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Literature / Sleeping Beauty

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"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."

A king and queen, childless for many years, 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. None of the fairies can dispel the curse, but the youngest one succeeds in softening it from death to a death-like sleep.

The king and queen order all the spindles in their kingdom to be burnt, but the young princess finds one they happened to miss. She finds an old woman sitting there spinning: in some versions an innocent civilian; in others the Wicked Fairy in disguise. 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's 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".

Unsurprisingly, Disney 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.

Curse of Briar Rose, the first of the Dark Parables games, uses a sort of composite of the Grimm and Perrault versions to create a backstory for the sleeping princess, who has been sealed inside a castle in Scotland for a thousand years. When the prince kissed her, it woke up everyone in the castle except her, and he himself died from her curse. Now, the seal on the castle is broken, and giant briar plants are escaping into the city. Briar Rose herself is a significant character in the series, and more parts of her story are revealed as the subsequent games unfold.

There's also an anime version that's a part of Grimm's Fairy Tale Classics (from 1989), based on the Grimms' "Briar Rose".

Both the Perrault text and the Grimms' "Briar Rose" can be read online.

"Sleeping Beauty" and its variations contain examples of:

Tropes found in Part I of Perrault's "Sleeping Beauty" and the Grimms' "Briar Rose":

  • Beautiful Singing Voice: In some versions of the original fairy tale — most notably the Charles Perrault version — the princess is given the gift of song by good fairies. This is also one of the few details from the Perrault version that made it into the now-ubiquitous Disney version of the story.
  • Curse: By the wicked fairy.
  • Composite Character: Adaptations almost universally make the old woman at the spinning wheel the evil fairy in disguise.
  • 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.
  • Dangerous 16th Birthday: In Perrault, the curse hits "about fifteen or sixteen years later"; with the Grimms, it's on Briar Rose's 15th birthday.
  • Died on Their Birthday: Defied. The evil fairy had intended to kill the princess with a curse on her birthday, but a good fairy managed to weaken the curse to only make the princess fall asleep, instead.
  • Dreaming of Things to Come: The Perrault version implies that the good fairy was considerate enough to give the Princess some dreams of the Prince that would come to wake her up, showing her what kind of guy he was and all.
  • Dude, She's Like in a Coma: Only in the Grimms' "Briar Rose" does the prince actually kiss the sleeping princess.
  • The Fair Folk: Don't snub them. The bad fairy seems to be a Black Sheep among a generally benign species, though.
  • Fairy Devilmother: Carabosse, the one fairy who was left out felt spited and decided to curse the princess with death.
  • Faux Death: Don't worry, she's only sleeping.
  • Forced Sleep: The princess, and the entire castle, is trapped in the forced sleep until the Prince wakes her.
  • 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's 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.
  • Needlework Is for Old People: In most versions, the evil fairy disguises herself as a little old woman spinning.
  • Not Allowed to Grow Up: The princess is asleep for 100 years, but remains a 15-16 year old girl.
  • Outdated Outfit: The prince naturally notes the Beauty's dress is a hundred years out of fashion, but is too polite to say so to a woman's face.
  • 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.
  • Princess Protagonist: The Princess/daughter of the king and queen, who is put to sleep, is the heroine.
  • Protagonist-Centered Morality: In Perrault's version, the sleep that falls over the rest of the castle is not part of the curse, but an additional enchantment cast by the good fairy over the castle's servants so that the Princess will not have to wake up alone and without aid in a hundred years. Nobody bothers to ask the servants how they feel about waking up in a hundred years with all their family and friends dead.
  • Public Domain Character: The Sleeping Beauty everybody remembers is mostly the Grimms'—the whole second part of Perrault's tale has become almost unknown.
  • RevengeSVP: The wicked fairy takes not being invited to the baptismal celebrations rather personally. In Matthew Bourne's adaptation, the wicked fairy herself allowed the king and queen to have the child in the first place. Unfortunately, the king forgot to invite her to the baptismal celebrations afterward, and the wicked fairy took the apparent lack of gratitude personally and vowed her revenge.
  • 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 prince 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":

  • Big Damn Heroes: The prince/king shows up just in time to disrupt the queen's plans.
  • Faking the Dead: The cook hides Sleeping Beauty and her children in a secret room and makes the queen believe they are dead (and cooked and eaten).
  • God Save Us from the Queen!: The prince's evil mother, who is secretly an ogre. Note that this is a totally different character from the wicked fairy that cursed the princess in the first part.
  • Half-Human Hybrid: While this fact is never really called attention to, the prince is technically half-ogre on his mother's side.
  • Happily Ever After: Finally after the death of the Prince's mother, the couple is allowed to be happy with the children.
  • I'm a Humanitarian: The prince's evil mother wants to eat the princess's two babies and finally, the princess herself.
  • Just in Time: Sleeping Beauty, her children and the merciful servants are already lined up with their hands tied and are just about to be pushed into the queen's Snake Pit, when the king unexpectedly returns to the castle, causing the execution to stop and the queen's evil plan to blow up.
  • Karmic Death: When her cover blows, the evil queen throws herself into the snake pit which she prepared for Sleeping Beauty, her children and the cook.
    [T]he Ogress [...] threw herself head foremost into the tub, and was instantly devoured by the ugly creatures she had ordered to be thrown into it for others.
  • Merciful Minion: The cook that is ordered to kill and serve Sleeping Beauty and her children, but cleverly substitutes a lamb, a goat kid, and a hind (female deer).
  • Our Ogres Are Hungrier: The evil mother who wants to eat the princess and her children.
  • Secret Relationship: The prince does not tell his parents about his marriage with Sleeping Beauty or his two children (out of fear of his ogre mother). He only reveals their existence after his father dies.
  • Snake Pit: The ogress queen orders a large tub to be "filled with toads, vipers, snakes, and all sorts of serpents" as a means to execute Sleeping Beauty, her children, and the disobedient cooks. But when the king returns before the execution is carried out, the ogress throws herself into the pit and is "instantly devoured".
  • Wicked Cultured: The ogre queen orders Sleeping Beauty and her children served with a sauce Robert.
    "I will eat the Queen with the same sauce I had with her children."
  • Wicked Stepmother: The evil mother.