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Literature / Sun, Moon, and Talia

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The princess, the old woman and the splinter of flax. Illustration by Gustave Doré

Sun, Moon, and Talia, also known more formally as Il Pentamerone, Day 5, Tale 5 (from 1636), is the tale which is thought to have influenced Perrault's "Sleeping Beauty".

On the birth of his daughter Talia, a king asked all the wise men and seers to tell her future. They concluded that she would be exposed to great danger from a splinter of flax. To prevent any such accident, the king ordered that no flax or hemp should ever come into his castle. But one day when Talia had grown up, she saw an old woman who was spinning pass by her window. Talia—who had never seen anything like it before—"was therefore delighted with the dancing of the spindle." Made curious, she took the distaff in her hand and began to draw out the thread. A splinter of hemp "got under her fingernail and she immediately fell dead upon the ground." The king left his lifeless daughter seated on a velvet chair in the palace, locked the door, and departed forever, to obliterate the memory of his sorrow.

Some time after, another king was hunting. His falcon flew into a window of the empty castle and did not return. The king, trying to find the falcon, wandered in the castle. There he found Talia as if asleep, but nothing would rouse her. Falling in love with her beauty, one would think he kissed her at this point, but rather, he raped her. Then he left and forgot the whole affair. Nine months later Talia gave birth to two children, all the time still in a magical coma. They nursed from her breast. Once when one of the babies wanted to suck, it could not find the breast, but got into its mouth instead the finger that had been pricked. This the baby sucked so hard that it drew out the splinter, and Talia was roused as if from deep sleep to find that she'd been raped and was now a mother of two (one can imagine she had a lot of questions at this point).

One day the king remembered his adventure and went to see Talia again, presumably to rape her again. He found her awake, and confessing he was the father of her children, they went off to have a weekend long sex marathon in the hay, even though she didn't know his ass from Adam. Then he brought her and the rugrats to his castle, but was careful to keep them hidden from his wife. (Oh, did we forget to mention he was already married? What a charmer.) The king's wife found out his secret, and on the sly sent for the two children in the king's name. She ordered them cooked and served to her husband. The cook hid the children in his own home and prepared some goat kids instead, which the queen served to the king. A while later the queen sent for Talia and planned to have her thrown into the fire because she was the reason for the king's infidelity. At the last minute the king arrived, had his wife thrown into the fire, married Talia, and was happy to find his children, whom the cook had saved.

An unexpurgated translation can be read here.

For what this tale mutated into, see "Sleeping Beauty". Also compare to "The Brown Bear of the Green Glen".

Sun, Moon, and Talia contains examples of:

  • Adaptational Consent: Understandably most subsequent adaptations of this story, including Sleeping Beauty, omit the entire part about the rape.
  • Bowdlerise:
    • One English translation of the story tried to sanitize the story by changing the queen to be the king's stepmother, rather than wife, and stupidly kept the line about him blaming her for not having children.
    • One translation removed the Child by Rape element. Instead, two children randomly walk into the mansion (with the narrator outright saying that they don't know where the kids wandered from) and try to awaken Talia. The little girl puts Talia's finger into her mouth and tries to bite her awake, but instead she accidentally sucks out the object that keeps Talia comatose.
    • Later versions have Talia (a.k.a. Sleeping Beauty, Briar Rose, or Aurora) be kissed in her sleep, rather than impregnated.
  • Child by Rape: Sun and Moon are conceived when their mother Talia is raped by the king while she's in a coma.
  • Damsel in Distress: Talia, twice. First she gets put into a magical slumber, and then she gets captured and nearly killed by the queen.
  • Disneyfication: An Animated Adaptation removed the rape thing.
  • Dude, She's Like in a Coma: The fact that he can't wake Talia up does not put the King off in the slightest.
  • Faking the Dead: The cook pretends to serve the kids in the meal, but it's actually goats.
  • Familial Cannibalism Surprise: Attempted. The queen tries to have her husband served his own children for dinner.
  • Faux Death: Talia is presumed dead, and later her kids are involved in a death fake out.
  • God Save Us from the Queen!: She tries to feed her husband his own children and have his lover murdered.
  • Happily Ever After: Despite all the really strange turns to get there, Talia, Sun, Moon and the King get to live happily ever after.
  • Karma Houdini: The King. He raped Talia (in the process cheating on his wife), left her in the tower afterward and killed his own wife instead of just having a separation (granted, she did try to kill his children as well). In return, he gets two kids and another wife.
  • Love at First Sight: Or at least lust for the King.
  • Male Sun, Female Moon: Many English translations of the fairy tale have depicted the twins Sun as male and Moon as female.
  • Murder the Hypotenuse: Attempted by the queen when she orders that Talia be thrown into a fire.
  • Parental Abandonment: Talia's father just leaves her in the castle after she goes to sleep.
  • Princess Protagonist: The story focuses on Princess Talia, who falls into a death-like state after an encounter with a spinning wheel. In this story, she is raped by a king and bears him to children while still asleep, before eventually waking up and marrying him.
  • Public Domain Character: Long since being an example.
  • Unrelated in the Adaptation: Some versions like this one omit the rape and turn Sun and Moon into two beggar kids who find Talia while she is asleep.
  • Wicked Stepmother: The queen is technically Sun and Moon's stepmother.
  • Would Hurt a Child: When the queen learns about Sun and Moon's existence, she tries to have them killed and served as a meal to their father.
  • Yandere: The king's wife, who tries to kill her husband's lover and children after she learns of his infidelity.

Alternative Title(s): Sun Moon Talia