queen Briar Rose, Princess Aurora's mother, in the same manner. It is later revealed that Queen Briar Rose, Princess Aurora's mother, is the original Sleeping Beauty of the original fairy tale.
  • The story is mentioned in passing in a companion to The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, The New Traveller's Almanac. In this world, the family of the Sleeping Beauty named Princess Rosamund are inbred and are cursed by cataleptic fits. Princess Rosamund's castle is one of many that stand in the Ardennes forests on the Belgian border, three of the others belonging to Bluebeard, the Beast, and the Marquis de Carabas.
  • In his 1854 satirical fantasy The Rose and the Ring, William Makepeace Thackeray used an element from Sleeping Beauty with a reversed meaning: The Fairy Blackstick comes uninvited to the Christening of the Princess Rosalba and wishes the child "a bit of bad luck." But in Thackeray's version, the Fairy meant well and the Princess's bad luck ultimately made her a better and happier person than she would have been.
  • In Sheri S. Tepper's novel, Beauty, which won the Locus Award in 1992, the protagonist is the Sleeping Beauty, who is also the mother and grandmother of other classic fairy-tale heroines, and who travels through time and attempts to prevent human overpopulation from destroying the earth.
  • In the Sailor Moon manga, the evil witch Nehelennia casts a curse on the objects of celebration, Silver Millennium and Sailor Moon, a story based on the curse in Sleeping Beauty. In the Sailor Moon anime, "Awaken, Sleeping Beauty! Mamoru's Distress," Sailor Moon is fighting two of the Ayakashi sisters from the Black moon when she is put into a deep sleep from which only Mamoru's kiss can wake her. The episode had started with Usagi reading the fairy tale to Chibiusa as a bedtime story.
  • Archie Campbell satirized the story with "Beeping Sleauty" in several Hee Haw episodes.
  • The fairy tale is used as a framing device in an episode of Dollhouse, where a young orphan objects to the story. Echo encourages the girl to re-read the story, but to imagine herself in the role of the Prince.
  • Mattel and Netflix's Ever After High animated series, wherein the children of fairy tale characters attend boarding school together before graduating and following their parents' stories, Briar Beauty is the daughter of Sleeping Beauty. However, she does not want to inherit her mother's curse. Additionally, she is related to Rosabella Beauty, the daughter of Beauty and the Beast.
  • In 2014, a Walt Disney live-action remake film called Maleficent starring Angelina Jolie as Maleficent and Elle Fanning as Princess Aurora, the Sleeping Beauty, proposed a backstory for the Disney-created villain of the 1959 animated film.
  • The computer game series Dark Parables, game one, "Curse of Briar Rose", puts a twist to the original story: Briar didn't wake up when kissed, but the prince died from the curse. The kiss only got rid of the briars, and the good fairies sacrificed themselves to hold them back for another hundred years. The one thing missing to wake Briar is a potion. Now the briars have returned and are spreading across the world, and the player's mission is to find Briar and wake her up, thus ending the curse for good. In the bonus game of the collector's edition, one finds out that Briar has a sister named Ivy Green, who will appear in the next game of the series.
  • Anne Sexton wrote an adaptation as a poem called "Briar Rose (Sleeping Beauty)" in her collection Transformations (1971), a book in which she re-envisions sixteen of the Grimm's Fairy tales.
  • In 2016, American horror film The Curse of Sleeping Beauty, directed by Pearry Reginald Teo put a dark spin on the classic fairy tale.
  • In music

    Michele Carafa composed La Belle au Bois Dormant in 1825.

    Before Tchaikovsky's version, several ballet productions were based on the "Sleeping Beauty" theme, among one from Eugène Scribe: in the winter of 1828–1829, the French playwright furnished a four-act mimed scenario as a basis for Aumer's choreography of a four-act ballet-pantomime La Belle au Bois Dormant.

    Scribe wisely omitted the violence of the second part of Perrault's tale for the ballet, which was set by Hérold and first staged at the Académie Royale in Paris on 27 April 1829. Though Hérold popularized his piece with a piano, Rondo brilliant was based on themes from the music, however he was not successful in getting the ballet staged again.

    The fourth movement of Robert Schumann's Märchenbilder depicts scenes from this story.

    The first movement of Ravel's Ma mère l'Oye in the original piano versions is Pavane de la Belle au bois dormant ( Sleeping Beauty's Pavane). The final movement, Le jardin féerique (The Fairy Garden) is interpreted in the ballet version as Sleeping Beauty being awakened in the garden by her prince.

    When Ivan Vsevolozhsky, the Director of the Imperial Theatres in Saint Petersburg, wrote to Tchaikovsky on May 25, 1888 suggesting a ballet based on Perrault's tale, he also cut the violent second half, climaxed the action with the Awakening Kiss, and followed with a conventional festive last act, a series of bravura variations.

    In 2008, the American musical trio GrooveLily released Sleeping Beauty Wakes, a concept modern-day album, loosely based on the fairy tale. The songs are part of a homonymous musical with book by Rachel Sheinkin.

    Abby Dobson released Sleeping Beauty: You Are the One You Have Been Waiting On - Volumood One, her debut album, loosely based on the fairy tale.


    Sleeping Beauty Wikipedia