10 Disney Fairy Tales and Their Original Versions, Compared

2. Sleeping Beauty

The version you know

Once upon a time, after many childless years, King Stefan and Queen Leah welcomed the birth of their daughter Princess Aurora, and announce a public holiday for their subjects to pay their respects to the royal family. Three fairies Flora, Fauna and Merryweather attend to give blessings to the Princess Aurora, but before Merryweather can bestow her blessing on the princess, an evil fairy named Maleficent arrives and curses the princess after being told she is not wanted at their celebrations. Maleficent claims that Aurora will grow in beauty and grace but before she turns 16 she will prick her finger on the spindle of a spinning wheel and die. Merryweather uses her blessing to lessen the curse so that instead of dying Princess Aurora will fall into a state of eternal slumber and as in all fairy tales she can only be awoken by true love’s kiss. King Stefan orders all the spinning wheels in the kingdom to be destroyed and the three fairies hide the princess away to a cottage in the forest until her sixteenth birthday.

Years later, on the day of her sixteenth birthday, the fairies have sent Aurora (now going by the name of Briar Rose) out into the forest to pick berries while they prepare a surprise party for her. Whilst singing in the forest she attracts the attention of Prince Philip and the pair fall instantly in love and she invites him to the cottage that evening, unaware that they are in fact already betrothed by their parents. Meanwhile the fairies argue about the colour of Aurora’s ballgown which attracts the attention of Maleficent’s raven, revealing where the princess has been kept safe for 16 years.

When she returns to the cottage the fairies tell Briar Rose of her true heritage and that she cannot see this boy again, meanwhile Philip tells his father King Hubert about the peasant girl he met in the forest and that he wishes to marry her not the princess he is betrothed to.

The fairies take Princess Aurora back to her parents castle, but Maleficent arrives and lures her away from the celebrations, she tricks the princess into touching an enchanted spinning wheel, pricking her finger and thus completing the curse. The fairies place Aurora in the castle’s highest tower and put everyone in the kingdom under a spell which will keep them asleep until Aurora wakes up and the curse is broken. The fairies also realise that Prince Philip is the boy Aurora met in the woods, and that he has now been locked up by Maleficent, planning to keep him until he is on the verge of death then send him to Aurora who won’t have aged a day.

The fairies find the prince and release him, arming him with a blessed sword and shield so that he may defeat Maleficent and wake Princess Aurora. Maleficent surrounds the castle with thorns but Philip manages to cut through them, so she transforms herself into a huge dragon, but Prince Philip throws the sword, blessed by the fairies, into Maleficent’s heart and kills her. He then finds Princess Aurora and true love’s kiss breaks the spell awakening her and everyone else in the kingdom. The princess is reunited with her parents whilst Flora, Fauna and Merryweather resume their argument over the colour of Aurora’s dress, and Princess Aurora and Prince Philip live happily ever after.

The original story

The Disney story of Sleeping Beauty is based on the French story Sleeping Beauty by Charles Perrault and the German folk tale Little Rose Briarby the Brothers Grimm, both of which are derived from an earlier Italian story by Giambattista Basile entitled Sun, Moon and Talia.

While all three earlier versions have the same basic narrative, they do vary in how the princess falls asleep and how she is awoken, how she is found in the first place and unlike the Disney version they do not end when the princess wakes up.

Basile’s version is the most gruesome of these three early versions and his story was adapted by Perrault and Grimms to be much less horrific. Rather than a prick from a spinning wheel it is prophesised that sleeping beauty, named Talia, will be poisoned by a flax splinter and cause death (which turns out not to be death but a state of suspended animation). After this happened Talia was placed on a velvet throne and her father locked the doors and abandoned the castle forever.

One day a King happened upon the castle after one of his falcons flew in through one of the windows, after nobody answers the door he climbs the walls and finds Talia in one of the towers. This is where Basile’s version deviates from the more commonly known narratives, instead of awakening Talia with true love’s kiss, the King shouts and when he cannot wake her he carries her to one of the bedrooms and rapes her before leaving to return to his kingdom and his Queen. Nine months later Talia (still unconscious) gives birth to twins and is only awoken when one of the twins sucks the piece of poisoned flax from her finger. Soon after the King visits Talia again and explains what happened, promising to return again to take her and the twins to his kingdom.

Meanwhile the he has been saying Talia’s name in his sleep so his wife bribes his secretary to find out what has happened. She then writes to Talia pretending to be the king and asks her to send him the children, which she does, the queen then orders the cook to kill the twins and serve them for dinner as revenge for her husband’s cheating. The cook however cannot bring herself to kill the children and instead served lamb. Next the Queen invited Talia to the kingdom where she planned to burn her alive, but the King discovers her plans and burns his wife instead of Talia along with those who betrayed him. He finds out his children are still alive and rewards the cook for saving them, the story ends with him and Talia marrying and living happily ever after.

The Perrault version introduces the spinning wheel rather than a prophesy, and after 100 years a prince from another kingdom finds the princess asleep in the castle and falls to his knees, stuck by her beauty and the curse is lifted. The two are married in secret and she gives birth to two children, but the prince keeps this a secret from his mother, who is an ogress, until he ascends the throne and they become King and Queen. His mother, much like the Queen in Basile’s version, plans to have the children killed by the cook and served for dinner but the cook substitutes lamb instead, she then prepares a pit full of vipers for Sleeping Beauty, but the King discovers her plan and she throws herself into the pit of vipers and dies. Everyone else lives happily ever after.

Grimm’s version is very similar to Perrault’s but the story finishes after the Princess has awoken, there is no second part with an evil mother in law, or Queen as in the earlier versions. However they did later write another story named The Evil Mother-in-Law which served as a second part toLittle Rose Briar wherein the evil mother in law planned first to eat the children and then Rose Briar herself but her plans are foiled. This story was only included in the first edition of Grimms’ folk tales and is dropped from any later editions, leaving the story to finish as the Disney version does with Sleeping Beauty waking up and everyone living happily ever after.

Kat Lawson
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