Friday, October 22, 2010

Sleeping Beauty

Also known as “The Sleeping Beauty in the Woods,” this is another classic story that has been forever immortalized by Walt Disney. Prior to Disney’s immortalization, however, it was immortalized as a ballet by Tchaikowsky. It was this ballet and not the original story that Walt and his team used to bring the story to the screen. George Bruns even adapted the familiar themes of Tchaikowsky’s score as the songs used in the movie.

This story is one of the best examples on record in favor of censoring classing fairy tales. The eraliest known version of the story, which was popular in 1636, is one of the most grizzly and horrific fables ever told. The prince stumbles upon Sleeping Beauty but, rather than just kiss her, he rapes her unconscious body then goes back to his wife. Sleeping Beauty awakens (somehow) and bears the twins the prince left her with. The prince’s wife (somehow) gets wind of these kids and has them killed and made into supper for her husband (even though the cook lets the kids go, the prince is still made to believe that he is eating his own children).

(Incidentally, the book Extraordinary Origins of Everyday Things by Charles Panati was a great help in researching these historic facts about the stories on this blog so if you’re interested in learning more about the history of fairy tales, nursery rhymes, zippers, Pepsi, Uncle Sam and the practice of hanging  a horseshoe over your door for good luck, seek out this tome.)

The version of the story that appears here is the same basic plot as Tchaikowsky and Disney used, with one or two touches of my own, usually employed when I couldn’t remember the story very well. To which I’m sure my reader(s) will say “But, Templeton, my boy, why didn’t you simply reread the story if you couldn’t remember it?” And my answer to that is, “Yes, that would’ve been a good idea.”

…anyhoo, here’s the story:

nce upon a time there was a great kingdom, the Kingdom of Borealis, which bordered the Fairying Forest. The Forest was the home of the Fairies, who lived together in harmony, in a society not too dissimilar from our own. There were houses and schools and families just like in our world. And, as in all societies, there was government. In this case, a council of Seven Wise Fairies. The Red Fairy, the Gold Fairy, the Blue Fairy, the Silver Fairy, the White Fairy, the Green Fairy and the Black Fairy. Each possessed a different type of power and together they kept peace and prosperity in the forest.

Now, some years prior to the events of this story, a decision was reached regarding the human population of Borealis. It was decided that since we humans have no magic, it was the responsibility of the Forest Fairies to watch over them. A vote was called for and the motion to make Borealis an official Protectorate of the Fairy Government passed six votes to one.

And so, for many centuries, both kingdoms got along very well and lived in peace and harmony. The King and Queen of Borealis always valued the Fairies’ counsel above all others. So, when the Queen gave birth to her first child, it was only natural that the Council of Fairies be invited to the Christening.

Unfortunately, there was a problem. As a matter of tradition, Fairy guests always ate from gold plates. But one of the gold plates had been damaged some years ago. There were now no longer enough for all seven Fairies. This didn’t bother the King and Queen, because it gave them an excuse to not invite one of the Fairies who no one really liked anyway.

This proved to be a terrible mistake.

On the day of the christening, the child was introduced to the world and given the name of “Aurora,” which means “the dawn.” On this day, she was also betrothed. That is, promised to be married to Prince Philip from a nearby kingdom. Philip, being five years Aurora’s senior, had little interest in her, but did as his father told him.

The party was a terrific success. When the six fairies arrived they each took turns bestowing a gift on the newborn child. Beauty…grace…song…purity of heart…intelligence…and the Blue Fairy was just about to give her gift when a thunderclap was heard. A wind that seemed to come from everywhere and nowhere roared through the chamber, blowing out every candle. Billowing black smoke appeared as if from nowhere and when it cleared, there stood the Black Fairy…mad as a whole forest full of hornets’ nests.

“Well!” she said, her voice as cold as ice. “I see we are all having a wonderful time tonight. The food smells delicious. And everyone is so nicely dressed. If I didn’t know better, I’d say it was some sort of party. But, look! Here are the King and Queen! That means it could not be a party. For, you see, any party that the King and Queen would attend would surely be a state function…and in that case…I would’ve been invited!!”

“Please, your grace,” began the King, “let me explain. We wanted to invite you, of course we did. But we only had enough gold plates for six. And since you have declined each and every invitation we have extended, we assumed…”

Silence!” bellowed the Black Fairy. And as she did, a terrible tempest wind blew. “I care little for your puny excuses. And it is not important that I would have declined anyway. You insulted me and for that you must pay!”

“Your grace,” said the Blue Fairy, taking control. “Please be reasonable. The King and Queen meant you no offense. And I am certain that any request you might make of them will happily be granted to make up for this unfortunate incident.”

“Unfortunate incident? Sister Fairy, do I not sit on the same council as yourself? Have I not the same powers as you and our five colleagues? Then why am I so easily cast aside? Why am I so expendable?”

“No one is saying that you are expendable.” Though practically everyone in the room was thinking it.

“Enough! The time for talking is done. I will take my leave of this place and never return.” This made everyone very happy, until the Black Fairy added, “But first…I have something to give the baby!”

Instinctively, the Queen lunged for her child, but it did no good. The Black Fairy waved her arms and spoke a prophecy. “Princess Aurora,” she declared, “will indeed grow up with the gifts that have, this day, been bestowed upon her. And up until her eighteenth birthday, she will be very happy. But before sunset on that day, she will prick her finger on a needle and die!” With these ominous words, the Black Fairy disappeared, cackling as she did so.

The Queen was struck with despair. She held her baby closer to herself as though her love could save her from this fate…and perhaps it could, because just then the Blue Fairy said, “If you please, Your Majesty, I believe I can help.”

“You can? Can you lift this terrible curse?”

“No, I cannot. The Black Fairy’s Dark Magic is too strong. But I can save Aurora’s life.” She took the baby from her mother’s arms and held the tiny princess tenderly. “Little One,” said the Blue Fairy, “on your eighteenth birthday, you will prick your finger on a needle. But it will not be fatal. It will simply put you into a deep, dreamless sleep. During this time you will not age, nor wither, nor die. You will simply wait for Love’s First Kiss. For when your true love’s lips touch yours for the first time, the spell will be broken, you will awaken, and all will be happy forever after.”

The words of the Blue Fairy were of great comfort to the King and Queen. Nonetheless, they decided that it was better not to take chances. A proclamation was made banning the use of all needles or needle-like implements. All the sewing needles, knitting needles, spinning wheels and other tools were taken into the center of the town and burned in a bonfire. But the King and Queen felt that this was not enough. As they were struggling to think of a solution, the Blue Fairy appeared to them with an idea.

That was the last night that Aurora would spend at the castle for many years. Under cover of darkness, the Blue Fairy stole away with the baby in tow. She would care for the child in the Fairying Forest for eighteen years, until it was safe to bring her back to her family. It was a great risk she was taking, as it was forbidden for humans to live in the Forest. They could visit from time to time, and the hunting was well known as the best in the country, but as soon as night fell, all humans had to leave.

But, the Blue Fairy had no choice.

And so it was that, for the next eighteen years, the Blue Fairy raised the child secretly in the Forest. She called the young princess by the name “Rosebud,” just in case the Black Fairy was still trying to find her. For if the evil Fairy found that the Blue Fairy was caring for a human child, princess or no, her rage would be uncontrollable. You see, the Black Fairy had been the only council member who had been opposed to the idea of granting the humans the protection of magic. She felt their lack of magic made them weak, inferior, and therefore undeserving of such protection.

But for eighteen happy years, no one saw or heard from the Black Fairy. Peace reigned throughout the land. Sad though they were to say goodbye, the King and Queen were comforted to know that their daughter was safe and in good hands. And all parties eagerly awaited the girl’s eighteenth birthday, the day when she would return to the castle, reclaim her birthright and live out the rest of her life in happiness and prosperity.

As for Prince Philip, he was fully aware that as soon as the exiled princess was of age, he would have to marry her. But he simply tried to ignore the fact. The way you block out something you are anticipating and dreading, like chores or visiting your unmarried aunt. Not that Prince Philip dreaded the idea of marriage…well, actually, yes, he did. Philip enjoyed his life. Living by his own rules and doing as he pleased. Hunting in the nearby forests, riding through the kingdom, helping his subjects. He knew that a marriage, however nice the girl might be, would throw a monkey wrench into his lifestyle and he did not want it…especially since monkey wrenches hadn’t been invented yet.

Unfortunately, he could ignore his fate no longer. For finally the day came when the princess was to return, and soon he would marry. And not just marry, but marry someone he had met only once, when she was only a few days old, whom he had not seen since. Whom no one had seen since! His father tried to reassure him that this union would be the best thing for both kingdoms. He also reminded his young son that five fairies had bestowed various gifts upon the baby so that she would be a pleasant companion.

“I do not doubt it, father,” bemoaned the Prince. “But I do not like the idea of marrying someone I don’t know against my will. Can’t you understand that?”


Prince Philip had no choice. That morning he woke, dressed and got in a carriage. He rode to the Kingdom of Borealis with a heavy heart. The King and Queen greeted him, but evaded the question when he asked where his fiancée was. They had managed to keep the curse a secret for some time, and they felt it best not to burden the young prince with the informatio now. For his part, Prince Philip assumed it was a tradition, not seeing the bride before the wedding. He was shown to his quarters and told that he would be married at sundown. This gave him the rest of the day to himself…and he noticed a lush, green forest near the castle when he rode into town…

An hour later, when the steward came to ask if he wanted anything, he found only a note on the pillow which said, “Gone Huntin’.”

The Fairying Forest was a beautiful place. Imagine everything nice about nature rolled together and sprinkled with magic fairy dust. The trees seemed to dance in the wind. The dewdrops sparkled like diamonds. The beams of light which shone through the high branches were as deep and radiant as moonlight.

These were the observations made by Prince Philip as he surveyed the territory. He knew at once that he would do well here. And sure enough he hadn’t been in the forest more than twenty minutes before he saw a beautiful deer. She was standing by a pond, having a drink. Philip ducked down behind a shrubbery and pulled an arrow from his quiver. The deer had no idea he was there. He lay the arrow carefully in the bow…he pulled the string taut…and then…


The Prince jerked and his arrow flew into the forest, narrowly missing a sleepy owl. The deer heard the noise and ran into the trees. Philip was furious. “Now look what you’ve done!” he said as he turned to face whoever had shouted.

Actually all he got out was “Now look wh—” before he saw who had shouted. The most beautiful girl he had ever seen. Dressed like a peasant in a long skirt and laced bodice. A sweeping, curvy figure and a simply enchanting face. Long locks of golden-brown hair fell past her shoulders. Her lips were full and red. And her eyes…my goodness! Her eyes!

“How could you even think of shooting a poor defenseless deer?” she said. Somehow she was even beautiful when she was angry.

“I…I…” was all the Prince could say, he was so taken by her beauty.

“What if she had been a mother? What would you have done for her poor children?”

“I’m sorry,” Philip said at last. “I didn’t mean any harm. I’m a sportsman, you see.”

“A sportsman? Hunting is not a sport, you fool! It is a necessity. You hunt because you have no other means of food or you don’t do it at all. What’s sporting about shooting an animal for fun?”

“It takes skill, patience and strength to be a good hunter. That’s what I call a sport.” The girl simply turned and walked away but Philip caught up with her. “Wait, wait,” he said. “I think we got off on the wrong foot. My name is Philip. What’s yours?”

“Rosebud,” said Rosebud, noticing for the first time what lovely, dark eyes Philip had. “And maybe I was a little harsh. You aren’t from around here, are you?”

“Why no. I’m in town for…for a wedding.” He neglected to mention whose wedding.

“That’s nice…are you hungry? I live not far from here.”

Rosebud led Philip to the cottage the Blue Fairy had made for her. They had lunch together and talked of this and that. And as they talked and learned more about each other, both Rosebud and Philip were falling more and more deeply for each other. It was nearly sundown before Philip finally left, and it was not his decision to do so. The Blue Fairy arrived and chased him away…with a carving knife.

“What are you thinking?” she yelled at Rosebud. “Letting a man in here? Didn’t I tell you how dangerous that was?”

“I like him,” said Rosebud. “He’s very kind and handsome and—”

“I don’t care! I told you no strangers. That is final. Besides, it doesn’t matter if you like him. You are promised to another.”


“Rosebud…I have been keeping this from you for too long. Sit down.” Rosebud sat and the Blue Fairy told her all about her past. How she was born a princess and how the Black Fairy had cursed her on the day of her Christening. How the Blue Fairy had gone to such lengths to protect her. How she had cared for her these last eighteen years and how today, on her birthday, she was to return to the castle and marry the Prince.

Rosebud…excuse me, Aurora, was devastated. As you would probably be too, if you were suddenly asked to change your entire life in a matter of hours, especially on your birthday. She didn’t want to marry some stranger. She didn’t want to live with a King and Queen she didn’t know. She liked her cottage, she didn’t want to leave the Forest. So she did what, again, you would probably do in her shoes:

She ran.

She ran deep into the Fairying Forest. The Blue Fairy tried to catch her, but Aurora was too fast. She ran, her streaming tears blinding her, until she could run no more. Then she simply collapsed to the ground and began to sob. There she stayed for several minutes until she heard an odd voice saying, “Are you all right, child?”

Aurora looked up and saw a withered old crone. An old woman with a wrinkled face and a long Black robe.

“No,” said Aurora. “I’m not all right. Everything I am is a lie. I’m being forced to marry against my will. I—”

“There, there, child,” said the Old Crone. “I will protect you. Come into my house and I will fix you a nice warm pot of tea.” Aurora let the Old Crone lead her into the house. It was a very small hovel. Just a bed, a table, a chair, a small stove and…in the far corner, something Aurora had never seen before.

“What is that?” she asked.

“Just Granny’s old spinning wheel. Have you never seen one, dearie?” Aurora shook her head. “Well, let me show you how it works.” The Old Crone led Aurora to the spinning wheel and sat her down. “Now you just run the thread through here and wrap it around the spindle. Like this…now you try.”

Aurora didn’t know why, but she could not refuse. It was as if the Old Crone was hypnotizing her. She pumped with her foot and guided the thread with her hand, and as she reached up to touch the spindle…

“Ow!” she pricked her finger. She saw a few drops of blood fall. She began to feel sick, woozy. She stumbled back and the Old Crone made no effort to help her. Soon Aurora was unable to fight anymore and gave in to the blackness. She fell back onto the bed, fast asleep.

The Black Fairy threw off her disguise and laughed. Her plan had worked. She stalked out of the cottage, satisfied that she had won. Then she turned to the cottage and cast a magic spell. A thicket of briars sprang up around the cottage, thick and twisted and deadly.

“What have you done?” cried the Blue Fairy, who had finally caught up with Aurora.

“I have won,” said the Black Fairy. “Your Princess sleeps within this cottage and will never wake…unless of course her true love finds her and breaks through this thicket. But, wait. You sent her true love away less than an hour ago!”

“So, you have been spying on me.”

“Of course. It was the only way to ensure that my plan would work. And now, those arrogant humans will get just what they deserve.” The Black Fairy threw back her head and laughed. As she did so, she melted away into mist and vanished. The Blue Fairy was horrified. She had no idea what to do. The first thing she had to do, unfortunately, was to tell the King and Queen what had happened. But, she noticed, she had left her wand in Aurora’s cottage, so back she went…

And when she got there, she was surprised to discover the young man she had thrown out had returned.

“What are you doing back here?” cried the Blue Fairy.

“I’m sorry if my presence offends you, ma’am,” said Philip, politely. “But I cannot stay away. I know it sounds strange but…I love Rosebud. I will do anything to be with her.”


“Yes, anything. Even betray my father.”

“What do you mean?”

“I am supposed to be at the palace right now, marrying the princess. But I won’t. I don’t love Princess Aurora. I love Rosebud, the girl I met in the forest today. And I’d rather live in this hovel with her for a hundred years that spend one moment in the palace with someone I don’t—”

“Wait…you are Prince Philip? Aurora’s betrothed?”

“I am. Or, rather, I was.”

The Blue Fairy could hardly contain her joy. Without another word, she led Philip deep into the forest to the Thicket of Briar.

“Why have you brought me here?” asked Philip.

“Because your true love is inside. You must rescue her.”

Philip needed no more convincing. He drew his broadsword and began hacking and chopping at the thicket. Slowly, gradually, he cut a path through to the door which, of course, had been locked. He broke it down and was inside. There he saw her.

“Rosebud!” he cried.

“No,” said the Blue Fairy. “Her name is Aurora. This is your true love and your betrothed! She will awake when you kiss her.”

And so, after taking a moment to absorb this new information and reflect on how life’s funny if you think about it, Philip stepped slowly toward Princess Aurora. He knelt beside her and looked at her sleeping form. So delicate. So beautiful. He held her limp, lifeless hand in his. Then he leaned in and placed upon her lips one perfect, gentle kiss. In an instant, Aurora blinked her eyes and awoke. She looked into the eyes of her beloved and smiled.

Then she pulled him close and gave him a real kiss!

And so, once again, we have a happy ending. Aurora married Philip (a little later than planned, but not bad) and they lived together for many years. The Blue Fairy was made head of the Fairy Ruling Council, who, using all their combined power, managed to strip the Black Fairy of hers and she was forced to wander the Forest for the rest of her life as one of the weak, inferior humans she despised.

And, except for Aurora always having a little trouble getting out of bed in the mornings, everything was truly happily ever after.


If You Liked My Story, You Might Enjoy:
  • “Faerie Tale Theatre” (TV) Christopher Reeve is the Prince, Bernadette Peters is the Princess
  • Sleeping Beauty (1959) Walt Disney’s lavishly produced, groundbreaking animated feature was the first to be made in Cinemascope and is widely considered one of the most visually stunning of all his films. Features the song “Once Upon a Dream”
  • “The Rocky and Bullwinkle Show—Fractured Fairy Tales” The segment called “Sleeping Beautyland” depicted the prince as an entrepreneur who turns the snoozing princess into a theme park. The character was modeled to look like Walt Disney.

Next Week, for Halloween: “The Boy Who Left Home To Learn About The Shivers”

No comments:

Post a Comment