"But scarcely had she touched the spindle when the magic decree was fulfilled, and she pricked her finger with it. And, in the very moment when she felt the prick, she fell down upon the bed that stood there, and lay in a deep sleep."
Once upon a time, a little girl was born that was exceptionally beautiful. Due to jealousy, a wicked witch wanted her dead. She ended up being raised in fosterage in the forest by magical midgets, but eventually the queen found a way to poison her and put her in a coma resistant to aging. Eventually, Prince Charming showed up, kissed the girl and woke her up, and slew the evil witch.
But, then, this article isn't about "Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs
A king and queen, very desirous of a child, finally succeed in giving birth to a little girl, and invite all the fairies
they can think of to celebrate. Unfortunately, they forget or otherwise ignore one,
who shows up at the christening anyway and curses
the girl to one day prick her finger on a spindle and die. One of the other fairies succeeds in softening the curse, to merely a long sleep.
The king and queen order all the spindles in their kingdom to be burnt, but manage to miss one in the castle itself, towards which the teenaged princess innocently makes a beeline. She finds a woman sitting there spinning, who in most versions is the evil fairy in disguise, but in some she is simply an innocently unknowing old lady. The princess is fascinated and asks if she can try spinning. Predictably, the moment she picks it up, the curse comes into effect, and she, accompanied by the rest of the castle, falls into a deep sleep.
Many years later, a prince (sometimes a king) makes his way into the now-overgrown sleeping castle, and finds the princess. He wakes her (iconically with a kiss
) and they fall in love
and marry (and eventually have offspring).
Unfortunately, his mother
, who has ogre blood, is jealous of the prince's new wife, and when the prince leaves on matters of state, she demands to have the princess' young children, and then the princess herself, killed and cooked for her supper. The cook manages to hide the unfortunate family and fool the queen with various cooked animals instead. This all comes to naught when the queen hears the princess and her kids at the cook's house, however, and she prepares a big pot of nasty, venemous creatures to kill them. Fortunately, the prince arrives home just in time
, and the queen falls into the pot of nasties, dying a Karmic Death
and leaving everyone to live Happily Ever After
. (In an alternate ending, the queen, thinking wife and kids are safely dead, realizes her son may not be so happy about that and tries to pass herself off as the princess. The prince works it out by asking the marriage bed.
Queen is duly put to death and prince is reunited with princess and kids.)
This, at least, is the full plot of the Charles Perrault
version of the tale. In most modern versions, starting with the Grimms'
"Briar Rose" (Dornröschen
), the second part of the story, in which the princess must cope with the jealous queen, is omitted. The Grimms in fact included the German version of this part as a separate tale (called "The Mother-in-Law"), ending with the king sentencing his own mother to death.
Still older versions of the same tale type, among them "Sun, Moon, and Talia
", replace the prince with an already married king. In these versions, he rapes the princess
while she lies sleeping and she gives birth to twins before waking up when one of the babies sucks the splinter out of her finger. The cannibalistic queen in this case is the king's wife. Compare The Brown Bear of the Green Glen
In another, even darker
variant, when the princess wakes and realizes what had been done to her, she's so enraged that she
eats the babies. Wow.
disregarded these earlier versions when they animated Sleeping Beauty
in 1959, following the Grimms in omitting the whole second part of Perrault's tale, and incorporating several songs from the 1890 Sleeping Beauty
ballet by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky
Both the Perrault text
and the Grimms' "Briar Rose"
can be read online.
"Sleeping Beauty" and its variations contain the following tropes:
Tropes found in Part I of Perrault's "Sleeping Beauty" and the Grimms' "Briar Rose":
- Curse: By the wicked fairy.
- Curse Escape Clause: The last good fairy modifies the curse of death to a death-like sleep, which is still a curse, but the sleep can be broken.
- Damsel in Distress: The eponymous princess.
- Dangerous Sixteenth Birthday: In Perrault, the curse hits "about fifteen or sixteen years later"; with the Grimms, it's on Briar Rose's 15th birthday.
- Dude, She's Like in a Coma: Only in the Grimms' "Briar Rose" the prince actually kisses the sleeping princess.
- Everything's Better with Princesses: ... and Princes.
- The Fair Folk: Don't snub them. The bad fairy seems to be a Black Sheep among a generally benign species, though.
- Faux Death: Don't worry, she's only sleeping.
- The Hedge of Thorns: And usually the prince is the last of a lot, and the only one who doesn't die on this. Also, the Trope Codifier.
- Karma Houdini: The wicked fairy.
- Law of Inverse Fertility: In both the Grimms' and Perrault's version, the princess' parents had long wanted and never had a child.
- Love at First Sight: The prince and the title character fall in love with each other at their first meeting.
- Not Allowed to Grow Up: The princess is asleep for 100 years, but remains a 15-16 year old girl.
- Parental Abandonment: In Perrault's version, the king and queen are not put to sleep. Instead, they leave the castle as soon as the fairy is done putting everyone else to sleep. Averted in the Grimms' version, where the king and queen are put to sleep with their daughter.
- Prince Charming: Not like those other princes we don't talk about.
- Possibly also the princes who died trying to save Sleeping Beauty.
- Public Domain Character: The Sleeping Beauty everybody remembers is mostly the Grimms' — the whole second part of Perrault's tale has become almost unknown.
- Revenge SVP: The wicked fairy takes not being invited to the baptismal celebrations rather personally.
- Rip Van Winkle: After a century-long sleep, much has changed - including the fashions. Upon rescuing the princess, the prince notes that she dresses like his great-grandmother did, but refrains from telling her.
- Rule of Seven: In Perrault's version, the princess has seven fairy godmothers (eight if you count the wicked fairy). Does not apply to the Grimms' version, where there are twelve good fairies.
- The Tragic Rose: Ninety-nine princes died on the thorns before the last one succeeded.
- True Love's Kiss: In Perrault's version, the princess wakes by herself when the prince enters her chamber; in the Grimms' version, the princes wakes her with a kiss. However, both times the prophesied 100 years of sleep were up, so even in "Briar Rose" the kiss is not the condition to break the curse.
- You Can't Fight Fate: To thwart the bad fairy's curse, the king has all the spindles in his kingdom destroyed, all to no avail.
Tropes found in Part II of Perrault's "Sleeping Beauty":