Day 19: Sleeping Beauty

Love's first kiss

Love’s first kiss

The 1959 Disney movie doesn’t change too much of Perrault’s original tale, La Belle au Bois Dormantexcept for a few details:

The original tale is two parts.

PART ONE:

  • There are seven fairies, not three as in the film
  • The spell’s reversal is slightly different: the last fairy says that the princess will fall asleep for 100 years, and will be awakened by a prince’s kiss
  • The Prince isn’t betrothed to the princess at the beginning of the story. He seems her 100 years later in a vision and is inspired to rescue her.
  • The Princess doesn’t go into hiding; she lives with her parents her entire life. When she is fifteen or sixteen, and her parents are away, she comes upon an old woman, who has not heard of the kingdom’s ban on spindles or spinning wheels. The Princess, who has never seen one, (since her father banned them), asks to try it, and thereby pricks her finger.
  • The good fairy who changed the curse’s result is summoned to the palace, and, distressed by the fact that everyone the princess knows will be dead by the time she awakens, places everyone in the palace in the same enchanted sleep. They will awake when the princess does.
  • Maleficient’s “Forrest of Thorns” isn’t hers; in the original story, the good fairy summons it to protect the princess and the palace from intrusion before the 100 years are over.
  • 100 years later, the Prince hears of the sleeping princess from his courtiers while he is on a hunting expedition. He decides to brave the thorns and forrest to find the princess. Entering the palace, he finds her chamber, and kisses her. The spell is broken.
  • Instead of rushing right to get married, the prince and princess talk for a long while, while the rest of the castle awakens. They are then married privately by the royal almoner.

PART TWO: this is entirely omitted in the Disney version–for obvious reasons!

  • The prince continues to visit the princess, who bears him two children “Aurora”, and “Day”. (The Disney story took the princess’ daughter’s name, and gave it to the princess, making her Princess Aurora. In the original story, the princess and prince do not have names.). The prince has kept his wife and children a secret from his step-mother, who is part ogre.
  • Once the prince ascends his throne, he sends for his family.
  • The Ogress Queen Mother sends the princess and her children to a house in the forrest, and orders her cook to prepare the boy, Day, for her supper. The cook substitutes a lamb, which satisfies the Queen Mother, but then she asks for Aurora to be cooked for her. Again the cook tricks her, offering a goat. Finally, the Queen Mother asks for the young Queen to be killed and cooked; the Queen, instead, offered her throat to be slit, since she believes her children dead (they were taken away and hidden to keep the Queen Mother from guessing the trick.). The cook, however, takes the Queen to his house, where she sees her children and they are reunited. The cook then prepares another dish for the Queen Mother, who, after eating it, realizes she has been tricked.
  • In a fury, the Queen Mother prepares a pit full of vipers and other horrible reptiles and plans to throw the Queen and her children into the pit. The King, however, arrives just in time, and pushes the Queen Mother into the pit, where she is destroyed.

In the Brother Grimm’s version, the Princess becomes “Briar Rose”, which Disney used as the Princess Aurora’s “code” name in hiding. Their version of the story is called “Little Briar Rose”, and the tale ends where the movie ends–with the arrival of the prince and the reawakening of the princess and the castle.  No children of the couple are mentioned.

Day 16: Towers, Thorns, and Twins

also known as: Rapunzel.

Yes. It’s a far cry from the story we all (think) we knew, or that was presented in TangledSince Rapunzel is my gravatar, you can assume I liked that movie. I did, certainly.

I will smack you with my frying pan!

But the real story of Rapunzel is… disturbing.

A man and woman lived next door to a witch. The woman was pregnant, and had an incredible craving for the rapunzel plant (Or rampion, in some versions of the story) that grew in the witch’s garden. Her husband, being a dutiful husband, went over the wall separating the gardens and picked some for his wife.

This did not make the witch happy. For payment, she demanded that the couple give her the child once it was born, in exchange for sparing the man’s life. The witch’s name is Mother Gothel (so Disney did retain this).

Every day, the witch asks Rapunzel to “let down her hair” so she could “climb the golden stair” to the tower to visit her.

One day, a prince rides by and hears Rapunzel’s voice. He comes to visit the area every day and discovers it’s a maiden in a tower. He observes Mother Gothel’s method for entrance, and when the witch has left, he tries it himself. Rapunzel throws down her hair and the prince can enter. He repeats his visits, eventually asking Rapunzel to marry him. She agrees.

Rapunzel and the prince plot her escape: Rapunzel will weave a ladder of silk to facilitate her descent, using the scraps the witch brings her daily.

Then Rapunzel spills the beans.

One day, while the witch is visiting, Rapunzel mentions that her dress is becoming too tight around her stomach, not knowing what this means. The witch does, though: Rapunzel is pregnant. Gothel cuts off Rapunzel’s hair and casts her off into the wilderness, where she bears her children–twins (one boy, one girl)–alone.

The prince, not knowing this development, comes to the tower as usual. Gothel tosses down the severed braid and pulls him up. Shocked at seeing the witch, and not Rapunzel, the witch tells him he will never see Rapunzel again.

This becomes literally true: the prince, in horror, throws himself off the tower, landing in the thorn bushes below, and is blinded.

Months later, wandering in the wilderness, the prince again hears Rapunzel’s voice, and they find each other. When she sees he is blind, she weeps, and the tears heal his eyes. With his sight restored, the prince leads his wife and children to his kingdom, where they live happily ever after.

So, you see, not a very kid-friendly story, huh? Although I’m sure it deterred girls from allowing strange boys into their rooms–at least for awhile.

Yet another Grimm Tale from those Brothers Grimm. German folktale definitely has a dark side.

Day 14: The Brothers Grimm: Grimm tales indeed

The Brothers Grimm were certainly aptly named; their stories are most definitely “grim”. They are, after all, the people who gave us Hansel and Gretel, who are supposed to be supper for the witch in the woods. Not something you’d want to read as a bedtime story!

The Brothers Grimm, Jacob and Wilhelm, were German academics, linguists, cultural researchers and authors who collected folklore and compiled them into two collections, which totaled 200 stories, the first being published in 1812. The rise of Romanticism in the 19th century increased their popularity.

Originally, the tales were German in origin, to celebrate their national identity, but they also published the stories of Charles Perrault (whom we’ll talk about in this series).

The scary stories were supposed to be “warning tales” for children, much like Pinnochio becoming a donkey when he skips school. Parents were directed to read their children “age-appropriate” tales. The Grimm Brothers didn’t shy away from horrible things befalling their characters, especially in the cases of Snow White and Rapunzel. Happiness is eventually found, but at a cost to all involved.

The stories that we are most familiar with are:

  • Rapunzel
  • Hansel and Gretel
  • The Musicians of Bremen
  • Tom Thumb
  • Snow White
  • Rumpelstiltskin
  • The Golden Goose
  • The Goose Girl

We’ll take a closer look at Rapunzel and Snow White during this series: Snow White tomorrow, and then Rapunzel.

If you’d like to know more about the Grimm Brothers themselves, I recommend the wikipedia page, which is very well done.

Day 13: Once Upon A Time…

We had fairy tales.

Well, we’ve probably always had them, in both oral and written form. They’re such a part of any culture that it’s hard to track their exact development. And most cultures have variations on the same “themes” or archtypes. In China, for example, the story of “Little Red Riding Hood” is called “Lon po po”, and was actually one of my favorites as a kid. (The illustrations in the copy I had might have had something to do with that. They were awesome.)

A Frenchwoman, Madame d’Aulncy, invented the term “fairy tale” in the 17th century: conte de fee, in French. The stories always contain an element of magic, and they begin with “Once Upon A Time” to invoke a time when magic actually existed in day to day life. It also can explain why we don’t have dragons or local fairies hovering around in the 21st century.

In the West, there are three main sources or schools of fairy tales that we’re familiar with:

  1. The Brothers Grimm–German
  2. Charles Perrault–French
  3. Hans Christian Andersen–Danish

We’ll go through each of these authors, their works and its characteristics, and some of their best-known tales–and how those tales as written are different from the version we think we know.