For Christmas, my parents got me several lovely books, and one of them was this really nice leather bound copy of a small selection of French fairy tales, which includes a set of three beautiful engravings with each story. Last night I took a break from the Iliad and sat down to read the first story in this book, which was Sleeping Beauty. Having never read the story before, and having only seen the movie when I was a small child, this was definitely a nostalgic and maybe even a little educational experience for me.
For any of you who are somehow not familiar with the story, here is a brief summary. Sleepy Beauty describes the life of Princess Aurora, who is graced with beauty, wit, grace, dance, singing, and the ability to play instruments well, but is cursed to fall into a deep sleep upon pricking her finger upon a spinning wheel. Well, of course, this happens and so that she does not wake up alone one day, her fairy godmother puts the entire castle to sleep as well. They all sleep with her until she is awakened by the kiss of a prince from another kingdom. They fall in love and live happily ever after. It may interest any of you to know that this is not actually the full story, and in addition, not the original story. The full story continues with either the prince’s jealous mother-in-law or wife, and was originally known as “Sole, Lune, e Talia” and had a much darker plot.
I will say that I think I might have preferred a different version of the tale, as this one was definitely a very simplified, story-book version. After four years of footnotes and Project Muse and Jstore access, I guess I feel deprived of the additional information that isn’t really available to me anymore.
All in all, this story was neat, and there were a couple of details I was really interested in looking at a bit closer, such as the concept of the fairy god mother. In the beginning of the tale, the King and Queen call upon all the fairies they can find (seven) so that they may find a fair god mother for their child. Now, I looked up a little bit about this, and apparently fair godmothers are actually not that common in literature, which is surprising considering how familiar of a concept it is in general (but I suppose it’s because of the popularity of the tales that we are so familiar with it). Anyway, I found it interesting that this was something specifically sought after given its rarity in literary forms at the time the story was written in during the 1600’s (published in 1697). I don’t have any books on this particular topic and the only informational website I’ve found is wikipedia (and, well, it’s wikipedia), but I look forward to finding some books on the topic later on.
It interested me to know that there are no consistent names in the various versions of this tale. Even Aurora (which, it is generally agreed upon is the princess’s name) is not always the princess’s name. So when I am presented with the name Uglyane as the name of the bad fairy, all I can think is, “wow, Maleficent sounds so much more… evil.“ All I see when I read the name Uglyane is a really old Pepper Ann still just trying to get through seventh grade, all the while, she was forgotten when the King and Queen summoned all the fairies in the region. The nerve. BUT. I’m almost willing to bet that that is not how the name is pronounced but do to the fact that I do not know French, this is the pronunciation that my silly American brain is stuck on.
At the end of this tale are three morals. I don’t know if they appear in other versions, and they also seem badly translated, but they also seem to all come to the conclusion that there is no moral to this story. That was kind of cool to me, considering most if not all fairy tales are meant to teach you something. I thought back on it after reading it and came to the same conclusion as the morals. There was literally no point to the story beyond being a cute little read with a love story finish.
I will close with a note I wrote as I was reading the section where the Prince wandered through the castle. At this point, of course, every in the castle is asleep, but they are not all just laying on the ground. Some are standing, some are sitting, the King sits with his pen still in the ink well. As I read through the Prince’s jaunt through the castle I became sufficiently creeped out. All of these people, standing, sitting, laying on the ground, perfectly stationary with their eyes closed. It just feels to me like that moment in a video game where you walk past all your enemies, get to your goal, and as soon as you touch it, they’ll all come out and attack you. But that’s just me.
Anyway, I look forward to actually reading a translated copy of “Sole, Lune, e Talia.” Seems like an equally educational read.