Painting of sleeping beauty waking up to find a prince.

Sleeping Beauty (Classic Fairy Tale)

Sleeping Beauty, or Sleeping Beauty in the Wood (La Belle au Bois Dormant), is a dark fairy tale from long ago, originally written by Charles Perrault in 1697 in France. Since then, it’s been adapted many times, softened with every retelling. That is the fate of any good story. It changes as it ages.

This retelling is closer to the original. It’s not a direct translation. The language is a bit too archaic for that. I tried to modernize the language while keeping the twists and turns the same. I hope you like it.

Part One: The Curse

A long time ago, in the Old Land, there lived a King and Queen who were much troubled, for they had no children. They visited all the waters of the Land, seeking the help of the beings who lived there. Yet nothing worked.

One day, the Queen was bathing in a stream when a frog said to her, “They have listened and decided. Your wish shall be fulfilled. Before a year has passed, you shall bring a daughter into the world.”

As the water spirits promised, the Queen gave birth to a baby girl. In celebration, the King arranged a grand feast and invited fairies from the realm to bless the child. He invited seven fairies, but there was an eighth who was said to live in a tower far away, never having left it for fifty years. The King did not think to invite her, believing she was either dead or enchanted.

At the feast, each fairy was provided with magnificent table settings, a spoon, a fork, and a knife made of fine gold and adorned with diamonds and rubies. But as everyone was taking their seats, an old fairy, who hadn’t been invited, entered. The king ordered a place set for her, but there were no gold settings for her. She mumbled something under her breath and took her seat. The seventh fairy, seated by her side, overheard the mumbled threats and, fearing something dark to come, snuck off to hide behind the tapestry.

After the feast, the fairies gave the princess their gifts. The youngest gifted her with extraordinary beauty; the next, the wit of an angel; the third, admirable grace in all she did; the fourth, perfect dancing skills; the fifth, a voice like a nightingale; and the sixth, mastery over all musical instruments. When the old fairy’s turn came, she grimaced and declared that the princess would prick her hand on a spindle and die. With her foul curse cast, she fled from the castle.

This dreadful pronouncement caused the entire court to shudder. Many began to weep. But the young fairy who had hidden behind the tapestry stepped out and said: “Be at peace, king and queen, though I do not have the power to completely undo what my elder has done, your daughter will not die. The princess will prick her hand on a spindle; but she will only fall into a deep sleep that will last a hundred years. At the end of which, a king’s son will come to wake her.”

Painting of Sleeping Beauty's father cradling her in his arms.

Part Two: Sleeping Beauty

The king did everything he could to prevent the misfortune foretold by the old fairy. He immediately issued an edict forbidding anyone from spinning on a spindle or even having one in their possession, under penalty of death.

Fifteen or perhaps sixteen years later, the young princess began to explore the abandoned wing of the castle, venturing down old passages all were forbidden from entering. On the eighth night of her explorations, she found a little attic at the top of an old tower where an old woman sat alone, spinning away at her spindle, for she had not heard of the king’s prohibition.

“What are you doing there, good woman?” said the princess.

“I am spinning, my beautiful child,” the old woman replied, not recognizing the princess.

“Ah! That’s pretty!” the princess responded. “How do you do it? Give it to me so I can see if I would do it just as well.” No sooner had she taken the spindle than she pricked her hand and fainted.

The old woman cried out, but none were there to hear her.

Just then, the Queen woke from a bad dream, certain she’d heard a voice in the wind.

She hurried down the dark passageway, up the stone stairs of the crumbling old tower, and ducked through the small attic door, where she found her daughter lying there, fast asleep.

Part Three: One Hundred Years

The King and Queen ordered the princess to be placed in the finest apartment of the castle, on a bed embroidered with gold and silver. She looked so innocent, lying there, for her fainting had not robbed her of her vivid complexion. Her cheeks were rosy, her lips were like coral, and her chest rose and fell softly.

The good fairy who had saved her life was in the Kingdom of Mataquin, twelve thousand leagues away, when the princess had been stricken down. As she fetched her water from the well, a little Being there told her of what had happened. The fairy set off immediately, but it was a long journey, and it was much too late already.

When the good fairy arrived, she approved of everything the King and Queen had done; but she feared that when the princess woke a hundred years from now, she would be terrified to find herself so alone.

The fairy touched everything in the castle with her wand (except the king and queen): governesses, maids of honour, chambermaids, gentlemen, officers, house masters, cooks, scullions, runners, guards, pages, heralds, and footmen. She also touched all the horses in the stables, along with the grooms and the large mastiffs of the courtyard. Even the partridges and the pheasants that were cooking over the flames fell asleep, and the fire as well. They all fell asleep, to wake up at the same time as their princess.

The King and Queen wished to be put to sleep with the rest, but they could not leave their kingdom unattended, for it would fall into turmoil, killing many. And so, after kissing their dear child one last time, they left the enchanted castle and decreed that no one should approach it.

These prohibitions soon became unnecessary. Within a year, so many large and small trees, brambles, and thorns grew around the castle grounds, intertwined with each other, that neither beast nor man could pass through. All one could see was the top of the old castle tower where the good old woman had been spinning her spindle alone.

Part Four: The Prince

At the end of a hundred years, after several wars, the son of a new king, of another people, went out hunting in the woods. He grazed a deer with an arrow and followed its trail deeper into the forest than he had ever gone before. The trees grew denser, and soon he spied something rising up above them. He asked his hunting party, “What is that tower there?”

Each answered him according to what they had heard: some said it was an old temple haunted by the spirits of an underground river; others said the witches of the region made their sacrifices there. The most common opinion was that an ogre had built a castle there—that he carried away all the children he could catch, keeping them in the dungeon and eating them at his leisure. And it was true that children had been going missing as of late.

Illustration of a fairy tale tavern. Painted by Juan Artola Miranda.

Before making their way back to the prince’s kingdom, they stopped at a tavern bordering on the dark forest. The prince asked the tavernkeeper about the ogre, and an old peasant at the bar spoke up, saying, “Oh prince, more than fifty years ago, I heard from my father that in that castle, there was a princess, the most beautiful in the world. She was to sleep there for a hundred years, to be awakened by a king’s son.”

The young prince felt his heart stir; he believed, as any young man would, that he was the prince of the story. He gathered his hunting party around him once more, and they rode back towards the tower rising up from the dark wood. Though the trees grew denser, the brambles and the thorns parted on their own to let him pass, allowing him to make his way through.

Perhaps it was because he was slight of build, or perchance there was something else at play, but none of his men could follow him. Undeterred, he continued on towards the castle. A young prince who has never known danger cannot know fear, either.

Part Five: The Cursed Castle

He entered a large courtyard, where the first thing he saw was enough to freeze him with fear. It was a terrible silence; the image of death was everywhere. The bodies of men and animals lay strewn about. But then he recognized, from the red noses of the guards and rosy faces of the maidens, that they were merely asleep.

He crossed a large courtyard paved with marble, ascended the staircase, and entered the guard room, where the guards were fallen in a row, swords resting on their shoulders, rising and falling with their chests.

He passed through several rooms filled with noblemen and ladies, all asleep.

He entered a room entirely gilded, and there on a bed, with curtains open on all sides, he saw the most beautiful woman he had ever seen: a princess who seemed to be about seventeen years old, whose radiant beauty caught in his throat. He approached, trembling and in awe, and fell to his knees beside her.

The princess awoke, looking at him with eyes more tender than was proper for a lady meeting a prince for the first time. “Is it you, my prince?” she said, “You have kept me waiting a long time.”

The prince, enchanted by these words and even more by the manner in which she spoke them, didn’t know how to express his strange emotions. His words were disordered, but they were all the more pleasing for it. He was more embarrassed than she was, for she had spent one hundred years dreaming of what she would say to him.

Part Six: The Return

The prince and princess talked all through the night and still had not said half the things they had to say. However, as they sat there, enchanted with one another, the enchantment had slowly fallen away around them.

The lady-in-waiting, who had not eaten for one hundred years and one night, grew impatient and told the princess that the meal was served. They went into the great hall and broke their fast there. More meals were served, one after another, for everyone but the prince was famished.

After dinner, without wasting any time, they had the grand almoner marry them in the castle chapel, and the lady-in-waiting drew the curtain. They slept little that second night: the princess didn’t need much, and the prince left her early in the morning to return to find his men and return to his kingdom. When the prince arrived, he told the king that while hunting, he had lost his way in the forest and had spent the night in a charcoal burner’s hut, who had given him black bread and cheese to eat.

The king, his father, a good-hearted man, believed him; but his mother wasn’t quite as convinced. Seeing her young prince spending three nights away, she suspected him of having a love affair.

The prince went hunting many times during the coming years, and in those years, the prince had two children. The first, a girl, was named Aurora after the dawn, and the second, a boy, was named Jour after the day, as he was even brighter and more beautiful than his sister.

His mother remained suspicious and spoke with him often, hoping to coax out his secret. However, the prince sensed something dark inside her. She was of ogre lineage, and the king had married her only for her great treasure rooms full of gold. There were whispers at court that she had the tastes of an ogre. The prince never said a word.

Part Seven: The Ogress

When the king died two years later, the prince was crowned king, finally freeing him from the fear he felt towards his mother. The heralds ran forth through the kingdom, singing of his marriage to a beautiful princess with a kind heart. Meanwhile, the king led a grand caravan to fetch his queen, his wife, from her castle. Together, they returned, their two children in their arms, making a magnificent entrance into the capital city.

Sometime later, the king went to wage war against the neighbouring empire. He accompanied his brave warriors into battle, leaving the regency of the kingdom to his mother, as was proper. She was, after all, the Queen-Mother.

Before he left, he warned his wife to keep their children far from his mother’s grasp. As soon as he was out of sight, the Queen-Mother sent a summons for his wife and her two children. There was no way to refuse the demand.

A few days later, the Queen-Mother herself arrived at the country house. That evening, she said to the royal steward, “I want to eat little Aurora for my dinner tomorrow.”

The steward recoiled in horror.

“I want it,” said the queen, her tone that of an ogre yearning for fresh flesh, “and I want her served with a sweet sauce.”

The poor man, realizing he had no choice, took his large knife and went up to Aurora’s room. She was then four years old. She ran up to him, laughing and jumping, asking for sweets. He began to cry, the knife falling from his hands. He brought little Aurora to his home, where his wife could keep her out of sight, then he went to the courtyard, slit the throat of a little lamb, and prepared such a delicious sauce that the Ogress never noticed his deception.

Eight days later, the Ogress said to her royal steward, “I want to eat little Jour for my supper.” He nodded quietly, intending to deceive her in the same way as before.

He found Jour with a little wooden sword in hand, fencing with a large monkey. He carried him home to his wife, who hid him with little Aurora. That night, he served up a very tender young goat in place of little Jour. The Ogre Queen found it exceptionally delicious.

Part Eight: The Steward

So far, things had gone well, but one evening, the Ogress said to the steward, “I want to eat the queen. She is too old for my taste, but if you prepare her in the same delicious sauce as you did her children, perhaps I will not notice.” The poor steward grew nervous, for the Ogress’ appetite would never be sated, and he knew he could not fool her forever.

The young queen was just over twenty years old, not counting the hundred years she had slept. Her skin, though beautiful and white, had indeed become tougher than that of a child, or a lamb, or a tender young goat. How could he find an animal in the menagerie just as tough? He began to doubt himself. He decided to kill her.

He worked himself into a frenzy, entering the young queen’s chamber in a drunken rage, a dagger in hand. When he saw her sitting there, he could tell she had been crying. Her eyes were red, and her breathing was ragged. He broke down and told her of what the Queen-Mother had said.

“Do your duty,” she said, extending her neck, “Carry out the order you have been given. Bring me to my children.” She thought they were dead, as they had been taken away without a word.

“No, no, my lady,” replied the teary-eyed steward, “you will not die, and you will indeed see your children again, at my house, where I’ve hidden them. I will deceive the queen once more by serving her a young doe in your place.”

He hurried her to his home, where she was able to embrace her children and weep with them. Meanwhile, he prepared a doe, which the queen ate at her supper with the same appetite as if it had been the young queen. She smiled, thinking of how she would tell her son that rabid wolves had devoured his wife and their two children.

One evening, while the Ogress prowled around the castle’s courtyards looking for someone young to eat, she heard a sound from a hall. It was a young child crying. She knew that cry. It sounded just like little Jour.

Part Nine: The End

Furious at having been deceived, the Ogress roared to all her attendants, “Bring a large vat to the middle of the courtyard tomorrow morning.” She ordered it filled with vipers, toads, water snakes, and serpents. She would throw the young queen, her children, the royal steward, and his wife into it. That evening, they were brought before the Ogress with their hands bound behind their backs.

The terrified executioners were preparing to throw them all into the vat when the king came galloping into the courtyard. The steward had sent a messenger to him, though he hadn’t explained what was happening, for he feared the King would not believe him.

As the King took in the scene before him, he realized what had happened, and he called for his men to apprehend his mother. The Ogre Queen tried to escape, but she could not, so she threw herself headfirst into the vat, where was devoured by the vile creatures there.

The King knelt down and scooped his dear children into his arms. His kiss lingered on his daughter’s forehead because he knew her blood, and he knew not what lay ahead for her.

Juan Artola Miranda

I am Juan Artola Miranda, a fabulist living in the Mexican Caribbean. My friends know me by the name of my father's father, but that name grew into something bigger, my writing reaching tens of millions of readers. It was too strong for me to control. Artola Miranda is the name of my mother's mother. It's a better name for a fabulist.

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