Freaky Fairytales: Sleeping Beauty

A deep dive into the freaky history of one of our most loved fairytales, Sleeping Beauty.

Adaptations Book Culture Opinions Pop Culture

TW for Rape and cannibalism

How I long for a nice long 100 year rest to escape from this mess. I’m sure you all can relate so let’s get into the only princess who got our wish. In this edition of Freaky Fairytales, we’re talking about Sleeping Beauty and her real story.

Sleeping Beauty That We Saw (Thanks, Disney)

A king and queen are celebrating the birth of their only child, and they invite the entire kingdom! Except, of course, for this one super-powerful witch who we’re told is evil. Why is she evil? Maybe it’s the weird taste in fashion, it isn’t entirely clear. So, there’s a party, and three good fairies (again, no reason or explanation given) are competing among themselves to give the princess the best gifts. Our antagonist gatecrashes into the party, obviously mad that she wasn’t invited, and places the blame on the baby, who had no input on the guest list. The baby is now cursed to die at the prick of the spindle of a spinning wheel by her 16th birthday.

The Last of the Classic Disney Greats: Sleeping Beauty | Tor.com
Image Via Disney

The king, in another show of A+ decision making, sends the princess to live in the middle of the forest with the good fairies (who can change the curse to sleep instead of death) and burn all the spindles in the land instead of communicating to his daughter that she’s in danger. The princess bumps into a prince, they fall in love at first sight, and when she finally finds a spindle and immediately hurts herself on it and activates the curse, he’s conveniently around to fight a wall of thorns and wake her up with true love’s kiss. Happy endings all around!

File:The sleeping beauty by John Collier 1.jpg - Wikimedia Commons
Image Via WikiMedia

What Was Told In The Days of Old

Ready to ruin your childhoods? Let’s do this. There’s always a king and queen and there’s always a princess. Two of the oldest versions involve the king getting a prophecy that his daughter will die of flax, and just about every version after that has the spindle of a spinning wheel. In every single version, the king decides that instead of just telling his daughter she should keep her distance from this one specific sharp pointy thing, it will be banned from the entire kingdom. Imagine if she was allergic to crab, and the king removed all shellfish from the land.

The fairies come after, and there’s one version where the evil fairy who curses the princess is overlooked because she hasn’t been seen around the castle in which she also lives in, so people think she’s dead. Either her stealth stats are through the roof or she’s an extreme introvert, but for someone who doesn’t want to involve herself in the castle’s events, she’s surprisingly mad about not being expected at the party. The princess inevitably comes across someone in the castle with a contraband spinning wheel and is curious about this new thing that she’s never seen in her life and as always, falls victim to the curse.

MeToo, Sleeping Beauty and the often controversial history of fairy tales
Image Via Google

Any version with the fairies always has the townspeople and animals fall asleep along with her, so should she ever wake up, strangers wouldn’t surround her. On one hand, I can see their reasoning, if I woke up from a coma to an entirely different world I’d be shocked too, but to subject a town of people to a 100-year sleeping curse for someone’s comfort doesn’t sit right with me either. Here is where it gets worse. The truly wild versions are where her sleeping body is found by a prince or wandering king who immediately falls for her, takes advantage of her, and leaves her pregnant with twins. She gives birth to these twins while she’s still asleep until one day one twin sucks on her fingers and accidentally removes the splinter of the spindle and she wakes up. Surprise, you’re a mom!

Revisiting Disney: Sleeping Beauty
Image Via Disney

The king comes back in a couple of years and is shocked to find her awake and with children. I will not lie, I would be too. Anyway, in the true kingly fashion, he already has a wife in multiple versions of the tale and she is rightfully suspicious. One version involves a jealous mother who doesn’t like that the prince has a family at all. I guess she didn’t want to be a grandma? She finds out about the king’s side chick (or only chick depending on is she’s his wife or mom) and instead of ganging up with her to destroy the prince’s life or rethinking her parenting methods(it wasn’t consensual, Sleeping Beauty did not ask for this!) she hires a cook to kill Sleeping Beauty and her kids and serve them up to her or her son as dinner. Putting aside the fact that we in the 21st century know that cannibalism causes weird diseases, so she was essentially dooming her kingdom by poisoning its rulers, that’s a super elaborate revenge plan that harms the innocent persons/kids in this scenario, which seems to be a recurring theme in this tale.

However, kindness prevails! Every version of the cook refuses to kill them and instead serves up animal organs disguised as human organs. The king finds out and then subjects his wife/mom to either get killed and cooked, or burned in a pyre, or killed in other inventive ways. One particularly memorable version exists where the queen finds out about the cook’s trickery and prepares a pit of venomous reptiles for his death (this kingdom needs worker’s rights) and ends up jumping in the pit and dying herself once her trickery is revealed. The king and Sleeping Beauty live happily ever after with their kids and I’m sure her unwilling participation in the child making never comes up as a talking point. #Couplegoals amirite?

Featured image via Bookstr