Monday, March 19, 2012

Evaluating fairy tales

The fairy tale is a basic form of literature, and of art in general … The style of the fairy tale and its image of man are of timeless validity and at the same time, of special significance in our age.

Mark Lithi
Once upon a time: on the nature of fairy tales

Deeper meaning resides in the fairy tales told to me in my childhood than in the truth that is taught by life.


What was your favourite fairy story as a child?
Did you have a favourite fairy story as a child? Can you remember walking through the woods with Little Red Riding Hood as she went to visit her grandmother or cheering as Jack the Giant Killer managed to defeat some very scary giants or bubbling with excitement as Cinderella prepared to go to the ball?

For many adults, the fairy tales they heard or read as children are the childhood stories they remember best. Fairy tales continue to be popular and they form a significant part of the literature available for children these days.

This module describes the characteristics of fairy tales, explains why they continue to appeal, examines one tale, The Sleeping Beauty in detail and provides four reasons for sharing fairy tales with children. It provides you with the skills needed to critically evaluate fairy stories.

The term “fairy tale” first appeared in the Oxford English dictionary in 1749. It first appeared in French as the book title, Contes de fees, written by Madame d’Aulony, a contemporary of Charles Perrault, and published in France in 1698. The book was translated into English and published as the Tales of the fairys in 1699. But the term “fairy tales” may actually be misleading. While the stories do contain an element of magic (see below) they do not always contain fairies. So how to distinguish a fairy tale from a folk tale?

Characteristics of fairy tales
Fairy tales are considered part of the larger body of folk or traditional tales originally passed on orally from generation to generation. Fairy tales differ from folk tales in one key aspect: they include some aspect of enchantment or the supernatural. This element of magic serves to heighten the realism contained in the tales. While the events presented in a tale may be unusual or improbable, they are presented as ordinary within the context of the story. Listeners are thus encouraged to speculate how they would react in similar circumstances.

In addition to the element of magic, fairy tales contain a number of other distinctive characteristics. Because fairy tales are considered part of folk or traditional literature, they share many of the same characteristics including –
  • Characters
    o Are stock or flat characterso Are usually all together good or bado Do not grow or develop during the storyo Often have generic names or very common names
     e.g. Sleeping Beauty, Hansel
  • Heroo Usually a young persono May also be the youngest person of his familyo May have been disowned or abandoned
  • Ploto Is more important than charactero Follows a consistent structure* Beginning, middle and satisfying conclusion
  • Settingo Set in a fantasy world
     e.g. “Once upon a time …"o Lends air of enchantment to story
  • Detailso Tell us much about the social conditions when these stories were createdo e.g. prevalence of step-mothers* points to the shortness of life and marriage for many women
     husband would usually remarry, as the children needed a mother
The Appeal of fairy tales
Fairy tales appeal to children because they reflect their beliefs about how the world works in four key areas:

First, virtually all young children believe that words, thoughts, actions and objects can somehow exert a magical influence. Therefore, it makes perfect sense to a young child that a humble pumpkin can turn into a beautiful coach. Fairy tales are full of that kind of magic.

Second is the belief that inanimate objects and humans have a consciousness like that of humans. Many fairy tales contain animals or inanimate objects that can speak.

Third is the simple code of justice found in all fairy tales: good is rewarded and evil is punished. In the Grimm Brothers version of Cinderella, she marries the prince and ravens pluck out the eyes of her wicked step-sisters.

Finally, young children believe that they are the centre of their own universe. The heroes and heroines of fairy tales certainly stand at the centre of their worlds: when Sleeping Beauty falls asleep, so does the entire castle
(Norton, 270).

But there is an other reason for their popularity: fairy tales contain many levels of meaning. The fairy tale’s deepest meaning will be different for each person. Originally intended for adults, the stories are rich in symbolic meaning.

In his Introduction to The Uses of enchantment, Bettelheim explains:

While it entertains the child, the fairy tale enlightens him about himself, and fosters his personality development. It offers meaning on so many different levels, and enriches the child’s existence in so many ways ... fairy tales are unique, not only as a form of literature, but as works of art which are fully comprehensible to the child, as no other form of art is. As with all great art, the fairy tale’s deepest meaning will be different for each person, and different for the same person at various moments in his life. The child will extract different meaning from the same fairy tale, depending on his interests and needs of the moment. (12)
Analysis of a tale: Sleeping Beauty
This section will briefly discuss the history of Sleeping Beauty and provide two different interpretations of the tale.

The first written version of Sleeping Beauty appeared in the Pentameron, published in 1636. Collected by Basile (c. 1575-1632) and published after his death, the book contained 50 tales, including versions of Beauty and the Beast and Puss in boots. Basile probably heard the stories as a child while listening to the women of Naples telling them. More details about the early history of Sleeping Beauty can be found in Appendix A of this module.

The next written version of Sleeping Beauty appeared in Charles Perrault’s collection of fairy tales published in 1729. The Perrault version is included as Appendix B of this module.
The Grimm brothers version of Sleeping Beauty was translated into English and published as part of a collection of folk and fairy tales in 1823. Here the tale goes by the name of “Rose Bud”. The Grimms altered the ending of the story as well: concluding it with the wedding of Sleeping Beauty and the prince who awakened her. Appendix C contains the Grimm version of this story.

In addition to these three version, there have been many other retellings of this tale. As you read through the three versions contained in the Appendices, you’ll notice some differences between thet different telling. These differences include –
  • who or what tells the Queen she is pregnant
  • the number of fairies invited to the child’s christening
  • the gifts given to the princess
  • the King’s and Queen’s absence during the enchanted sleep
  • whether the Prince kisses Sleeping Beauty to wake her
In the bibliography that accompanies this module you’ll find citations for a number of contemporary book versions of the tale. Once again, although the basic story remains the same, some details have been altered by those retelling the story.

But even if some of the details vary, the core of the story remains the same: despite all parental efforts made to protect her, an young princess pricks her finger and falls into an enchanted sleep. She is awakened from the sleep by a prince; they are married and live happily ever after.

In his book, The Uses of enchantment, Bruno Bettleheim explores the meaning of several popular fairy tales including Sleeping Beauty. Bettleheim views the tale as a metaphor for a young person’s coming of age. As we all know, adolescence is time of contrasts. Rapid change and growth alternate with periods of long and quiet concentration as teenagers prepare for adulthood and its responsibilities. He notes that Sleeping Beauty’s enchanted sleep is the equivalent of the turning inward experienced by so many teenagers.

In addition, Bettleheim sees other levels of meaning in the story. Sleeping Beauty’s pricking of her finger and the subsequent bleeding is seen as a metaphor for the onset of menstruation. This is a natural human occurrence which the King, her father, can postpone – remember he had all the spinning wheels in the kingdom destroyed – but he cannot prevent. Regardless of all the precautions taken by the parent(s), puberty comes. It’s interesting to note that in most versions of the story, the girl’s parents are absent from the castle when she pricks her finger, thus underscoring their inability to protect her from this necessary step in her development.

Bettleheim also explores some of the other symbolism in the story: he sees the staircase that Sleeping Beauty climbs as a metaphor for sexual experience. The small door and the room that she enters are symbols for female sexual organs. The key that she uses to unlock the door represents sexual intercourse. As mentioned earlier, the pricking of her finger represents the onset of menstruation. In most versions of the story, Sleeping Beauty encounters an old woman spinning in the room: a reference to the passing on of knowledge about being female from an old woman to a young woman.

Bettleheim also views the enchanted sleep as having a deeper meaning: Sleeping Beauty’s coming of age, that is, her sexual maturation is an overwhelming experience. She is not ready psychologically to find a mate, so she must be protected against all suitors until she is ready. Many try to get through the wall of thorns that surround the castle, but until the Sleeping Beauty is ready, none are allowed to reach her. Bettleheim believes that the message is clear: “this is a warning to child and parents that sexual arousal before mind and body are ready for it is very destructive.” (233)

Furthermore, the story tells us you can’t hurry a natural process (the growth towards emotional and physical maturity) and that seemingly impossible problems will eventually solve themselves. Bettleheim believes that by waiting for her prince and marrying him (and bearing him children as she does in the Perrault version) Sleeping Beauty is “the incarnation of perfect femininity.” (236)

While Bettleheim offers a Freudian interpretation of Sleeping Beauty, more recent analysis of fairy tales view the tales in a different light. Feminist criticism states that “traditional fairy tales fuse morality with romantic fantasy in order to portray cultural ideas for human relationships.” (Rowe, 359) Fairy tales depict cultural ideas that are still seen today in some forms of popular culture such as romance fiction. Taken from this perspective, fairy tales are seen as a mechanism for inculcating roles and behaviour and teaching what is appropriate and expected.

Feminist criticism would agree with Bettleheim that the story of Sleeping Beauty focuses on a crucial period in a young girl’s life. It dramatizes the story of a young and her parents being confronted with her sexual maturation and provides a socially acceptable solution.

But feminist criticism parts company with Bettleheim’s more traditional interpretation. Feminist critics note that Sleeping Beauty is an entirely passive heroine who must wait for her prince to awaken her. She achieves her status and fortune, not from her own efforts, but by blind commitments to a prince she’s never seen before. In addition, by waking Sleeping Beauty, the prince triumphs over the evil fairy, thus punishing this exhibition of female force. Feminist criticism poses a very interesting question about young girls’ identification with the characters in this tale and asks: as a young girl who did you identify with – Sleeping Beauty who demonstrates the traditional feminist qualities of passivity and dependence or the evil fairy who demonstrates the untraditional demonstration of power?

Feminist criticism would agree with Bettleheim that as a story, Sleeping Beauty is a metaphor for teenage girls who must resolve a number of issues in their lives. These issues include their ambivalent feelings towards their parents and the changes occurring in their bodies plus their growing attraction to the opposite sex.

However, feminist critics argue that by placing her fate in the hand of the prince who awakes her, Sleeping Beauty denies her own power to solve her own problems. Her marriage, then continues her “enchanted” state as she conforms to what is expected of her: “Festive nuptials signify the heroine’s conformity to the socially dictated roles of wife and mother and signal her assimilation into the community.” (359) And, even though there is a widening gap between today’s social practices and the romantic idealization shown in Sleeping Beauty, this story, like other fairy tales, still conveys a strong message: “fairy tale portrayals of matrimony as woman’s only option limit female visions to the arena of hearth and cradle, thereby perpetuating the patriarchal status quo.” (360)

Are fairy tales still relevant in today’s modern world? The answer is still a resounding yes. The fact that such a seemingly simple story as Sleeping Beauty can invoke such disparate interpretations show us how deep the meaning lies within the story.

The value of fairy tales
There are a number of reasons for sharing fairy tales with children. The first reason is simply for pleasure. The tales are dramatic and fast-paced. The characters perform marvellous deeds, they overcome what appear to be insurmountable obstacles and they all live happily ever after. Another reason for sharing fairy tales (and traditional literature as well) is to learn about other cultures. One of the best ways to understand a culture is to read its stories. There are many stories that recur in different cultures. For example, over 500 versions of Cinderella have been documented around the world. What does that tell us about the universality of that story?

A third reason for sharing the stories is that fairy tales provide an excellent introduction to how stories work. It is easy to identify the literary elements, such as setting, plot and characters, within these stories. But perhaps the most important reason for sharing fairy tales is that they teach children about the nature of life. Fairy tales clearly demonstrate that there are universal human problems and struggles that can be solved. If we let them, fairy tales (and traditional literature) will show us how to solve those problems.

As Jane Yolen put it: “traditional stories are the perfect guidebook to the human psyche.”

Works cited
Bettleheim, Bruno. The Uses of enchantment. New York, NY: Vintage Books, 1989. (first published, 1975)

Norton, Donna E. Through the eyes of a child. 4th ed. Englewood Cliff, NJ: Merrill, 1995.

Rowe, Karen E. “Feminism and fairy tales.” Folk and fairy tales. ed. Martin Hallett and Barbara Karasek. Peterborough, ON: Broadview Press, 1991.

Sleeping Beauty bibliography
Bettleheim, Bruno. The Uses of enchantment. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1985.
Makes a strong case for the value and importance of traditional folk and fairy tales. Provides Freudian interpretations of the most popular tales.

Early, Margaret. Sleeping Beauty. New York: Harry Abrahams, Inc. 1993.
Based on the Perrault version of story, but stops with the wedding. Illustrations are authentic and the castle depicted is the one Perrault had in mind. Exceptional colour printing, including the use of gold in all the pictures.

Evans, C. S. The Sleeping Beauty. Ill. by Arthur Rackam. London: Chancellor Press, 1987 (1920).
Originally published as a companion volume to Cinderella. Features both colour and black and white silhouette drawings. Text is a more detailed telling of the story that has been divided into chapters.

Grimm, Jacob and Wilhelm. Grimm’s fairy tales. London: Puffin Books, 1971.
Paperback collection of Grimm brothers’ most popular tales. Here the story of Sleeping Beauty goes by the title Rose-Bud.

Hallett, M. and B. Karasek. Folk and fairy tales. Peterborough: Broadview Press, 1991.
Scholarly study of folk and fairy tales. Includes “original” versions of many significant tales.

Hutton, Warwick. The Sleeping Beauty. New York: Athenum, 1979.
Delicate watercolour illustrations grace this retelling of the Grimm version.

Hyman, Trina Schart. The Sleeping Beauty. Toronto: Little Brown and Company, 1977.
Based on Grimm’s version of the story. Text and illustrations are very well integrated.

Mayer, Mercer. The Sleeping Beauty. New York: Macmillan Publishing, 1984.
Mayer plays with story, giving it even more Freudian overtones. Layout of book is very formal; illustrations are quite detailed.

Munsch, Robert. The Paper bag princess. Ill. by Michael Martchenko. Toronto: Annik Press, 1980.
A new, modern twist on an old theme. Children of all ages identify with Elizabeth who outwits a dragon and rescues an ungrateful prince.

Perrault’s complete fairy tales. Trans. A.E. Johnson and others. New York: Dodd, Mead & Company, 1961.
Contains translations of the classic tales as they first appeared in France in 1697.

Perrault, Charles. The Sleeping Beauty. Ill. by David Walker. London: Heinemann, 1976.
Amber toned illustration grace this retelling of the Perrault version stopping at the wedding. Walker is a British set designer.

Opie, Iona and Peter. The Classic fairy tales. New York: Oxford University Press, 1992.
Authoritative source on fairy tales. Includes reproductions of art from early editions of the tales.

Phelps, Ethel Johnston. The Maid of the North. Ill. by Lloyd Bloom. New York: Holt, Reinehart and Winston, 1981.
Collection of folk tales that feature strong female protagonists. Some tales have been rewritten to fit the feminist criteria.

Yolen, Jan. The Sleeping Beauty. Ill. by Ruth Sanderson. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1986.
Based on the Grimm’s version. Illustrations copy the English Pre-Raphelite style. Rose motif is carried through all the pictures.

Opie, Iona and Peter. The Classic fairy tales. New York: Oxford University Press, 1992.
Appendix A: Excerpt from The Classic Fairy Tales

This excerpt from The Classic Fairy Tales examines the origins of Sleeping Beauty in Basile’s Pentamerone.
‘La Belle au bois dormant’ was the first tale in Perrault’s Histoires ou contes du temps passé, 1697; and it is a tale so finely told it is no surprise that the retellings which folklorists have subsequently found in oral tradition have been subsequently found in oral tradition have been flat or foolish in comparison. The story of “Dornröschen”, for instance, collected by the Grimm brothers in Hesse at the beginning of the nineteenth century, which is undoubtedly derived from Perrault’s text, however reluctant the Grimms were to recognize it, possesses little of the quality of the French tale. Yet it is evidence from Basile’s Pentamerone (Day 5, tale 5), 1636, that the tale Perrault immortalized was not the whole story; or rather, that his tale was in part defective.
In this seventeenth-century Neapolitan story a great king commands the wise men of his country to assemble and tell him the future of his newborn daughter, named Talia. The wise men confer, and agree that peril will come to her from a splinter in some flax. To safeguard his child, the king orders that no flax, or any similar material, shall enter his palace. But one day when Talia has grown up, she is standing at a window and an old woman passes by who is spinning. Due to the king’s injunction, the princess has never seen anyone spinning, and she asks if she may try it. No sooner has she taken the distaff in her hand, and began to draw out the thread, than a splinter gets under her finger-nail, and she falls dead. Her father, stricken with grief, places Talia’s body on a velvet chair, and locking the gates of the palace, which is in the middle of a wood, abandons it forever. Sometime later (we are not told how much later) a king is out hunting, and his falcon flies into a window of the palace. Since the bird does not return he follows it, explores the building, and is astonished to find it deserted except for the princess whom he takes to be asleep. He cannot rouse her, yet falls in love with the insensible body as did the prince who came upon Snow White laid out in her coffin; but being less courteous, he rapes her, leaves her, and forgets her. Nine months later Talia gives birth to twins, a boy and a girl. The infants are looked after by fairies, and feed at their mother’s breast. One day one of the infants mistakenly sucks at her finger, the finger that has been pricked, and draws out the splinter, restoring Talia to life. (Compare, again, with the story of Snow White; and with the further tale from the Pentamerone summarized in the forenote to Snow White.) Some while after this, the king, hunting again in the same locality, recollects his adventure with the fair sleeper, revists the place, and apparently is not abashed to find Talia awake, and with two children. He tells her what happened; they form – to quote a nineteenth-century translation – ‘a great league and friendship’; and he remains several days. 
At this point the plot rises above Perrault’s, whose seemingly unnecessary appendage, in which the king’s mother turns out to be an ogress yearning to eat her grandchildren – an appetite usually attributed to stepmothers – is here shown to be an essential part of the story incorrectly transmitted. In Basile’s tale it is revealed that the sport-loving king was already married. When he returns home after his compact with Talia, his wife – the queen – soon guesses the reason for his dallying elsewhere, and gains the information that he has begotten two children – whose names, incidentally, are ‘Sun’ and ‘Moon’ (cf. Le Jour and L’Aurore, the two children in Perrault’s tale). Her jealousy, and consuming desire to kill her husband’s bastards, is thus understandable, even if not pardonable. By a trick she obtains possession of the children, and consigns them to the cook, with orders for their throats to be cut and their flesh to be made into a savoury hash. This she encourages the king to eat, repeatedly assuring him ‘You are eating what is your own’. Happily the cook has as tender a heart as has the ‘clerk of the kitchen’ in Perrault’s tale, and the dainty dish set before the king was made from the meat of two kids, although when the treachery is discovered the king at first believes he has eaten his own children. Talia, too, like Sleeping Beauty, narrowly escapes death. The Queen orders her to be burnt alive. Talia plays for time (in a more convincing manner than did Bluebeard’s wife), suggesting that she first undresses, to which the Queen agrees, not out of pity but because Talia’s clothes are embroidered with gold and pearls. Talia removes first her gown, then her skirt, then her bodice, and is about to take off her petticoat when the king, her lover, makes his appearance. 
That a story such as this was current before the Pentamerone is apparent from the fourteenth-century prose romance Perceforest, a vast work, printed in France in 1528 and translated into Italian in 1531, which seeks to link the legends of Alexander the Great and King Arthur of Britain. Here, in a chapter entitled ‘Historied de Troylus et de Zellandine’, the deities Venus, Lucina, and Themis, are said to have been invited to the banquet given in honour of the birth of the king’s daughter Zellandine. Themis – with less reason than the uninvited Eris before her – feels slighted because she has not been given a knife like the other guests ‘ and shows her displeasure in the now familiar fashion of putting a curse on the innocent princess. The exact nature of the curse is not known, so no attempt can be made to shield the princess from its effect; but her fate was to be the same as Beauty’s: 

‘She took from the hands of one of the maidens a distaff full of flax and began to spin, but she had not finished the first thread when, overcome with sleep, she took to her bed and slept so soundly that no one could rouse her; she neither drank nor ate, nor did her form and colour fade, so that everyone marveled how she could live in that state.’
Years later, when Prince Troylus finds his way to the sleeping princess in the tower, he behaves in the same unrestrained and casual manner as did the king who came upon Talia’s sleeping body. Thus when Zellandine awakes she, too, finders herself with child.
The tale of Sleeping Beauty in embryo, and perhaps even a hint of its significance, may be seen in the story of Brynhild in the Volsunga Saga; for when Brynhild was banished to earth, and the decree made that she should wed like any other member of her sex, her uppermost fear, it will be remembered, was that she might find herself mated to a coward. To ensure this would not happen Odin placed her in a deserted castle, and surrounded it with a massive barrier of flame. He then touched her with the thorn of sleep so that her youth and beauty would be perfectly preserved, no matter how much time elapsed before a hero arose courageous enough to make his way through the barrier of flame and enter the castle. Further it was ordained that when such a man removed the armour from her insensible body he would instantly fall in love with him, as indeed happened when Sigurd accomplished the feat. 
Perrault’s story ‘La Belle au bois dormant’ was first translated into English by Robert Samber, and the text that follows is from his Histories, or Tales of Past Times, 1729. The story is notable amongst Perrault’s tales in that it early achieved separate chapbook publication in England. Sleeping Beauty is, for instance, the only one of Perrault’s tales listed among the 150 ‘Histories’ published by Cluer Dicey and Richard Marshall in 1764. Sleeping Beauty has also a long history as a pantomime (in 1840 it was the first of Planché’s extravaganzas to be produced at Covent Garden); and pantomime producers have always known, what apparently Perrault did not know, that the way to wake Sleeping Beauty was with a kiss: 
Princess. ‘Ah! was that you, my Prince, my lips who prest!’ 
Prince. ‘She wakes! she speaks! and we shall still be blest! You’re not offended?’ 
Princess. ‘Oh, dear, not at all! Aren’t you the gentleman who was to call?’
Opie, Iona & Peter. The Classic fairy tales. Oxford: University Press, 1992.

Appendix B: Perrault’s version of The Sleeping Beauty in the Wood
This excerpt from Folk and Fairy Tales contains the Perrault version of Sleeping Beauty. Originally written for the entertainment of the French court at Versailles, the story was the first in Perrault’s collection, published in France in 1697. The book was translated into English and published in 1729.

Damsels in distress

This section, which contains four of the most famous tales in the Western world, suggests why much feminist criticism has been leveled at the folk-fairy tale. Each of the heroines exhibits varying degrees of passivity and much ultimately be rescued by a male and fulfilled by marriage. However, given the social prejudices through which these stories have been filtered and the gender-roles that they reflect, this pattern should not surprise us too much; we were well into the second half of our own century, in fact, before serious efforts were made (in the form of the feminist fairy tale) to redress the imbalance that is firmly entrenched in many traditional tales.
One point worthy of note about this quartet of heroines (and the heroes and heroines of many other tales) is the degree to which they are “in harmony” with the natural world. Their innate innocence and generosity of spirit provoke a protective response from some external agency, whether it be the thorns that surround the spellbound Sleeping Beauty, the birds that sort the lentils from the ashes for Ashputtle, or those that weep for the dead Snow-White as she lies in her glass coffin. Rapunzel’s innocence, by contrast, is revealed from within, as her tears miraculously restore the sight of her long-lost prince.
Feminist criticism has directed our attention not only to the young heroine, but also to other intriguing facets of the female presence in these tales. Contrasting the innocence and helplessness of the young heroine, for example, is the cunning and malice of an older woman – a character who is all the more sinister because her villainy is often insidious and psychological in nature; she will readily resort to trickery and deceit to gain her ends.
The older male, by contrast, plays a minor or even subservient role, and the younger male, the Prince, is more often lucky than brave; in none of these stories does he win his bride through heroic deeds. He is often almost as passive as she: the thorns give way before Sleeping Beauty’s Prince, Snow-White’s life is saved when her coffin is jerked by the Prince’s servants, Rapunzel’s Prince (admittedly after suffering) stumbles upon her by chance – and in the Perrault version of the tale, Cinderella’s beau has his servants do all the hard work in finding the true owner of the glass slipper!
Perrault’s Sleeping Beauty in the Wood provides us with another example of a familiar title that contains a less familiar “sequel” … We expect the story to end with the awakening of Sleeping Beauty, followed by her marriage to the Prince – but now a whole new episode begins, with the introduction of her ogrish mother-in-law, so Perrault’s version has not one but two formidable female antagonists! This second section of the tale clearly invites a Freudian interpretation as the Prince’s mother wages her ruthless campaign to destroy all rivals for her son’s affections.
In one way or another, all four tales in this section deal with the rites of passage between generations. In each one, some effort is made by a parent (or step-parent, or surrogate) to prevent the inevitable, although not always with wicked motive; in the previous section, for instance, we saw how Little Red Riding Hood’s mother’s natural desire to protect her daughter ultimately becomes a destructive force, as the innocent girl is sent defenseless into the waiting jaws of the Wolf (“The poor child did not know how dangerous it is to chatter away with wolves…”). It is significant that each tale (or, in the case of “Sleeping Beauty”, the first part) ends with the celebration of a marriage, denoting that the heroine has survived the loss of childhood innocence and is now ready for initiation into the privileged status of adulthood. Here perhaps is one reason for the enduring popularity of the folk-fairy tale: it offers vital reassurance to the reader/listener that while the road to maturity is both long and difficult, the goal of self-fulfillment awaits those who persevere.
The Sleeping Beauty in the Wood Charles Perrault 
Once upon a time, there lived a king and queen who were bitterly unhappy because they did not have any children. They visited all the clinics, all the specialists, made holy vows, went on pilgrimages and said their prayers regularly but with so little success that when, at long last, the queen finally did conceive and in due course, gave birth to a daughter, they were both wild with joy. Obviously, this baby’s christening must be the grandest of all possible christenings; for her godmothers, she would have as many fairies as they could find in the entire kingdom. According to the custom of those times, each fairy would make the child a magic present, so that the princess could acquire every possible perfection. After a long search, they managed to trace seven suitable fairies. 
After the ceremony at the church, the guests went back to the royal palace for a party in honor of the fairy godmothers. E ach of these important guests found her place was specially laid with a great dish of gold and a golden knife, fork and spoon studded with diamonds and rubies. But as the fairies took their seats, an uninvited guest came storming into the palace, deeply affronted because she had been forgotten – though it was no wonder she’d been overlooked; this old fairy had hidden herself away in her tower for fifteen years and, since nobody had set eyes on her all that time, they thought she was dead, or had been bewitched. The king ordered a place to be laid for her at once but he could not give her a great gold dish and gold cutlery like the other fairies had because only seven sets had been made. The old fairy was very annoyed at that and muttered threats between her teeth. The fairy who sat beside her overheard her and suspected she planned to revenge herself by giving the little princess a very unpleasant present when the time for present giving came. She slipped away behind the tapestry so that she could have the last word, if necessary, and put right any harm the old witch might do the baby.
Now the fairies presented their gifts. The youngest fairy said the princess would grow up to be the loveliest woman in the world. The next said she would have the disposition of an angel, the third that she would be as graceful as a gazelle, the fourth gave her the gift of dancing, the fifth of singing like a nightingale, and the sixth said she would be able to play any kind of musical instrument that she wanted to. 
But when it came to the old fairy’s turn, she shook with spite and announced that, in spite of her beauty and accomplishments, the princess was going to prick her finger with a spindle and die of it. 
All the guests trembled and wept. But the youngest fairy stepped out from behind the tapestry and cried out: 
“Don’t despair, King and Queen; your daughter will not die – although, alas, I cannot undo entirely the magic of a senior-ranking fairy. The princess will prick her finger with a spindle but, instead of dying, she will fall into a deep sleep that will last for a hundred years. And at the end of a hundred years, the son of a king will come to wake her.” 
In spite of this comfort, the king did all he could to escape the curse; he forbade the use of a spindle, or even the possession of one, on pain or death, in all the lands he governed. 
Fifteen or sixteen years went by. The king and queen were spending the summer at a castle in the country and one day the princess decided to explore, prowling through room after room until at last she climbed up a spiral staircase in a tower and came to an attic in which an old lady was sitting, along with her distaff, spinning, for this old lady had not heard how the king had banned the use of a spindle. 
“Whatever are you doing, my good woman?” asked the princess. 
“I’m spinning, my dear,” answered the old lady. 
“Oh, how clever!” said the princess. “How do you do it? Give it to me so that I can see if I can do it, too!” 
She was very lively and just a little careless; but besides, and most importantly, the fairies had ordained it. No sooner had she picked up the spindle than she pierced her hand with it and fell down in a faint. 
The old lady cried for help and the servants came running from all directions. They threw water over her, unlaced her corsets, slapped her hands, rubbed her temples with eau-du-cologne – but nothing would wake her. 
The king climbed to the attic to see the cause of the clamor and, sad at heart, knew the fairy’s curse had come true. He knew the princess’ time had come, just as the fairies had said it would, and ordered her to be carried to the finest room in the palace and laid there on a bed covered in gold and silver embroidery. She was as beautiful as an angel. Her trance had not yet taken the colour from her face; her cheeks were rosy and her lips like coral. Her eyes were closed but you could hear her breathing very, very softly and, if you saw the slow movement of her breast, you knew she was not dead. 
The king ordered she should be left in peace until the time came when she would wake up. At the moment the princess had pricked her finger, the good fairy who saved her life was in the realm of Mataquin, twelve thousand leagues away, but she heard the news immediately from a dwarf who sped to her in a pair of seven-league boots. The fairy left Mataquin at once in a fiery chariot drawn by dragons and arrived at the grieving court an hour later. The king went out to help her down; she approved of all his arrangements but she was very sensitive, and she thought how sad the princess would be when she woke up all alone in that great castle. 
So she touched everything in the house, except for the king and queen, with her magic ring –the housekeepers, the maids of honour, the chambermaids, the gentlemen-in-waiting, the court officials, the cooks, the scullions, the errand-boys, the night-watchmen, the Swiss guards, the page-boys, the footmen; she touched all the horses in the stable, and the stable-boys, too, and even Puff, the princess’ little lap-dog, who was curled up on her bed beside her. As soon as she touched them with her magic ring, they all fell asleep and would not wake up until their mistress woke, ready to look after her when she needed them. Even the spits on the fire, loaded with partridges and pheasants, drowsed off to sleep, and the flames died down and slept too. All this took only a moment; fairies are fast workers. 
The king and queen kissed their darling child but she did not stir. Then they left the palace forever and issued proclamations forbidding anyone to approach it. Within a quarter of an hour, a great number of trees, some large, some small, interlaced with brambles and thorns, sprang up around the park and formed a hedge so thick that neither man nor beast could penetrate it. This hedge grew so tall that you could see only the topmost turrets of the castle, for the fairy had made a safe, magic place where the princess could sleep her sleep out free from prying eyes. 
At the end of a hundred years, the son of a king who now ruled over the country went out hunting in that region. He asked the local people what those turrets he could see above the great wood might mean. They replied, each one, as he had heard tell – how it was an old ruin, full of ghosts; or that all the witches of the country went there to hold their Sabbaths. But the most popular story was, that it was the home of an ogre who carried all the children he caught there, to eat them at his leisure, knowing nobody else could follow him through the wood. The prince did not know what to believe. Then an old man said to him: 
“My lord, fifty years ago I heard my father say that the most beautiful princess in all the world was sleeping in that castle, and her sleep was going to last for a hundred years, until the prince who is meant to have her comes to wake her up.” 
When he heard that, the young prince was tremendously excited; he had never heard of such a marvelous adventure and, fired with thoughts of love and glory, he made up his mind there and then to go through the wood. No sooner had he stepped among the trees than the great trunks and branches, the thorns and brambles parted, to let him pass. He saw the castle at the end of a great avenue and walked towards it, though he was surprised to see that none of his attendants could follow him because the trees sprang together again as soon as he had gone between them. But he did not abandon his quest. A young prince in love is always brave. Then he arrived at a courtyard that seemed like a place where only fear lived. 
An awful silence filled it and the look of death was on everything. Man and beast stretched on the ground, like corpses; but the pimples on the red noses of the Swiss guard soon showed him they were not dead at all, but sleeping, and the glasses beside them, with the dregs of wine still at the bottoms, showed how they had dozed off after a spree. 
He went through a marble courtyard; he climbed a staircase; he went into a guardroom, where the guards were lined up in two ranks, each with a gun on his shoulder, and snoring with all their might. He found several rooms full of gentlemen-in-waiting and fine ladies; some stood, some sat, all slept. At last he arrived in a room that was entirely covered in gilding and, there on a bed with the curtains drawn back so that he could see her clearly, lay a princess about fifteen or sixteen years old and she was so lovely that she seemed, almost, to shine. The prince approached her trembling, and fell on his knees before her. 
The enchantment was over; the princess woke. She gazed at him so tenderly you would not have thought it was the first time she had ever seen him. 
“Is it you, my prince?” she said. “You have kept me waiting a long time.” 
The prince was beside himself with joy when he heard that and the tenderness in her voice overwhelmed him so that he hardly knew how to reply. He told her he loved her better than he loved himself and though he stumbled over the words, that made her very happy, because he showed so much feeling. He was more tongue-tied than she, because she had had plenty of time to dream of what she would say to him; her good fairy had made sure she had sweet dreams during her long sleep. They talked for hours and still had not said half the things they wanted to say to one another. 
But the entire palace had woken up with the princess and everyone was going about his business again. Since none of them were in love, they were all dying of hunger. The chief lady-in-waiting, just as ravenous as the rest, lost patience after a while and told the princess loud and clear that dinner was ready. The prince helped the princess up from the bed and she dressed herself with the greatest magnificence; but when she put on her ruff, the prince remembered how his grandmother had worn one just like it. All the princess’ clothes were a hundred years out of fashion, but she was no less beautiful because of that. 
Supper was served in the hall of mirrors, while the court orchestra played old tunes on violins and oboes they had not touched for a hundred years. After supper, the chaplain married them in the castle chapel and the chief lady-in-waiting drew the curtains round their bed for them. They did not sleep much that night; the princess did not feel in the least drowsy. The prince left her in the morning, to return to his father’s palace. 
The king was anxious because his son had been away so long. The prince told him that he had lost himself in the forest while he was out hunting and had spent the night in a charcoal burner’s hut where his host had given him black bread and cheese to eat. The king believed the story but the queen, the prince’s mother, was not so easily hoodwinked when she saw that now the young man spent most of his time out hunting in the forest. Though he always arrived back with an excellent excuse when he had spent two or three nights away from home, his mother soon guessed he was in love. 
He lived with the princess for more than two years and he gave her two children. They named the eldest, a daughter, Dawn, because she was so beautiful but they called their son Day because he came after Dawn and was even more beautiful still. 
The queen tried to persuade her son to tell her his secret but he dared not confide in her. Although he loved her, he feared her, because she came from a family of ogres and his father had married her only because she was very, very rich. The court whispered that the queen still had ogrish tastes and could hardly keep her hands off little children, so the prince thought it best to say nothing about his own babies. 
But when the king died and the prince himself became king, he felt confident enough to publicly announce his marriage and install the new queen, his wife, in his royal palace with a great deal of ceremony. And soon after that, the new king decided to declare war on his neighbor, the Emperor Cantalabutte. 
He left the governing of his kingdom in his mother’s hands and he trusted her to look after his wife and children for him, too, because he would be away at war for the whole summer. 
As soon as he was gone, the queen mother sent her daughter-in-law and her grandchildren away to a country, to a house deep in the woods, so that she could satisfy her hideous appetites with the greatest of ease. She herself arrived at the house a few days later and said to the butler: 
“I want to eat little Dawn for my dinner tomorrow.” 
“Oh my lady!” exclaimed the butler. 
“She’s just the very thing I fancy,” said the queen mother in the voice of an ogress famished for fresh meat. “And I want you to serve her up with sauce Robert.” 
The poor man saw he could not argue with an hungry ogress, picked up a carving knife and went to little Dawn’s room. She was just four years old. When she saw her dear friend, the butler, she rand up to him, laughing, threw her arms around his neck and asked him where her sweeties were. He burst into tears and the knife fell from his hands. He went down to the farmyard and slaughtered a little lamb instead. He served the lamb up in such a delicious sauce the queen mother said she had never eaten so well in her life and he spirited little Dawn away from harm; he handed her over to his wife, who hid her in a cellar, in the servants’ quarters. 
Eight days passed. Then the ogress said to the butler: 
“I want to eat little Day for my supper.” 
The butler was determined to outwit her again. He found little Day playing at fencing with his pet monkey; the child was only three. He took him to his wife, who hid him away with his sister, and served up a tender young kid in his place. The queen mother smacked her lips over the dish, so all went well until the night the wicked ogress said to the butler: 
“I want to eat the queen with the same sauce you made for her children.” 
This time, the butler did not know what to do. The queen was twenty, now, if you did not count the hundred years she had been asleep; her skin was white and lovely but it was a little tough, and where in all the farmyard was he to find a beast with skin just like it? There was nothing for it; he must kill the queen to save himself and he went to her room, determined he would not enter it a second time. He rushed in with a dagger in his hand and told her her mother-in-law had ordered her to die. 
“Be quick about it,” she said calmly. “Do as she told you. When I am dead, I shall be with my poor children again, my children whom I love so much.” 
Because they had been taken away from her without a word of explanation, she thought they were dead. 
The butler’s heart melted. 
“No, no, my lady, you don’t need to die so that you can be with your children. I’ve hidden them away from the queen mother’s hunger and I will trick her again, I will give her a young deer for supper instead of you.” 
He took her to the cellar, where he left her kissing her children and weeping over them, and went to kill a young doe that the queen mother ate for supper with as much relish as if it had been her daughter-in-law. She was very pleased with her own cruelty and practiced telling her son how the wolves had eaten his wife and children while he had been away at the wars. 
One night as she prowled about as usual, sniffing for the spoor fresh meat, she heard a voice coming from the servant’s quarter. It was little Day’s voice; he was crying because he had been naughty and his mother wanted to whip him. Then the queen mother heard Dawn begging her mother to forgive the little boy. The ogress recognized the voices of her grandchildren and she was furious. She ordered a huge vat to be brought into the middle of the courtyard. She had the vat filled with toads, vipers, snakes and serpents and then the queen, her children, the butler, his wife and his maid were brought in front of her with their hands tied behind their backs. She was going to have them thrown into the vat. 
The executioners were just on the point of carrying out their dreadful instructions when the king galloped into the courtyard. Nobody had expected him back so soon. He was astonished at what he saw and asked who had commanded the vat and the bonds. The ogress was so angry to see her plans go awry that she jumped head-first into the vat and the vile beasts inside devoured her in an instant. The king could not help grieving a little; after all, she was his mother. But his beautiful wife and children soon made him happy again. 
Moral A brave, rich, handsome husband is a prize well worth waiting for; but no modern woman would think it was worth waiting for a hundred years. The tale of the Sleeping Beauty shows how strong engagements make for happy marriages, but young girls these days want so much to be married I do not have the heart to press the moral.
M. Hallet & B. Karasek. Folk and fairy tales. Broadview Press, 1991.

Appendix C: The Grimms’ Version: “Rose Bud”

“Rose Bud” was the title the Grimm Brothers gave to their version of “Sleeping Beauty.” This story was first published in England in 1823 as part of Grimm’s Fairy Tales.

Once upon a time there lived a king and queen who had no children; and this they lamented very much. But one day as the queen was walking by the side of the river, a little fish lifted its head out of the water, and said, ‘Your wish shall be fulfilled, and you shall soon have a daughter.’ What the little fish had foretold soon came to pass; and the queen had a little girl that was so very beautiful that the king could not cease looking on it for joy, and determined to hold a great feast. So he invited not only his relations, friends, and neighbours, but also all the fairies, that they might be kind and good to his little daughter. Now there were thirteen fairies in the kingdom, and he had only twelve golden dishes for them to eat out of, so that he was obliged to leave one of the fairies without an invitation. The rest came, and after the feast was over they gave all their best gifts to the little princess: one gave her virtue, another beauty, another riches, and so on till she had all that was excellent in the world. When eleven had done blessing her, the thirteenth, who had not been invited, and was very angry on that account, came in, and determined to take her revenge. So she cried out, ‘The king’s daughter shall in her fifteenth year be wounded by a spindle, and fall down dead.’ Then the twelfth, who had not yet given her gift, came forward and said that the bad wish must be fulfilled, but that she could soften it, and the king’s daughter should not die, but fall asleep for a hundred years. 
But the king hoped to save his dear child from the threatened evil, and ordered that all the spindles in the kingdom should be brought up and destroyed. All the fairies’ gifts were in the meantime fulfilled; for the princess was so beautiful , and well-behaved, and amiable, and wise, that every one who knew her loved her. Now it happened that on the very day she was fifteen years old the king and queen were not at home, and she was left alone in the palace. So she roved about by herself, and looked at all the rooms and chambers, till at last she came to an old tower, to which there was a narrow staircase ending with a little door. In the door there was a golden key, and when she turned it the door sprang open, and there sat an old lady spinning away very busily. ‘Why, how now, good mother,’ said the princess, ‘what are you doing there?’ ‘Spinning,’ said the old lady, and nodded her head. ‘How prettily that little thing turns round!’ said the princess, and took the spindle and began to spin. But scarcely had she touched it, before the prophecy was fulfilled, and she fell down lifeless on the ground. 
However, she was not dead, but had only fallen into a deep sleep; and the king and the queen, who had just then came home, and all their court, fell asleep too; and the horses slept in the stables, and the dogs in the court, the pigeons on the house-top and the flies on the walls. Even the fire on the hearth left off blazing, and went to sleep; and the meat that was roasting stood still; and the cook, who was at that moment pulling the kitchen-boy by the hair to give him a box on the ear for something he had done amiss, let him go, and both fell asleep; and so every thing stood still, and slept soundly. 
A large hedge of thorns soon grew around the palace, and every year it became higher and thicker, till at last the whole palace was surrounded and hid, so that not even the roof of the chimneys could be seen. But there went a report through all the land of the beautiful sleeping Rose-Bud (for so was the king’s daughter called); so that from time to time several kings’ sons came and tried to break through the thicket into the palace. This they could never do; for the thorns and bushes laid hold of them as it were with hands, and there they stuck fast and died miserably. 
After many years there came a king’s son into that land, and an old man told him the story of the thicket of thorns, and how a beautiful palace stood behind it, in which was a wondrous princess, called Rose-Bud, asleep with all her court. He told, too, how he had heard from his grandfather that many many princes had come, and had tried to break through the thicket, but had struck fast and died. Then the young prince said, ‘All this shall not frighten me, I will go and see Rose-Bud.’ The old man tried to dissuade him, but he persisted in going.
Now that very day were the hundred years completed; and as the prince came to the thicket, he saw nothing but beautiful flowering shrubs, through which he passed with case, and they closed after him firm as ever. Then he came at last to the palace, and there in the court lay the dogs asleep, and the horses in the stables, and on the roof sat the pigeons fast asleep with their hands under their wings; and when he came into the palace, the flies slept on the walls, and the cook in the kitchen was still holding up her hand as if she would beat the boy, and the maid sat with a black fowl in her hand ready to be plucked. 
Then he went on still farther, and all was so still that he could hear every breath he drew; till at last he came to the old tower and opened the door of the little room in which Rose-Bud was, and there she lay fast asleep, and looked so beautiful that he could not take his eyes off, and he stooped down and gave her a kiss. But the moment he kissed her she opened her eyes and awoke, and smiled upon him. Then they went out together, and presently the king and queen also awoke, and all the court, and they gazed upon each other with great wonder. And the horses got up and shook themselves, and the dogs jumped about and barked; the pigeons took their heads from under their wings, and looked about and flew into the fields; the flies on the walls buzzed away; the fire in the kitchen blazed up and cooked the dinner, and the roast meat turned round again; the cook gave the boy the box on his ear so that he cried out, and the maid went on plucking the fowl. And then was the wedding of the prince and Rose-Bud celebrated, and they lived happily together all their lives long.

Grimm Brothers. Fairy Tales. Puffin Books, 1971.

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