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The Story Behind Sleeping Beauty



The beloved fairy tale story of a young woman who goes into a comatose state after getting a splinter in her finger and then being revived by a handsome prince, has its basic elements in both Nordic mythology and 16th century French literature. From these beginnings, the story was developed by Giambattista Basile and revised by Charles Perrault, and the Brothers Grimm.

The Origins of Sleeping Beauty

In the 12th century Norse saga, Volsunga, a story is told of how the god Odin, upset with the valkyrie, Brunhilda, cursed her to sleep on a couch surrounded by fire until any man would rescue and marry her. Eventually, she is rescued when Siegfried enters her domain and awakens the woman warrior by cutting off her armor.

Four centuries after Volsunga, in 1528, Perceforest was printed in Paris. Based on oral stories from the 1300s, the work included a section titled "Histoire de Troylus et de Zellandine." In this story a disgruntled deity places a curse on the young princess Zellandine which causes her to go into a deep slumber. Many years later a prince, Troylus, happens upon the woman and assaults her. As a result they have a child.

Giambattista Basile and Charles Perrault's Sleeping Beauty

In the early 1600s, Basile, an Italian nobleman, published Pentamerone, a collection of folk and fairy tales. Among the stories was one called "Sun, Moon and Talia," in which Talia, pricked by a poisonous thorn, falls asleep, and is raped by a married prince. When the prince eventually returns, he discovers that Talia has awoken from her sleep and he has a second family, specifically twins named Sun and Moon.

The prince's wife does not take kindly to her husband's adultery. In a rage she orders that that Sun and Moon be taken by the cook, killed, and served in a stew for her husband. Pronouncing the stew to be excellent by the prince, the wife exclaims "Eat up, you're eating what's your very own." Mortified, the prince throws her i