Friday, May 9, 2014

Micechat Discusses Perrault's "Sleeping Beauty in the Wood" (I Know!) & "About Sleeping Beauty" by PL Travers (yes, of Mary Poppins fame)

Dornroschen (Briar Rose) - Brothers Grimm
On Thursday, May 8, one of the prominent Disney fan blogs, Micechat, posted the full Perrault tale of Sleeping Beauty in the Wood AND included a little analysis of it at the end. (I nearly fell off my chair in excitement, when I found this.)

Thank you Cory Gross! (He wrote and posted the article on Micechat, illuminating a whole slew of Disney fans that there has always been a whole lot more to the fairy tale (even if it is bizarre and confusing at times) than Disney chose to show.

I did always find it interesting that Disney, when asked, credit Perrault with the story, rather than the Grimm's, as the Grimm's version is just the first half and completely light and sweet (very unlike Grimm's actually!) than Perrault's version. Nevertheless, I really like that in doing so, they send people back to this version every now and then as a result.

By the way, the images throughout are by Charles Keeping, from a book by P.L. Travers, titled About the Sleeping Beauty (yes, that's the same Travers who wrote Mary Poppins!). More about those and the book below. (After Micechat.)
La Belle au Bois Dormant (The Beauty Sleeping in the Wood) - Charles Perrault

Here's how the article begins:
With the excitement over the upcoming revisionist fairy tale Maleficent, I thought it might be interesting to revisit the original story published by Charles Perrault in 1697, with just a bit of commentary at the end. Most of us are familiar with the first half of the story, in which the princess (who is nameless in this version) is cursed by the aged fairy and slumbers for a century before being awoken by her predestined prince. This translation from the original French was by Charles Welsh, for the publication of The Tales of Mother Goose in 1901. I’ve also included the illustrations by the unparalleled French engraver Gustave Doré, published in 1867.
Once upon a time there was a king and a queen, who were very sorry that they had no children,—so sorry that it cannot be told.
At last, however, the Queen had a daughter. There was a very fine christening; and the Princess had for her godmothers all the fairies they could find in the whole kingdom (there were seven of them), so that every one of them might confer a gift upon her, as was the custom of fairies in those days. By this means the Princess had all the perfections imaginable.
Sole, Luna, E Talia (Sun, Moon, and Talia), an Italian folk tale

It goes on, as you would expect and then it includes the second half of Perrault's tale, with a little, ahem "warning" preceding it:
Though the princess is nameless in Perrault’s version of the fairy tale, the French name of her daughter is “L’Aurore,” meaning “The Dawn.” From this point in the story, there is an entire second half that most people are not familiar with. It is pretty wild as well, and I would have paid for this direct-to-video sequel!
The Queen spoke several times to her son, to learn after what manner he was passing his time, and told him that in this he ought in duty to satisfy her. But he never dared to trust her with his secret; he feared her, though he loved her, for she was of the race of the Ogres, and the King married her for her vast riches alone. It was even whispered about the Court that she had Ogreish inclinations, and that, whenever she saw little children passing by, she had all the difficulty in the world to prevent herself from falling upon them. And so the Prince would never tell her one word.
Delicious, yes?

And then some commentary:
This second half is so different from the first that scholars are of the opinion that it may have been tacked on from another fairy tale. The connection between these two stories may have originated with Giambattista Basile’s 1634 version of the story, titled Sun, Moon, and Talia. In that version, Talia is not cursed by a fairy, but simply predestined to fall asleep after getting a splinter of flax under her fingernail. During her slumbers, she is found by a king, and nine months later gives birth to twins. One of the twins suckles the splinter from under Talia’s fingernail and wakes her. The queen finds out about all this, and orders that the children be cooked and fed to their father. 
The Queen of Tubber Tintye - a myth from Ireland 
Thankfully they are rescued by the cook and it is the queen who is punished instead. Arguably that makes more coherent sense than Prince Philip’s mother being an ogre, and it is understandable why the Brothers Grimm would separate the latter half into its own story, The Evil Mother-in-Law, when they appropriated Little Briar Rose for their volume of fairy tales.Despite making some strange script choices (like having Aurora comatose for about a half-hour instead of a century or more), the Disney version does highlight the deep seated religious metaphors intrinsic to the story. Allow me to defer to the great Edwardian apologist of fairy tales, G.K. Chesterton:
But I deal here with what ethic and philosophy come from being fed on fairy tales. If I were describing them in detail I could note many noble and healthy principles that arise from them. There is the chivalrous lesson of “Jack the Giant Killer”; that giants should be killed because they are gigantic. It is a manly mutiny against pride as such. For the rebel is older than all the kingdoms, and the Jacobin has more tradition than the Jacobite. There is the lesson of “Cinderella,” which is the same as that of the Magnificat—EXALTAVIT HUMILES. There is the great lesson of “Beauty and the Beast”; that a thing must be loved BEFORE it is loveable. There is the terrible allegory of the “Sleeping Beauty,” which tells how the human creature was blessed with all birthday gifts, yet cursed with death; and how death also may perhaps be softened to a sleep. But I am not concerned with any of the separate statutes of elfand, but with the whole spirit of its law, which I learnt before I could speak, and shall retain when I cannot write. I am concerned with a certain way of looking at life, which was created in me by the fairy tales, but has since been meekly ratified by the mere facts.
What Chesterton points to in Sleeping Beauty is a powerful Christian metaphor, an allegory of the human condition and of human salvation buried amidst the dragons and fairies and noble daring.  What is latent in other versions comes right to the fore in Disney’s Sleeping Beauty. Some of the images are painfully obvious, such as the Sword of Truth and Shield of Virtue gifted to Prince Philip, which is a muddled reference to Saint Paul’s admonition to don the “whole armor of God” in Ephesians 6:13-17. Maleficent graduates from Carbosse’s status as simply a vindictive fairy to being the Mistress of All Evil who proudly commands all the powers of Hell. 
"The Petrified Mansion" from “Bengal Fairy Tales.”
On the one hand, Aurora can be decried as more of a plot device than an actual character. On the other, she is a poetic metaphor for the whole human race. Though uniquely gifted with sentience, self-awareness, reason, and spiritual wakefulness, humanity is also cursed with awareness of its own impending, inexorable descent into death. Our efforts to avoid this destiny are like so many burning spinning wheels. No matter what we do with all our time, money, and industry, our fingers have an inevitable date with a spindle.
There's quite a bit more but I will leave it to you to go and read it. You can find the whole post, including the entire Sleeping Beauty in the Wood text, HERE.

Regarding About the Sleeping Beauty, in the book, Travers includes her own Sleeping Beauty tale, along with an "afterword" explaining her tale. Traver's story is set in the Far East (that nebulous place) so no giant dresses for her story's illustrations. The illustrations below is of the barren queen (in this case, a sultana). Below her is a depiction of Travers' own "Sleeping Beauty".
Barren Queen/Sultana from P.L. Travers’ story
Travers' Sleeping Beauty sleeping
The rest of the book includes several traditional "sleeping girl" tales from around the world, including a couple we're pretty familiar with here in these parts. To my mind anyway, these illustrations (so wiry looking!) are perfect for communicating the tenseness in absolute rest involved in each of these tales.
You can find information on About the Sleeping Beauty HERE at Goodreads and it's also available second hand via Amazon,

1 comment:

  1. Those illustrations are exquisite! What a great read, thank you!