The Sleeping Beauty

The Sleeping Beauty was one of the folk stories gathered by the Brothers Grimm when they were preparing their famous collection of fairy tales. Many of these have deep symbolic meanings that go far beyond their common perception as simple bedtime stories for young children.

Let’s recap the tale. When the young Princess Aurora is born, she is cursed by the witched fairy/witch who had not been invited to the christening. The curse is that at a certain young age (seventeen, say?) she would prick her finger on a spindle and fall asleep for a hundred years until she was awoken by her true love. Of course, the King and Queen outlawed all spindles and made sure that her daughter could never go near one. Curses being what they are, the witched fairy made sure that the prophecy came true and sure enough, the Princess and the whole castle fell asleep. They remained asleep for a hundred years until a young prince, who had heard of the story of the “sleeping beauty” made his way through the thick forest that had surrounded the castle and succeeded in waking the Princess.

Of course, they all lived happily ever after.

What is the hidden meaning, here? I’m going to set my imagination loose! One can think of the story as essentially about the search for a hidden woman or a hidden beauty that has lain dormant and out of sight. It characterizes every man’s search for the woman of his dreams, who may be far away from him both in space (hidden in the forest) and in time (the Prince is not yet born when Aurora falls asleep). To a certain extent, it is also slightly sexist in nature, as it portrays Aurora as helpless and unable to avoid her destiny and can only be saved by a man who chooses to love her. In the story, it is the Prince who makes the choice to go into the forest and seek the sleeping Princess.

Dreams play an important role in this story. Aurora has grown up with the shadow of the prophecy surrounding her all the time and dreams to be free from it. The Prince dreams of finding the Princess and achieving glory. Last but not least, one cannot fall asleep for a hundred years without having many dreams. What did Aurora dream about while she was asleep? Did she dream at all? What about nightmares? If she did dream, then most likely what she dreamt about was her Prince and saviour. All that is now needed is to write the word “saviour” in capitals as “Saviour,” and the religious connotations become clear. The story of the sleeping beauty parallels the story of Christ saving humanity. The castle and Princess (humanity) lie in an eternal nightmare, unable to wake up and save themselves, condemned by the wicked fairy (Satan). The brave Prince (Christ) comes along and breaks the spell and brings the Princess and castle back into the light (salvation).

It is amazing how subconscious thoughts and ideas can infiltrate the stories that people write and tell without them even knowing about it. I personally know this from the stories I’ve written. In Jennifer Brown and the Dagger, the main character, Jennifer, is constantly trying to increase her confidence and to prove herself. The quest is to find the magical weapon that can help defeat the sorcerer and free the Fairy Queen and her castle, an almost striking parallel to the story of the Sleeping Beauty. The difference in this case, however, is that the “Prince” is now Jennifer herself, a girl.

I don’t for one minute recall planning to base my story on the Sleeping Beauty…

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