Sleeping Beauty

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"Sleeping Princess" redirects here. For the 2010 Turkish film, see Sleeping Princess (film).
This article is about the fairy tale. For other uses, see Sleeping Beauty (disambiguation).
"Sleeping Beauty", by Henry Meynell Rheam

"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 involving a beautiful princess, a sleeping enchantment, and a handsome prince. The version collected by the Grimms was an orally transmitted version of the originally literary tale published by Charles Perrault in Histoires ou contes du temps passé in 1697.[1] This in turn was based on Sun, Moon, and Talia by 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 Perceforest, composed between 1330 and 1344 and first printed in 1528.

Perrault's narrative[edit]

The basic elements of Perrault's narrative are in two parts. Some folklorists believe that they were originally separate tales, as they became afterward in the Grimms' version, and were joined together by Basile, and Perrault following him.[2]

Part one[edit]

Sleeping Beauty is shown a spindle by the old woman. "Sleeping Beauty", by Alexander Zick (1845–1907)

At the christening of a king and queen's long-wished-for child, seven fairies are invited to be godmothers to the infant princess. The banquet back at the palace, the fairies seat themselves with a golden casket containing golden jeweled utensils laid before them. However, a fairy who was overlooked, having been within a certain tower for many years was 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 music. The bad fairy, angry at being overlooked, places the princess under an enchantment as her gift: the princess will prick her hand on a spindle and die. One fairy who hadn't yet given her gift, uses it to reverse the evil fairy's curse, but she can only do so partially: instead of dying, the princess will fall into a deep sleep for 100 years and be awoken by a kiss from a prince.

The king forbids spinning on spinning-wheels or spindles, or the possession of one, throughout the kingdom, upon pain of death. 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 who is spinning with her distaff in the garret of a tower, as she 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 the princess, 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 awaken and 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. Struck by 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.

Part two[edit]

After having been secretly wed by the reawakened Royal almoner, 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 mother, who was of an ogre lineage. Once he had ascended 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 fully consumed, and everyone else lived happily ever after.


An older image of the sleeping princess: Brünnhilde, surrounded by magical fire rather than roses (illustration by Arthur Rackham to Richard Wagner's Die Walküre

Perrault transformed the tone and several plot elements of Giambattista Basile's Sun, Moon, and Talia (Sole, Luna e Talia). Unlike the version of Sleeping Beauty known today, Basile's version consisted of a more gruesome plot. The most notable differences in the plot are that, in Basile's version, the sleep did not stem from a curse and was prophesied; that the enchantment does not end when a prince arrives; that the princess is instead raped in her sleep by a king and awakened when one of the children she gives birth to (while still asleep) sucks on her finger and thereby removes the poisoned piece of flax;[3] and that the woman who resented her and tried to kill her and her children was not the king's mother but his jealous wife. The mother-in-law's jealousy in Perrault's version is less motivated, although common in fairy tales.

In Basile's version of Sleeping Beauty, 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. Such a splinter causes Talia's death, which later turns out to be a long, deep sleep. After Talia died/fell into deep sleep, she was seated on a velvet throne and her father, to forget his misery caused by her death, closed the doors and abandoned the house forever. One day, while a king was walking by, one of his falcons flew into the house. The king knocked, hoping to be let in by someone. Since no one answered, he decided to climb in a window with a ladder. He found Talia alive but unconscious and after crying aloud that he was unable to wake her he carried her to a bed and raped her. Then he left her in the bed and went back to his kingdom. Even though Talia was unconscious, she gave birth to twins, one of whom kept sucking her fingers. Talia woke up because the twin had sucked out the flax that was stuck deep in Talia's finger, causing her deep sleep. Once awake, she realized that she was a mother but did not know what had happened to her. One day, the king had decided he wanted to go see Talia again and went back to the palace to find her awake and the mother to his twins. He informed her of who he was and what had happened, and they ended up bonding. After a few days, the king went back to his realm but promised her that he would return to take her to his kingdom .

The king had a wife who kept hearing him saying "Talia, Sun, and Moon" in his sleep, so she bribed the king's aide for information and later threatened him into telling her what had happened. After the queen learned the truth, she pretended she was the king and wrote Talia asking her to send the twins to visit their castle. Talia sent her twins to the "king" and the queen told the cook to kill the twins and make dinner out of them, wanting to feed the king his children. The cook instead took the twins to his wife and hid them. He then cooked two lambs and served them as if they were the twins. Every time the king mentioned how good the food was, the queen replied "Eat, eat, you are eating of your own". Then queen later invited Talia to the kingdom and was going to burn her alive, but the king appeared and found out about his wife's plans. He then ordered that his wife be burned instead of Talia, and also burned those who had betrayed him. Since the cook actually did not obey the queen, the king thanked the cook for saving his children and offered him a reward. The story ends with the king marrying Talia and living happily ever after.[4]

There are earlier elements that contributed to the tale, in the medieval courtly romance Perceforest (published in 1528), in which 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, he draws from her finger the flax that caused her sleep. She realizes from the ring he left her that the father was Troylus, who returns after his adventures to marry her.[5]

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.[6]


This fairy tale is classified as Aarne-Thompson type 410.[7]

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.[8] Tchaikovsky's ballet and Disney's version name her Aurora.[9] John Stejean named her "Rosebud" in TeleStory Presents.

The Brothers Grimm included a variant, Little Briar Rose, in their collection (1812).[8] Their version ends when the prince arrives to wake Sleeping Beauty, unlike the stories of Basile and Perrault.[10] Some translations of the Grimm 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 the influence of Perrault is almost certain.[11]

The Brothers Grimm also included, in the first edition of their tales, a fragmentary fairy tale, The Evil Mother-in-Law. This began with the heroine married and the mother of two children, as in the second part of Perrault's tale, and her mother-in-law attempted to eat first the children and then the heroine. Unlike Perrault's version, the heroine herself suggested an animal be substituted in the dish, and the fragment ends with the heroine's worry that she can not keep her children from crying, and so from coming to the attention of the mother-in-law. Like many German tales showing French influence, it appeared in no subsequent edition.[12]

Italo Calvino included a variant in Italian Folktales. The cause of her sleep is an ill-advised wish by her mother: she would not care if her daughter died of pricking her finger at fifteen, if only she had a daughter. As in Pentamerone, she wakes after the prince rapes her in her sleep, and her children are born and one sucks on her finger, pulling out the prick that had put her to sleep. He preserves 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 serves them to the king.[13] His version came from Calabria, but he noted that all Italian versions closely followed Basile's.[14]

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.[7]

Joseph Jacobs noted 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.[15]

The hostility of the king's mother to his new bride is repeated in the fairy tale The Six Swans,[16] and also features The Twelve Wild Ducks, where she is modified to be the king's stepmother, but these tales omit the cannibalism.

Myth themes[edit]

Some folklorists have analyzed Sleeping Beauty as indicating the replacement of the lunar year (with its thirteen months, symbolically depicted by the full thirteen fairies) by the solar year (which has twelve, symbolically the invited fairies). This, however, founders on the issue that only in the Grimms' tale is the wicked fairy the thirteenth fairy; in Perrault's, she is the eighth.[17] The basic elements of the story can also be interpreted as a nature allegory: the princess represents nature, the wicked fairy 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 nature.


Illustration to Tennyson's 1830 poem, Sleeping Beauty
  • 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 was adapted into a Walt Disney animated film. The film was notoriously expensive to produce and was at the time not very successful, but has since 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 the wicked fairy significantly and features music from the ballet.
  • 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 the trademark controversy, in which the Walt Disney Company acquired the rights for the adaptation of the film.[19] When the trademark was granted back on January 17, 2012, the film production was completely abandoned.[20]
  • 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; 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, Talia waking up after giving birth and using 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, Sleeping Beauty (named Aurora after the Disney version) is portrayed by Sarah Bolger, and Prince Phillip is played by Julian Morris. Maleficent (Kristin Bauer van Straten) appears in a different context, but it is mentioned that she is the one who cursed Aurora and that she once cursed Aurora's mother in the same manner.
  • In his 1854 satirical fantasy "The Rose and the Ring", William Makepeace Thackeray used an element from the "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 otherwise.
  • 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", while fighting two of the Ayakashi sisters from the Black moon, Sailor Moon 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.

Sleeping Beauty in music[edit]

The Sleeping Beauty, ballet Emily Smith

Michele Carafa composed La belle au bois dormant in 1825.

Before Tchaikovsky's version, several ballet productions were based on the "Sleeping Beauty" theme, amongst which 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 based on themes from the music, he was not successful in getting the ballet staged again.

The fourth movement of Robert Schumann's Märchenbilder[21] depicts scenes from this story.

When Ivan Vsevolozhsky, the Director of the Imperial Theatres in Saint Petersburg, wrote to Tchaikovsky on 25 May 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 in art[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Bottigheimer, Ruth. (2008). "Before Contes du temps passe (1697): Charles Perrault's Griselidis, Souhaits and Peau". The Romantic Review, Volume 99, Number 3. pp. 175–189.
  2. ^ Maria Tatar, The Annotated Classic Fairy Tales, 2002:96, ISBN 0-393-05163-3
  3. ^
  4. ^ Basile, Giambattista. "Sun, Moon, and Talia". Retrieved 31 March 2013. 
  5. ^ Jack Zipes, The Great Fairy Tale Tradition: From Straparola and Basile to the Brothers Grimm, p 648, ISBN 0-393-97636-X
  6. ^ Charles Willing, "Genevieve of Brabant"
  7. ^ a b Heidi Anne Heiner, "Tales Similar to Sleeping Beauty"
  8. ^ a b Jacob and Wilheim Grimm, Grimms' Fairy Tales, "Little Briar-Rose"
  9. ^ Heidi Anne Heiner, "The Annotated Sleeping Beauty"
  10. ^ Harry Velten, "The Influences of Charles Perrault's Contes de ma Mère L'oie on German Folklore", p 961, Jack Zipes, ed. The Great Fairy Tale Tradition: From Straparola and Basile to the Brothers Grimm, ISBN 0-393-97636-X
  11. ^ Harry Velten, "The Influences of Charles Perrault's Contes de ma Mère L'oie on German Folklore", p 962, Jack Zipes, ed. The Great Fairy Tale Tradition: From Straparola and Basile to the Brothers Grimm, ISBN 0-393-97636-X
  12. ^ Maria Tatar, The Annotated Brothers Grimm, p 376-7 W. W. Norton & company, London, New York, 2004 ISBN 0-393-05848-4
  13. ^ Italo Calvino, Italian Folktales p 485 ISBN 0-15-645489-0
  14. ^ Italo Calvino, Italian Folktales p 744 ISBN 0-15-645489-0
  15. ^ Joseph Jacobs, More English Fairy Tales, "The King of England and his Three Sons"
  16. ^ Maria Tatar, The Annotated Brothers Grimm, p 230 W. W. Norton & company, London, New York, 2004 ISBN 0-393-05848-4
  17. ^ Lüthi, Max (1970). Once Upon A Time: On the Nature of Fairy Tales. New York: Frederick Ungar. p. 33. ISBN 0-8044-2565-5. 
  18. ^ Hill, Robert (1971), Tennyson's Poetry p. 544. New York: Norton.
  19. ^ "An Attempt To Stop The Disney Machine". Retrieved March 26, 2010.  Deadline Hollywood/Niki Finke, May 1, 2009
  20. ^ "US Patent and Trademark Office – Princess Aurora trademark status". Retrieved March 26, 2010. 
  21. ^ Märchenbilder (Schumann)

External links[edit]