European Folklore

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More Than You Ever Wanted to Know About Sleeping Beauty

The History of "Sleeping Beauty"

* 13th century: Volsunga Saga. A Nordic tales describing the banishment of Brynhilde to the earth. Contains the most basic aspects of the plot.

* 1528: Perceforest. An Arthurian romance known as Histoire de Troylus et de Zellandine. A vast tale linking legends of Alexander the Great with King Arthur of Great Britain. The story of Zellandine, who falls into an enchanted sleep while spinning flax, is recognizably similar to Sleeping Beauty.

* 1636: Sun, Moon, and Talia. Giambattista Basile’s Italian tale from Il Pentamarone (Day 5. Tale 5). This tale is the most explicit and violent. While she is in her enchanted sleep, Talia is raped by a married king and gives birth to twins. The king’s wife finds out and is jealous, and attempts to eat Talia’s children, Sun and Moon.

* 1697: The Sleeping Beauty in the Wood. Charles Perrault’s tale from his book Histories ou contes du temps passe. Very similar to Basile’s tale, except that Sleeping Beauty’s enchanted sleep lasts for 100 years, and she is rescued by a prince instead of a king. The jealous wife is replaced by the prince’s jealous ogress of a mother.

*1729: Histories, or Tales of Past Times. Robert Samber translates Perrault’s tales to English for the first time.

* 19th century: Little Briar Rose. Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm publish their ‘sanitized’ version of Sleeping Beauty, although they deny the connection to Perrault’s tale. Briar Rose is awakened when a prince kneels at her side, and the story ends when the Prince and his bride get married.

* 1959: Sleeping Beauty. Walt Disney’s animated film based on Perrault’s and the Grimms’ versions of the story.

Different Perspectives on Sleeping Beauty

* The Feminist Perspective: Most feminists criticize Sleeping Beauty as being "extremely passive."

- Criticisms of Disney’s Sleeping Beauty

- Anne Sexton’s poem Briar Rose

- Joseph Wittman’s Sleeping Beauty and Girl Forget That Prince

- Jane Yolen’s Sleeping Ugly

-James Finn Garner’s Sleeping Persun of Better-than-Average Attractiveness

*Bruno Bettelheim: In The Uses of Enchantment: The Meaning and Importance of Fairytales, Bettelheim explains Sleeping Beauty as a metaphor of puberty and adolescence.

More Retellings and Adaptations

* Peter Tchiakovsky’s ballet Sleeping Beauty- premiered January 16, 1890 based on Perrault’s version

* Sleeping Beauty: a theater production featuring Christopher Reeve and Bernadette Peters produced in 1983

* Paintings- the story inspired the artist Sir Edward Burnes-James who made a series of four paintings titled The Legend of Briar Rose

Works Cited
Bettelheim, Bruno. The Uses of Enchantment. New York: Random House, Inc., 1976.

Coover, Robert. Briar Rose. New York: Grove Press, 1996.

Doherty, Berlie. "Sleeping Beauty in the Forest." Fairytales. Cambridge: Candlewick Press, 2000.

Grimm, Jacob and Wilhelm, Illus. by Laimgruber, Monika. The Sleeping Beauty. New York: North-South Books, Inc., 1995.

Heiner, H.A. "The Annotated Sleeping Beauty." SurLaLune Fairytale Pages. 28 Dec. 1998. 24 Mar. 2004. <>.

Marquez, Gabriel Garcia. "Sleeping Beauty and the Airplane." Strange Pilgrims. New York: Penguin Books, 1992.

Opie, Iona and Peter. "Sleeping Beauty." The Classic Fairytales. London: Oxford University Press, 1974.

Rosenbaum, J., Singer, R., Mark, N., and Hill, F. The Sleeping Beauty Page. 22 Mar. 2004. <>.

Snyder, Midori. Sleeping Beauty. 1999. 26 Mar. 2004. <>.

Walt Disney Productions. Disney’s Sleeping Beauty. U.S.A.: Disney Enterprises, Inc.,1996.