Sleeping Beauty



Sleeping Beauty ("La Belle au Bois dormant") is a fairy tale classic, the first in the set published in 1697 by Charles Perrault, Contes de ma Mère l'Oye ("Mother Goose Tales"). Elements of the story are contained in Giambattista Basile's Pentamerone (published 1634), in the tale Sun, Moon and Talia (ch. 39). Professor J. R. R. Tolkien noted that Perrault's cultural presence is so pervasive that, when asked to name a fairy tale, most people will cite one of the eight stories in Perrault's collection. Since Tolkien's generation, however, the most familiar Sleeping Beauty has become the Walt Disney animated film (1959), which draws as much from the Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky ballet (Saint Petersburg, 1890) as from Perrault. More than many fairy tales, Sleeping Beauty partakes of many deep European myths, both pagan and Christian.

The basic elements of Perrault's narrative are in two parts.

Part one:

At the christening of a long-wished-for princess, fairies invited as godmothers offered gifts of beauty, wit, grace, and musical talents. However, a wicked fairy who had been overlooked placed the princess under an enchantment as her gift, saying that, on reaching adulthood, she would prick her finger on a spindle and die.

A good fairy, though unable to reverse the spell, altered its effect so that the princess, instead of dying, would fall asleep for a hundred years, until awakened by the kiss of a prince's son.

The king forbade spinning on distaff or spindle, or the possession of one, upon pain of death, throughout the kingdom, but all in vain. When the princess was fifteen or sixteen she chanced to come upon an old woman in a tower of the castle, who was spinning. The Princess asked to try the unfamiliar task and the inevitable happened. The wicked fairy's curse was fulfilled. The good fairy returned and put everyone in the castle to sleep.

Eventually, a prince arrived, and, hearing the story of the enchantment, braved the wood, which parted at his approach, and entered the castle. He kissed the princess, everyone in the castle woke to continue where they had left off... and, in modern versions, they all lived happily ever after.

Part two:

Secretly wed by the reawakened Royal almoner, the Prince continued to visit the Princess, who bore him two children, L'Aurore and Le Jour, which he kept secret from the Queen his mother, who was of an Ogre lineage. Once he had acceded to the throne, he brought the Princess and the children to his capital, which he then left in the regency of the Queen Mother, while he went to make war on his neighbor the Emperor Contalabutte, ("Count of The Mount").

The Ogre Queen sent the Princess Queen and the children to a house secluded in the woods, and directed her cook there to prepare the boy for her dinner, with a sauce Robert. The humane cook substituted a lamb, which satisfied the Ogre Queen, who demanded the girl, but was satisfied with a young goat prepared in the same excellent sauce. When the Ogre Queen demanded that he serve up the Princess Queen, she offered her throat to be slit, so that she might join the children she imagined were dead. There was a tearful secret reunion in the cook's little house, while the Ogre Queen was satisfied with a hind prepared with sauce Robert. Soon she discovered the trick and prepared a tub in the courtyard filled with vipers and other noxious creatures. The King returned in the nick of time and the Ogress, being discovered, threw herself into the pit she had prepared and was consumed, and everyone else lived happily ever after.

Michele Carafa composed La belle au bois dormant in 1825.

Before Tchaikovsky's version, several ballet productions were based on the "sleeping beauty" theme, amongst which one from Eugène Scribe: in the winter of 1828–1829, the French playwright furnished a four-act mimed scenario as a basis for Aumer's choreography of a four-act ballet-pantomime La Belle au bois dormant. Scribe wisely omitted the violence of the second part of Perrault's tale for the ballet, which was set by Hérold and first staged at the Académie Royale, Paris, April 27, 1829. Though Hérold popularized his piece with a piano Rondo brilliant based on themes from the music, he was not successful in getting the ballet staged again.

When Ivan Vsevolozhsky, the Director of the Imperial Theatres in Saint Petersburg, wrote to Tchaikovsky on May 25, 1888, suggesting a ballet based on Perrault's tale, he also cut the violent second half, climaxed the action with the Awakening Kiss, and followed with a conventional festive last act, a series of bravura variations.

Although Tchaikovsky was maybe not all that eager to compose a new ballet (remembering that the reception of his Swan Lake ballet music, staged eleven seasons earlier, had only been lukewarm), he set to work with Vsevolovsky's scenario. The ballet, with Tchaikovsky's music (his Opus 66) and choreography by Marius Petipa, was premiered in the Saint Petersburg Mariinsky Theatre on January 24, 1890.

The Walt Disney Productions animated feature Sleeping Beauty was released on January 29, 1959 by Buena Vista Distribution, and was at the time of its release the most expensive animated feature ever made. Disney spent nearly a decade working on the film, which was produced in the Super Technirama 70 widescreen 70 mm film process with a stereophonic soundtrack. Its musical score and songs are adapted from Tchaikovsky's ballet, with gothic-inspired character and background designs by painter Eyvind Earle. This tale includes three good fairies - Flora, Fauna, and Merryweather - and one evil fairy, Maleficent. In the Disney version, it is Maleficent herself that appears in the upper tower of the castle and creates the spinning wheel and spindle on which the princess, Aurora, pricks her finger.

The film cost six million US dollars to produce, and only returned a revenue of three million dollars, nearly bankrupting the Disney studio. The film later gained a following, and is today considered one of the best animated features ever made. The vocal talents of Mary Costa (Princess Aurora/ Briar Rose), Eleanor Audley (Maleficent), Verna Felton (Flora), Barbara Jo Allen (Fauna), Barbara Luddy (Merryweather), and Bill Shirley (Prince Phillip) help make this film the success that it has become.

Besides being Tchaikovsky's first major success in ballet composition, it set a new standard for what is now called "Classical Ballet", and remained one of the all time favourites in the whole of the ballet repertoire. Sleeping Beauty was the first ballet that impresario Sergei Diaghilev ever saw, he later recorded in his memoirs, and also the first that ballerinas Anna Pavlova and Galina Ulanova ever saw, and the ballet that introduced the Russian dancer Rudolph Nureyev to European audiences. Diaghilev staged the ballet himself in 1921 in London with the Ballets Russes. Choreographer George Balanchine made his stage debut as a gilded Cupid sitting on a gilded cage, in the last act divertissements.

Mimed and danced versions of the ballet survived in the distinctly British genre of pantomime, with Carabosse, the evil fairy, a famous travesti role.

Perrault so transformed the tale of a sleeping beauty, "Sole, Luna, e Talia" in Giambattista Basile's collection of tales, Il Pentamerone, that she is scarcely recognizable in the first part of the tale, the only part that is still current. Shared themes of violence, rape, rivalry and cannibalism appear in the second parts. Basile's was an adult tale told by an aristocrat for aristocrats, emphasizing concerns such as marital fidelity and inheritance. Perrault's is an aristocratic tale told for a high-bourgeois audience, inculcating female patience and passivity.

Beside differences in tone, the most notable differences in the plot is that the sleep did not stem from a curse, but was prophesied; that the king did not wake Talia from the sleep with a kiss, but raped her, and when she gave birth to two children, one sucked on her finger, drawing out the piece of flax that had put her to sleep, which woke her; and that the woman who resented her and tried to eat her and her children was not the king's mother but his wife.

There are earlier elements that contributed to the tale, in the medieval courtly romance Perceforest (published in 1528), in which a princess named Zellandine falls into an enchanted sleep and is raped by a wandering prince, resulting in the birth of their child. Earlier influences come from the story of the sleeping Brynhild in the Volsunga saga and the tribulations of saintly female martyrs in early Christian hagiography conventions.

Mention should also be made of the later version by the Brothers Grimm, Thorn Rose. The brothers considered rejecting it on the grounds that it was derived from Perrault's version, but the presence of the Brynhild tale convinced them to include it as an authentically German tale.

The hostility of the king's mother to his new bride is repeated in the fairy tale The Six Swans and also The Twelve Wild Ducks, where she is modified to be the king's stepmother, but these tales omit the cannibalism.

Italo Calvino included a variant in Italian Folktales. The cause of her sleep is an ill-advised wish by her mother: she wouldn't care if her daughter died of pricking her finger at fifteen, if only she had a daughter. As in Pentamerone, she wakes after the prince raped her in her sleep, and her children are born and one sucks on her finger, pulling out the prick that had put her to sleep. He preserves that the woman who tries to kill the children is the king's mother, not his wife, but adds that she does not want to eat them herself but serves them to the king.

* One of the fairy gifts is sometimes misremembered as Intelligence. No such gift was however offered in Perrault's version: not appropriate in 1697, when a good ear for playing music appeared more essential. More modern versions of the tale might include, apart from Intelligence, Courage and Independence as fairy gifts. This can be compared with the gifts Moll Flanders apparently possessed, in the book with the same name that appeared precisely a quarter of a century after Perrault's Sleeping Beauty (1722).

* Freudian psychologists, encouraged by Bruno Bettelheim's The Uses of Enchantment, have found rich materials to analyze in Sleeping Beauty as a case history of incest and latent sexuality and a prescription for the passive socialization of those young women who were not destined for work.

* The Princess's sleeping attendants, waiting to accompany her when she wakes in the other world, even to the spit-boys in the kitchens and her pet dog, expresses one of the most ancient themes in ritual burial practices, though Perrault was probably unaware of the Egyptian burials, and certainly unaware of the royal tombs of Queen Puabi of the Third Dynasty of Ur, the courtiers that accompanied early emperors of China in the tomb, the horses that accompanied the noble riders in the kurgans of Scythian Pasyryk. It is noteworthy that the King and Queen are not included in this analogue of a burial, but retire, while the protective spectral thorn forest immediately grows up to protect the castle and its occupants, as effective as a tumulus.

* The story of the sleeping beauty was loosely the basis for the erotic novel The Claiming of Sleeping Beauty by Anne Rice.

* It was also adapted by Mercedes Lackey into her Elemental Masters novel The Gates of Sleep.

* Another adaptation was Robin McKinley's novel Spindle's End

* Some fans see parallels between Sleeping Beauty and Shigeru Miyamoto's Nintendo Entertainment System game Zelda II: The Adventure of Link. In it, Princess Zelda has been placed under an eternal sleeping curse, until the young adventurer Link finds a way to wake her up. Instead of kissing her, he must break the spell by finding an ancient artifact, the Triforce of courage.

* Orson Scott Card adapted it as well for his novel, Enchantment.

* Jane Yolen used the tale as the basis for her novel, Briar Rose.

* Sophie Masson adapted a version of the tale in her novel, Clementine.

* Sleeping Beauty appears as a character in the Fables comic book. She is one of the three ex-wives of Prince Charming, and is one of the wealthier Fables. She is still vulnerable to pricking herself, falling back into an enchanted slumber when this happens, along with all others in whatever building she is in.

* The second half of Sleeping Beauty appears as one of the comics in Little Lit. The comic is written and drawn by famed comics author Daniel Clowes.Permission is granted to copy, distribute and/or modify this document under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License, Version 1.2 or any later version published by the Free Software Foundation; with no Invariant Sections, with no Front-Cover Texts, and with no Back-Cover Texts.
Virtual Magic is a human knowledge database blog. Text Based On Information From Wikipedia, Under The GNU Free Documentation License. Copyright (c) 2007 Virtual Magic. Permission is granted to copy, distribute and/or modify this document under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License, Version 1.1 or any later version published by the Free Software Foundation; with no Invariant Sections, no Front-Cover Texts and no Back-Cover Texts. A copy of the license is included in the section entitled "GNU Free Documentation License".

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