In the film, Princess Aurora is cursed by the evil witch, Maleficent, who declares that on the princess’s 16th birthday she will prick her finger on the spindle of a spinning wheel and die. However, the good fairies are able to soothe the curse and instead of dying, the princess will fall into an ageless sleep and the only way to break the spell is to receive her true love’s kiss. The princess then is raised by the three good fairies hidden in the forest, and on her 16th birthday she returns to the castle. Though, as the spell informs she pricks her finger and falls into the ageless sleep. Her true love, Prince Phillip, then has to battle the evil witch that turns herself into a dragon, and defeats her by piercing her heart with his sword. Afterwards he returns to the castle, kisses the princess and she awakens.
As I’ve mentioned before, fairy tales today are retellings of retellings of retellings. For instance:
- Walt Disney’s Sleeping Beauty film is based on the retelling collected by the Grimm Brothers.
- The Grimm Brothers’ retelling was collected at the beginning of the 19th century and it derived from Charles Perrault’s 1697 version.
- And Perrault’s version is a retelling of Giambattista Basile’s 1636 recorded version.
You see? A retelling of a retelling of a retelling. So it will not come to a surprise that while today we mostly know the Grimm’s and Perrault’s versions, it is Basile’s version that came before them, and of course, it’s not pretty.
In 1634, Giambattista Basile published the story “Sun, Moon, and Talia” in his collection titled the Pentamerone. In this story, a splinter of a flax goes under Princess Talia’s finger nail and she drops dead to the ground. Her parents are not able to bury her, so they leave her on a velvet chair and leave the castle, locking the gates and abandoning her. After some time, a King is out hunting and finds the castle. He explores the building and is astonished to find an abandoned castle with just a princess whom he believed was asleep. Of course, he falls in love with her beauty, rapes her, leaves her, and forgets her. Nine months later, she gives birth to twins that are taken care of by fairies. One day her son sucks on her finger and draws out the splinter restoring the princess back to life.
A while after that, the King returns and is not surprised to find her with two children. Problem is that the King was married, and while he slept he called his children’s and his mistress’ names. So his queen grew jealous, summoned the children to court and ordered the cook to kill them and serve them to the King. The cook could not do it, so he hides the children and cooks lambs instead. Although, while the King ate, the Queen kept taunting him telling him he was eating what was his. Then she orders Talia to be thrown into the flames, but the King hears her screams of grief and is able to stop his wife just in time. In the end, he orders his wife and secretary to be killed in the fire and later on marries Talia. The end.
Definitely disturbing and creepy, right?
Perrault’s 1697 version is similar, though in his version, the Queen was actually of the Ogre race and had Ogre inclinations, so she ordered the children to be cooked for herself. Thankfully, the cook saves the children in this version also.
Moreover, there are still older versions found. Written in the 1300s and collected in the Perceforest, the story is called the “Histoire de Troilus et de Zellandine”, and in this version, Zellandine is also raped and has a child while she is still asleep.
Furthermore, the princess is not always awakened by a true love’s kiss. In Basile’s version the splinter is sucked, in Perrault’s version it’s just the prince’s presence that awakens the princess, and in the Grimm’s version she is kissed.
So, Sleeping Beauty’s versions aren’t that pretty. Cursed, abandoned, raped, forgotten, envied… Not so sweet now, is it? Who would have thought that the beautiful Walt Disney fairy tale of “Sleeping Beauty” had such dark ancestors?
As for the story’s film adaptations, the most recent ones are the retelling on the television series Once Upon A Time and of course, this year’s film Maleficent that covers the villainess’ backstory.
Well, until our next once upon a time… Adieu 😉