Saturday, 29 October 2011

The Analysis of Sleeping Beauty or How to make Narcolepsy pay!

Good Morning,  I'm using up another one of my buffer posts today simply because I'm still in the middle of organising my notes from Naama and trying to slide some Monty Python jokes in as well.  I'll take this opportunity to say hello to my new followers and add that the official Jabberwockerykiteers hats, uniforms and vorpal blades will be posted as soon as the cheques clear.

Tonight's tale is one of love most true and magics most dire.  There isn't much more to say about it except that once again it comes from the Brothers Grimm who have drawn from several older sources to give us, what we would call, the modern version.

The Story:

A long time ago there was a king and queen who said every day "Ah if only we had a child" but they never had one [1].  It happened one day when the queen was bathing that a frog appeared and said
"Your wish shall be fulfilled, before a year has gone by you shall have a daughter.  Oh and since I've been in here the whole time one of us is going to have to take another bath"
Overjoyed as she is the queen takes the time to have another bath, sans frog, before letting her husband know.

"This is wonderful" exclaimed the king "if it be true"
"It must be true" the queen said "the talking frogs never lie"
"We shall see dear.  We shall see" he rumbled and quietly gave orders to hide the cooking sherry.

But the king need not have worried for a baby was born at the speed of plot and there was much rejoicing throughout the land.  A great feast was ordered and all the movers and shakers of the kingdom were invited.   Naturally the most important of these were the wise women [2] and the king ordered that golden plates be made especially for them.
The feast went well and there was all manner of cavorting, both professional and amateur, taking place.  Eventually the wise women stood up [3] and made their pronouncements regarding the child.

For the most part they went with the easy stuff, she would be loved, beautiful, rich, faithful etc. and just as everyone was looking down at their wrists and wishing someone would invent the wristwatch so that they'd know exactly how long they'd been standing there she appeared!

It was the thirteenth and final wise woman who stood in the doorway, her shadow reaching out toward the throne.  The people looked away in fear and counted the twelve golden plates before hiding under the table.
With a practised ease she moves through the crowd and when the princess gazes up at her face there is only coldness in her returning stare.

"What do you want?" the king demanded
"Want?  Why nothing" the wise woman answered with a casual malice "I was going to pay my respects to the latest addition to the kingdom but it doesn't seem that there is a place set for me"
The king begins to protest but she silences him with a curt wave "but this is neither here nor there for I am here now and also bring a gift for your daughter.  Thanks to the gifts of my sisters she will certainly be the perfect child but I tell you now that child she will remain for on her fifteenth birthday she shall prick her finger upon a spinning wheel and Die!"
The revellers began shouting in uproar but the woman paid it no head and left the gathering at the speed of gatecrasher [4]

Eventually order was restored and the king called for the court jester because if this was another one of his stunts then he'd join the royal swineherd in wearing the royal bootprint.
Then the final wise woman, who was rather miffed at being upstaged by all this spoke up "I may not be able to stop the curse but I am amble to change it.  It shall not be death but rather a deep sleep into which the princess shall fall" just as everyone was breathing a huge collected sigh of relief  she added "and it shall last a hundred years!" [5]

By the kings command all spindles, spinning wheels and instruments of weaving were destroyed and when he recieved word that there were no more to be found in the kingdom he allowed himself to relax and slept soundly in the belief that he had beaten the curse.
What he didn't realise is that you can't fight the narrative and when the princess was fifteen years old she happened to come across a little room at the top of a forgotten tower where an old woman sat inocently spinning away.

"Good morning.  What are you doing?" the princess asked in fascination
"Just a touch of spinning" the old woman replied "would you like a turn?" [6]
Naturally the princess pricked her finger and fell to the ground asleep.  Except it wasn't just her,  the curse spread down through the floors of the castle and everyone present fell into a magical sleep, the castle itself was encased in a dense forest of thorns that grew higher and thicker than any tree.
Noble princes and hero's from near and far attempted to gain entrance but none ever returned.

It might seem as though this is the end of the story, clearly evil has triumphed and all that remains is for Disney to put in some songs and a cameo appearance of the Boss Mouse.   But this is merely the middle and for the proper ending we shall need to fast forward a full century into the future.
For it is only now that the prince [7] has arrived.  The Story of the sleeping princess has passed from news and fallen into legend.  On being informed that he's in the very land where it happened he decided to check it out. [8]

Because the curse itself was winding down to a close the forest was in bloom and he had no trouble moving through it and casually walked through the sleeping castle to the side of the sleeping princess where he awakened her with a single kiss and they did the whole happily ever after thing.

The Questions:

  • The Frog:
    Now I'll accept that there are frogs that can talk to people.  This is after all a fairy story and these things have a tendency to just happen.  But the queen just accepted the diagnoses without question.  Where, I would like to know, are Dr. Frogs Qualifications?
  • The Good Wise Woman:
    Why didn't she take the opportunity to take a couple of villages and a duchy or two in return for a good blessing?
    She was probably kicking herself when she figured out what she'd given away.
  • The Country itself:
    Who ruled while everyone was sleeping?
    It really depends on the version that you read, sometimes the king and queen are inside the castle and other times they aren't.  Ultimately it doesn't matter since the aristocracy has long since developed "the rightful king" protocol for just this situation.

    If, by some miracle, they manage to get the throne back without one of those messy civil wars then the royalty will be severely out of touch with modern politics which is an ocean of intrigue at the best of times.
  • The curse:
    Why did everyone in the castle fall asleep when the princess did?
    Sounds like someone didn't pay attention in Curses and Potions class.  Possibly they were too busy trying to get that Potter boy to notice them.

    If everyone knew that she was going to sleep for a hundred years then what was the point of sending all the princes into the thorns?
    Presumably these were second sons who were now a liability rather than insurance.  The smarter of these would have taken the hint and kept on going.
  • The ending:
    This retelling, for want of a better word [9], is based of the Grimm Brothers version of the tale, it doesn't take much digging to find much darker versions out there in the wilds of the Interwood.  However if you remember the prince fighting his way through the thorn forest, past a gigantic dragon and finally awakening the princess with a kiss then you are certainly thinking of the Disney adaptation. [10]

  1. I have to point out that they didn't have one because all they did was lament about not having one when they could have sat down with some racy tapestry and got on with a bit of needlepoint.
  2. The exact personages very with the telling.  I've heard it told with witches, fairies, elves and godmothers.  The point is that these are not the people you want to upset.
  3. Rather shakily I'll admit, the wind had been flowing rather freely.
  4. No doubt with a well timed roll of thunder because if you're going to be the villain in a story like this then you have to have style.
  5. As has been pointed out by those wiser than me.  Good isn't the same as nice.
  6. Spinning?  Turn?  Comedy Gold!
  7. Everyone knew he was special because he was THE prince rather than simply A prince.
  8. Along with Scoob and the gang.
  9. Mangling comes to mind
  10. This one time I'll allow that the Disney version is worth watching.


  1. I've missed your wit! Glad I stopped back by, this was an awesome post, as per usual.

    If I could ask any of the characters any questions, it would be a single one to the prince..."Just how foul, exactly, is 100 year old morning breath?"

  2. Oh man I didn't think of that! I hope she didn't sleep with her mouth open because who knows what might have set up camp inside there?