May 25, 2010

Fairytale Origins - Part III
Sleeping Beauty

The beloved story of a young woman who goes into a comatose state after getting a splinter in her finger and then being revived by a handsome prince, has its basic elements in both Nordic mythology and 16th century French literature. From these beginnings, the story was developed by Giambattista Basile and revised by Charles Perrault, and the Brothers Grimm. The Walt Disney Sleeping Beauty story is only half the tale and is sanitized.

In the 12th century Norse saga, Volsunga, the god Odin, upset with the valkyrie, Brunhilda, cursed her to sleep on a couch surrounded by fire until any man would rescue and marry her. Eventually, she is rescued when Siegfried enters her domain and awakens her by cutting off her armor.

Four centuries after Volsunga, a story called Perceforest was printed in Paris. Based on oral stories from the 1300s, the work included a section titled “Histoire de Troylus et de Zellandine,” (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. While he is gone, Zellandine is cursed by a deity into an enchanted sleep.

Troylus finds her and impregnates her in her sleep. When their child is born, he draws the poison dart that caused her sleep from her finger. She realizes from the ring that was left with her that the father was Troylus; he returns after his adventures to marry her.

In the early 1600s, Giambattista Basile, published a collection of folk and fairy tales which included one called “Sun, Moon and Talia.” This Sleeping Beauty is the story of a young girl who is pricked by a poisonous thorn and falls asleep. Her father, the king, takes the body of his young daughter and sets it to rest upon a velvet cloth in the woods, locking the gates to his kingdom behind her. A married prince finds her and, not caring that she’s in an enchanted sleep, rapes her.

He returns to his family and nine months later Talia gives birth to twins, named Sun and Moon. Fairies look after the twins until one day the little boy sucks on his dead mother's finger, sucking the poisonous splinter from her finger, restoring her to life.

After a few months, the prince gets the urge to revisit the site of his pleasure, only to find that the girl he'd ravaged is now awake. An affair ensues after he admits to being the father of Sun and Moon. Then he leaves her, neglecting to inform her that he is married.

His wife, however, soon learns of her husband's indiscretions and sends her minions out to capture Sun and Moon. Her cook is ordered to kill them and grind their flesh into hash. Later that night as her husband is eating the hash she cries out that he is, indeed, eating that which sprang from his loins. Mortified, the prince throws her into the fire. Later, he discovers that the kind-hearted cook had substituted a goat for the children. The prince then marries Talia.

"Sleeping Beauty in the Wood" was published by Charles Perrault in 1697 and is essentially the same as Basile’s with a few added features. A mischievous fairy is the source of the curse placed on the young woman; the children are named Aurora and Jour; the prince’s vengeful wife is replaced by his ogre mother; and an attempt is also made to serve Beauty as a meal. Instead of a fire, the mother is thrown into a boiling cauldron.

In the early 1800s, the German folklorists, Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm, modified the fairy tale in their story of “Dornroschen (Little Briar Rose)." The story has none of the macabre features of earlier tales, has only half the plot, and has a true “fairy tale ending.” The story reaches its denouement when the prince awakens Rose with a kiss. Shortly afterwards, they marry and “live happily ever after.”

It is this version that Disney adapted for his Sleeping Beauty movie, although he did pay some homage to Perrault’s story. Despite being called Briar Rose by the good fairies who protect her, the princess’s real name is Aurora, the same name as one of the illegitimate children in the Perrault‘s tale.

Surlalune Fairytales, annotated version
Sun, Moon, and Talia
Sleeping Beauty in the Wood
Little Briar Rose
Sleeping Beauty, by Midori Snyder (Non-fiction)


Jamie D. said...

Fascinating and chock full of useful ideas...thanks again Carol. I'm loving this series. :-)

C R Ward said...

Thanks Jamie! I love fairy tales and the research is really interesting. :-)

Anonymous said...

I found the whole Rape of the Lock bit of the original (or was that in another story?) to be both fascinating and extremely disturbing.