Sleeping Beauty: Folklore vs. Film Analysis

Sleeping Beauty Story

Sleeping Beauty is a classic fairy tale with various versions, most notably those by Charles Perrault, the Brothers Grimm, and the adaptation by Disney.

Isn’t it amazing how different story versions can offer us such a diverse range of perspectives? Each is influenced by unique cultural values and artistic goals, making them fascinating to explore. It’s like getting a fresh take on the narrative every time!

Charles Perrault’s version, “La Belle au bois dormant” or “The Sleeping Beauty in the Wood,” was published in 1697. It includes many elements familiar to today’s audiences, such as the wicked fairy who curses the princess, the gift of sleep bestowed by a kinder fairy, and the prince who awakens Sleeping Beauty with a kiss. Perrault’s tale also extends beyond the awakening, including the challenges faced by Sleeping Beauty and her children after her marriage to the prince, involving the prince’s ogre mother, who threatens Sleeping Beauty and her children.

Disney’s Version

The version of Sleeping Beauty made by Disney starts off with a bit of backstory about how King Stephan and Queen Leah gave birth to a healthy baby girl after maybe childless years.

To celebrate, they have a huge ball. There, baby Aurora is betrothed to the neighbouring Prince Philip so that their kingdoms may be forever united. Three fairies, Flora, Fauna, and Merryweather, come forward to give Aurora gifts. Flora goes first and gives her the gift of beauty. Fauna gives her the gift of song.

Before Merryweather can give her a gift, the evil sorcerer Maleficent appears to know why she was not invited. She says that she will forgive the infraction if they apologize. Merryweather makes it known she is unwanted.

Because of this, Maleficent casts a curse on Aurora that before the sunset on her sixteenth birthday, she will prick her finger on a spinning needle and fall dead. Once she leaves, Merryweather is able to use her gift to dampen the curse so that she will only fall into a deep sleep that can be overcome by true love’s kiss.

King Stephan orders all of the spinning wheels in the land to be burned, but they know it is not enough. The three fairies disguise themselves as peasants and take Aurora away to grow up in the forest. As the years pass, Maleficent’s minions search the land for Aurora but fail because they are looking for a baby for sixteen years.

Back at the cottage, Aurora renamed Briar Rose, is sent to go pick berries for a surprise party the fairies are throwing for her sixteenth birthday. As she does, Prince Philip, now a handsome young man, is drawn to her singing. They dance together and fall in love. Soon, though, Aurora realizes she has to be home and rushes off without finding out his name. She only manages to tell him to meet her at the cottage later that night.

Meanwhile, the three fairies are arguing about the colour of the dress they made for Aurora and use enough magic to attract the attention of Maleficent’s crow, whom she sent out to search. Once Aurora returns to the cottage, the fairies tell her the truth about who she is and escort her back to the castle, much to her dismay. Prince Philip is back at his castle telling his father about the peasant girl he met and now wants to marry instead of Princess Aurora. His father tries to convince him otherwise but fails. Aurora is getting ready for the ball being thrown in her honour when a secret passage opens in her room. She follows it to find a spinning needle, which she immediately pricks her finger on right as the sun sets. The fairies take her to the highest tower and put the rest of the castle in a deep sleep until the curse is broken.

Before falling asleep, Philip’s father tells King Stephan about the peasant girl his son wants to marry. The fairies, realizing he is talking about Aurora, hurry to the cottage.

But it’s too late. Maleficent has captured Philip and has taken him to her castle. She tells him that the peasant girl he fell in love with was Princess Aurora and that she is going to keep him locked in the dungeon until he is an old man, and then she is going to release him to save his love, which will not have aged a day. As she walks out, she laughs at his rage. The fairies arrive and are able to free him and arm him with the Sword of Truth and the Shield of Virtue. With these and a little help from the fairies, he is able to escape and make it to Aurora’s castle.

Enraged, Maleficent surrounds the castle with thorns. When he is able to get past them, she transforms herself into a dragon to battle him herself. Just as Maleficent is about to win, Philip throws the sword, and with the help of the magic within it, it lodges itself in Maleficent’s heart, causing her to fall off the cliff and turn to ash. Philip then ascends the tower and kisses Aurora, waking her and the castle.

They share a dance and live happily ever after.

The Brothers Grimm’s Version

The Grimm version starts off similarly.

A Princess is born to a king and queen who had been longing for a child. To celebrate, they have a ball and invite the seven fairies into the realm. To honour them, they have seven golden caskets made for them to sit in. At the ball, an eighth fairy appears that is either believed dead or enchanted. She is offered a seat, but not one made of gold.

The first six fairies’ gifts are beauty, wit, grace, dance, song and music, and before the last fairy can give their gift, the slighted fairy curses the baby to die by a prick of a spinning needle. The last fairy manages to dampen the curse, and instead of death, the Princess will sleep for 100 years and be saved by a king’s son.

The king forbids the use of spinning wheels, and for fifteen or sixteen years, the Princess is safe. One day, while the king and queen are out, the Princess spends her time wandering the castle. She happens across an old woman spinning who did not hear the king’s decree. The Princess wants to use the unfamiliar tool and pricks her finger. The king and queen come back to find their daughter in a deep sleep. They set her up in the most lavish room in the castle to sleep. The good fairy that dampened the curse is summoned and realizes that she will be alone for 100 years, so she places the rest of the castle in a deep sleep with her until the curse is broken. The fairy also covers the castle with thorns and brambles so that the castle will not be disturbed.

One hundred years pass when a Prince happens across the castle on a hunting trip. He inquires as to its tale, and an old man tells him a beautiful princess was put to sleep for 100 years until a king’s son was to come to rescue her. The Prince fights his way through the brambles and makes his way past the castle’s people to the Princess’s room. Her beauty stuns him, and as he kneels before her, the curse is broken.

The rest of the castle wakes up and goes about their business. After talking for a very long time, the Prince and Princess dine and are soon after married.

The two stories are very similar in many ways. Both have a princess cursed by a slighted fairy who has it so a spinning needle will kill her. And both are saved by another fairy that turns death into sleeping. Both have a prince save her and her castle from the doom of sleep.

The Disney version has the evil fairy much more involved than the Grimm version. Also, in the Grimm version, the Princess sleeps for 100 years instead of a few hours. The Disney version also requires the Prince to kiss her so that she wakes up, whereas in the Grimm version, he only needs to show up.