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.

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