True Love Comes by Fairy-Lot

Dakota Fanning as Sleeping Beauty, wearing a Dior gown. Photograph by Karl Lagerfeld, Vanity Fair, January 2007

 
 

Many a girl has waited long
For a husband brave or strong;
But I’m sure I never met
Any sort of woman yet
Who could wait a hundred years,
Free from fretting, free from fears.
Now, our story seems to show
That a century or so,
Late or early, matters not;
True love comes by fairy-lot.

 
 

Zac Efron as the Prince and Vanessa Hudgens as Sleeping Beauty. Photo by Annie Leibovitz, c. 2011

 
 

Some old folk will even say
It grows better by delay.
Yet this good advice, I fear,
Helps us neither there nor here.
Though philosophers may prate
How much wiser ’tis to wait,
Maids will be a-sighing still —
Young blood must when young blood will!

Charles Perrault

(Moral of Sleeping Beauty)

The Things They Had to Say

Sleeping Princess by Viktor Vasnetsov

 
 

Sleeping Beauty, by Henry Meynell Rheam

 
 

Illustration by Edward Frederick Brewtnall

 
 

“…This story fired the young prince. He jumped immediately to the conclusion that it was for him to see so gay an adventure through, and impelled alike by the wish for love and glory, he resolved to set about it on the spot.

Hardly had he taken a step towards the wood when the tall trees, the brambles and the thorns, separated of themselves and made a path for him. He turned in the direction of the castle, and espied it at the end of a long avenue. This avenue he entered, and was surprised to notice that the trees closed up again as soon as he had passed, so that none of his retinue were able to follow him. A young and gallant prince is always brave, however; so he continued on his way, and presently reached a large forecourt.

The sight that now met his gaze was enough to fill him with an icy fear. The silence of the place was dreadful, and death seemed all about him. The recumbent figures of men and animals had all the appearance of being lifeless, until he perceived by the pimply noses and ruddy faces of the porters, that they merely slept. It was plain, too, from their glasses, in which were still some dregs of wine, that they had fallen asleep while drinking.

The prince made his way into a great courtyard, paved with marble, and mounting the staircase entered the guardroom. Here the guards were lined up on either side in two ranks, their muskets on their shoulders, snoring their hardest. Through several apartments crowded with ladies and gentlemen in waiting, some seated, some standing, but all asleep, he pushed on, and so came at last to a chamber which was decked all over with gold. There he encountered the most beautiful sight he had ever seen. Reclining upon a bed, the curtains of which on every side were drawn back, was a princess of seemingly some fifteen or sixteen summers, whose radiant beauty had an almost unearthly luster.

 
 

Woodcut by Walter Crane

 
 

Trembling in his admiration he drew near and went on his knees beside her. At the same moment, the hour of disenchantment having come, the princess awoke, and bestowed upon him a look more tender than a first glance might seem to warrant.

“Is it you, dear prince?” she said. “You have been long in coming!”

Charmed by these words, and especially by the manner in which they were said, the prince scarcely knew how to express his delight and gratification. He declared that he loved her better than he loved himself. His words were faltering, but they pleased the more for that. The less there is of eloquence, the more there is of love.

Her embarrassment was less than his, and that is not to be wondered at, since she had had time to think of what she would say to him. It seems (although the story says nothing about it) that the good fairy had beguiled her long slumber with pleasant dreams. To be brief, after four hours of talking they had not succeeded in uttering one half of the things they had to say to each other…”

Charles Perrault

A Nature Allegory

Engraving by Gustave Doré

 
 

The Sleeping Beauty (French: La Belle au bois dormant The Beauty Sleeping in the Wood) by Charles Perrault or Little Briar Rose (German: Dornröschen) by the Brothers Grimm is a classic fairy-tale involving a beautiful princess, enchantment of sleep, and a handsome prince. Written as an original literary tale, it was first published by Charles Perrault in Histoires ou contes du temps passé in 1697.The basic elements of Perrault’s narrative are in two parts. Some folklorists believe that they were originally separate tales, as they became afterward in the Grimms’ version, and were joined together by Giambattista Basile (Sole, Luna e Talia), and Perrault following him.

Some folklorists have analyzed Sleeping Beauty as indicating the replacement of the lunar year (with its thirteen months, symbolically depicted by the full thirteen fairies) by the solar year (which has twelve, symbolically the invited fairies). This, however, founders on the issue that only in the Grimms’ tale is the wicked fairy the thirteenth fairy; in Perrault’s, she is the eighth. The basic elements of the story can also be interpreted as a nature allegory: the princess represents nature, the wicked fairy is winter, who puts the Court to sleep with pricks of frost until the prince (spring) cuts away the brambles with his sword (a sunbeam) to allow the Sun to awaken sleeping nature.