Archive for March, 2012

Tax Season Sale

To celebrate completing my taxes, I’ve put the Kindle and Nook editions of The Witch Awakening on sale for $0.99 until April 15th. 

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The Many Faces of Sleeping Beauty

My favorite animated fairy tale has to be Disney’s Sleeping Beauty.  I love the angular, elegant, highly stylized animation–it has a different look from most other Disney movies.  I love the character development.  Of all the early Disney princes, Prince Phillip stands out as one of the few who actually gets his own story arc and a distinctive, wisecracking personality as opposed to just being a prop Ken doll prince (I don’t think the poor princes in Snow White and Cinderella even have names–they’re just there to show up at the end and pose with the bride on the wedding cake).  Briar Rose/Aurora comes across as a bit spooky (in a good way, as in being dreamy and mystical), the fairies, especially Meriweather, make me laugh, and the scene where the two kings get drunk is classic.  And then there’s Maleficent — best Disney villianess ever.  She has a pet raven, crashes parties with a big bang, is wonderfully sarcastic, and turns into a dragon–what more can you want?  My mother gave me an eyeglasses case with Maleficent on the lid that I treasure to this day, even though it’s falling apart–she bought it on our last major shopping trip together.  That year was the year for Disney villianesses to shine, when all the Goth merchandise took off in a big way.  I remember seeing Maleficent’s picture on a shirt with “Ultimate Goth” printed beneath it on that shopping trip.  My sentiments exactly.

But as much as I love Disney’s Sleeping Beauty, it doesn’t tell the whole story.  Most versions of “The Sleeping Beauty” don’t tell the whole story, and I think that’s a shame.  Case in point:  I have an absolutely gorgeous picture book of “The Sleeping Beauty” written and illustrated by Trina Schart Hyman (her paintings for “Saint George and the Dragon” won the Caldecott award–if you’ve never seen this book, find it).  Like almost all versions of “The Sleeping Beauty” out there, this one ends with the prince waking up the princess with a kiss and a wedding.  Sigh.  Given how wonderfully gothic and creepy Hyman’s illustrations can be (her painting of all the poor princes stuck and dying in the thorn hedge still gives me nightmares), I would really liked to have seen how she illustrated the original ending of the story. 

Charles Perrault’s “The Sleeping Beauty” doesn’t end with the happily ever after kiss and wedding.  No, in Perrault’s version, the prince’s mother turns out to be an ogress (perhaps she inspired Maleficent).  The prince, fearful of his mother’s temper, keeps his marriage to Sleeping Beauty a secret.  He and Sleeping Beauty produce two children (Dawn and Day) before his mother discovers her son’s big secret.  She is not pleased, and when the prince goes off to war, Mommy-Dearest-the-ogress goes to the palace cook and tells him that she wants her granddaughter Dawn to eat for dinner (with “a tasty sauce” no less).  The cook can’t bring himself to kill Dawn, so he hides her and serves a lamb in her place.  The ogress then demands little Day for dinner and finally Sleeping Beauty herself.  The cook hides them all and somehow fools the prince’s mother with various poor animals sacrificed in their stead and his amazing sauces.  Eventually, however, the ogress discovers the trick.  She orders that the cook, Sleeping Beauty, and the children be thrown into a huge basin filled with snakes, vipers, toads, and “a few spiders.”  Just at the moment that Sleeping Beauty is about to be hurled into the “squirmy, loathsome basin,” the prince returns from battle and saves the day.  In a fit of fury, the ogress throws herself in the pit, and the remaining characters live happily ever after (I don’t know about you, but just being alive after everything they’ve endured would make me happy).  

All the remarks in quotes in the previous paragraph come from The Fairy Tale Book:  A Deluxe Golden Book published by Simon and Shuster in 1958 and translated from French by Marie Ponsot.  It was my mom’s book before it was mine, and it’s a wonderful fairy tale book in the sense that reading it probably helped develop my warped sense of humor.  I had forgotten until reading “The Sleeping Beauty” out loud a few weeks ago to some friends how cleverly written the fairy tales in this book are.   For instance, here’s the paragraph right after the prince awakens Sleeping Beauty:  “Meanwhile, the other sleepers had wakened, too.  Since they were not falling in love, they were all very hungry.  The maid of honor announced, firmly, ‘Dinner is served.'”  The whole story is full of such dry wit–the bit about the “tasty sauce” in particular made me howl with laughter.

I suspect that Charles Perrault based his “The Sleeping Beauty” on an even earlier tale–there are too many similarities between it and “The Handless Maiden” to be a coincidence.  To read “The Handless Maiden,” I recommend Clarissa Pinkola Estes’s Women Who Run with the Wolves.  Estes relates “The Handless Maiden” in Chapter 14 and then does an excellent job breaking down the archetypes and discussing their possible meanings, both ancient and modern.

As a perpetual insomniac, the tale of Sleeping Beauty has always held great charm for me–some nights when I’m tossing and turning, I think it would be nice if all I had to do was prick my finger to fall asleep.  And I’d much rather have a handsome prince as my alarm clock then the shrill, plastic apparatus I have now.  Sorry Timex.

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