The Sleeping Beauty, 1921 painting by John Collier.

"Sleeping Beauty" is a famous European fairy tale about a beautiful young maiden who is awakened from a long enchanted sleep by a prince. In most versions of the story, the curse of sleep is put on the title character when she is still a baby by a powerful magical being whom her parents have offended.

The earliest known written version of the story is "Troylus and Zellandine" (French: "Histoire de Troïlus et de Zellandine"), an episode from the epic prose narrative Perceforest. The anonymous Arthurian romance, which was first printed in 1528, is thought to have originated in the 14th century. An Italian version of the story "Sun, Moon, and Talia" (Italian: "Sole, Luna, e Talia") appears in Giambattista Basile's 1634 book Lo cunto de li cunti (The Story of Stories), also known as Il Pentamerone. Other Italian variants follow Basile's story closely. The best-known version of the tale today is "Sleeping Beauty in the Wood" (French: "La Belle au bois dormant") by Charles Perrault, from his 1697 anthology Histoires ou Contes du temps passé (Fairy Tales from Past Times with Morals or Mother Goose Tales). "Briar Rose" or "Little Briar Rose" (German: "Dornröschen"), a truncated version of the story, is included in the collection of German folktales Kinder- und Huasmärchen (Children's and Household Tales) by the Brothers Grimm which was first published in 1812. There are also many folktales around the world about maidens who fall into enchanted sleep.

"Sleeping Beauty" has been adapted to other media many times.


Charles Perrault version

A King and his Queen invite all the fairies they can find in the country to their baby daughter's christening. At the banquet after the ceremony, the seven fairies are seated at the table, each with a specially-made gold case containing a spoon, a fork, and a knife made of gold and set with gems. An old fairy, who was not invited because she had been thought dead or enchanted, arrives unexpectedly. The King invites her to the table, but there is no extra gold case available for her. The old fairy mutters threats under her breath. A young fairy hears her and hides behind the tapestries as the rest of the fairies begin to bestow their gifts upon the Princess.

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"Sleeping Beauty" exhibit at the Château d'Ussé in France.

The six fairies confer upon the Princess exceptional beauty, the mind of an angel, grace of movement, and the ability to dance, sing, and play instruments beautifully. Then the old fairy spitefully declares, to everyone's horror, that the Princess shall pierce her hand with a spindle and die. The young fairy comes out from her hiding place and says that, although she cannot undo the curse, she can lessen the harm so that the Princess will not die but instead fall into a deep sleep which will last for a hundred years. The fairy adds that, at the end of the hundred years, a king's son will come to wake the Princess. The King immediately issues a proclamation prohibiting anyone from spinning or owning a spindle.

Fifteen or sixteen years later, the Princess is wandering around the castle in her parents' absence when she discovers a small room at the top of a tower. She enters the room and sees an old woman spinning. The woman had not heard the King's proclamation. The curious Princess reaches for the spindle, pricks her hand, and faints away. Nothing will wake her. The King, realizing that the fairies' predictions have come true, orders to have the Princess laid on a bed in a beautiful room. The fairy who had saved the Princess' life hears of the accident and rushes to the palace. She wisely realizes that the Princess will be all alone and bewildered when she wakes. Using her wand, she casts spells to make servants, courtiers, horses, and even the Princess' pet dog fall asleep so they will wake with the Princess. The King and Queen kiss their daughter and leave the castle. Then the spell magically covers the castle with trees, brambles, and thorns. Only the tops of turrets remain visible from a distance.

La Belle au Bois Dormant - fourth of six engravings by Gustave Doré

The Prince finds men and animals all asleep. 1867 engraving by Gustave Doré.

A hundred years later, a Prince notices the towers above the thick wood and asks what they are. An old peasant tells him the legend of the castle. Certain that he is the one meant to wake the beautiful Princess, the Prince goes to the wood. The trees, brambles, and the thorns part to make way for him. The Prince follows the path and comes out to a large forecourt. He finds men and animals all asleep. He then goes through the courtyard and up the staircase into the castle. He passes the snoring guards and looks into several rooms with ladies and gentlemen sleeping inside. Eventually he comes to the golden room where the sleeping Princess lies.

The moment the Prince kneels down beside the Princess, the enchantment ends. The Princess wakes and tells the Prince that she dreamt of him during her long sleep. Delighted, the Prince declares his love for the Princess. The whole palace wakes and servants resume their duties. After a festive supper, the Princess is married to the Prince in the castle chapel.

The following morning, the Prince returns to the city by himself. The Prince does not tell his parents about the Princess because he does not completely trust his mother. The Queen, whom the King married for her fortune, is from a race of ogres who are known to eat human flesh. The Prince keeps his secret for several years until, upon his father's death, he becomes King of the country. He then finally announces his marriage and brings his wife and their two children, a daughter named Aurora[1] and a son named Day, to the capital.

Sometime later, the young King goes to war leaving his wife and children in his mother's care. The Queen-mother sends her daughter-in-law and the children to a secluded country house and joins them a few days later. One evening, the Queen-mother tells the cook that she wants to eat little Aurora for dinner. The cook goes to Aurora's room with a knife, but he cannot bring himself to kill the sweet four-year-old girl. He instead takes the child to his wife so she can be hidden from the Queen-mother. The cook then kills a little lamb and serves it with the ogress' favorite sauce. The dish is so delicious that the ogress is fooled.

A week later, the Queen-mother tells the cook she wants to eat little Day for supper. The cook hides the three-year-old boy with his wife then cooks a young goat instead. The ogress is again fooled by the delicious dish. When the ogress next orders him to serve the young Queen for supper, however, the cook cannot think of an appropriate animal to substitute. Knowing what the ogress will do to him if he did not follow her orders, the cook goes to the young Queen's room with a dagger and tells her what he has been ordered to do. Believing her children dead, the young Queen tells the cook to kill her too so she can join them. Touched by her sorrow, the cook takes the young Queen to her children. He then cooks a deer which fools and satisfies the ogress.

One evening, while she is prowling around the grounds, the Queen-mother hears the voices of the Queen and her children. Realizing that she had been deceived, the furious ogress orders a large vat filled with toads and poisonous snakes to be set up in the middle of the court. She then orders the Queen, her children, the cook, his wife and maid to be brought with their hands tied behind them. Just as the offenders are about to be thrown into the copper, the King returns unexpectedly early from his campaign. Astonished at what he sees, he demands an explanation. The enraged ogress flings herself into the copper and is killed instantly. Although the King is sorry to have lost his mother, he is comforted to have his beautiful wife and children.

Brothers Grimm version

Briar Rose - Anne Anderson

Illustration for "Briar Rose" by Anne Anderson.

In "Briar Rose", the German variant recorded by the Brothers Grimm, twelve Wise Women are invited to the feast celebrating the princess' birth. The thirteenth Wise Woman is not invited because the King has only twelve golden plates. The Wise Women's gifts include virtue and wealth in addition to beauty. After the eleventh gift is bestowed, the uninvited Wise Woman appears and puts the curse on the Princess. As soon as the Princess pricks her finger - on her fifteenth birthday as predicted - and falls asleep, the sleep spreads through the castle on its own. The King and his Queen also fall asleep so that the Princess is left sleeping where she fell in the tower room. A hedge of briars begins to grow, and it grows higher over the years to eventually envelope the whole castle. The legendary sleeping princess is given the name of Briar Rose by the local people. Several princes attempt to go through the hedge before the hundred years have passed, and they get caught in the briars and die in the process. The Prince finds Briar Rose in the tower and wakes her with a kiss. The story ends with the two wedded and living happily ever after.

The Grimms included a fragment of a tale about an evil mother-in-law in the first edition of Kinder- und Huasmärchen. In the fragment, the old queen locks up the young queen in the cellar with her two little boys while the king is away at war. It is the young queen who, when the old queen decides to eat the boys, suggests to the cook that baby pigs can be substituted for her sons. The gruesome fragment was omitted from later editions of Kinder- und Huasmärchen. The Grimms also removed from later editions any tales which were found to have had literary origins. Despite its clear connection to Perrault's story, "Briar Rose" was kept in the collection because of its similarity to the tale of Brünhild. According to Norse mythology, Brünhild was put into an everlasting sleep behind a wall of fire for disobeying Odin. She was later awakened by a kiss from Siguard.

Earlier versions

The earliest recorded version of the Sleeping Beauty story can be found in the French romance Perceforest. In the episode "Histoire de Troïlus et de Zellandine", a beautiful princess of Zealand named Zellandine falls into an enchanted sleep while spinning. Her lover Troylus, a knight from Scotland, goes to the temple of Venus (goddess of love), Lucina (goddess of childbirth), and Themis (goddess of justice), and prays to Venus. Venus tells him that Zellandine will be cured once he has plucked the fruit. Troylus goes to the high tower where Zellandine is sleeping and kisses her. The kiss does not wake the princess. Urged on by Venus, Troylus reluctantly violates Zellandine in her sleep. Zellandine gives birth to a boy while still unconscious. The baby suckles her finger and removes the distaff, breaking the curse. Zellandine later learns that her aunt had offended Themis by failing to provide her with a knife at the feast when Zellandine was born. After Lucinda bestowed her gift of health, Themis cursed the child to sleep, and Venus vowed to ensure she would be rescued. Zellandine and Troylus marry. Their baby, stolen shortly after the splinter is sucked out, grows up to become a great knight and an ancestor of Sir Lancelot.

In the Italian version of the story "Sun, Moon, and Talia" by Gianbattista Basile, wise men prophesize that baby Talia will suffer a great misfortune involving flax. Her father, a great lord, prohibits any flax to be brought into his home. After Talia has grown up, she sees an old woman spinning and tries to spin herself. She gets a piece of flax under her fingernail and falls, apparently dead. The father places her body in a country palace and seals the doors. A king comes upon the palace one day and finds the beautiful Talia sleeping. Unable to wake her, he admires her beauty and leaves. Talia, still asleep, later gives birth to twins, a boy and a girl. Talia finally wakes when one of the babies sucks on her finger and draws out the splinter. The king remembers Talia sometime later and comes back to the palace. He finds her playing with her beautiful children. He tells her who he is and names the children Sun and Moon.

Basile's story contains the second part similar to Perrault's. In his version, however, the king turns out to be already married. After leaving Talia and the children, the king returns to his kingdom but cannot get them out of his mind. His wife hears him speak their names in his sleep. She presses the king's secretary and learns the truth. The furious queen sends the secretary to fetch the children in the king's name. She orders the cook to kill them and serve them to her husband. She then taunts her husband as he eats what she believes are his illegitimate children, but the king does not understand what she is implying. Frustrated, the queen next sends the secretary to fetch Talia in the king's name. She accuses Talia of seducing her husband and orders her thrown into the fire. Talia asks for time to take off her clothes. As she takes off each layer of her clothes, Talia yells out in grief. The king hears her and comes just in time to save her. Upon learning that his wife ordered the children killed and fed to him, the king orders her thrown into the fire along with the secretary. He is about to do the same with the cook when the cook reveals that he saved the children. The cook is generously rewarded and made the king's chamberlain. The king weds Talia and they live happily ever after.


Sleeping beauty cast

Original cast of Tchaikovsky's ballet The Sleeping Beauty (1890).

One of the most famous adaptations of "Sleeping Beauty" is the ballet The Sleeping Beauty (Russian: Спящая красавица / Spyashchaya krasavitsa) by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky which premiered at the Mariinsky Theatre in St. Petersburg on January 15, 1890.

Operas based on "Sleeping Beauty" include La belle au bois dormant by Michele Carafa which premiered at the Paris Opera on March 2, 1825, Dornröschen by Engelbert Humperdinck which opened in Frankfurt on December 11, 1902, and La bella dormente nel bosco by Ottorino Respighi which was first performed at the Teatro Odescalchi in Rome on April 13, 1922.

There are also many musicals and plays, mostly for children, based on the fairy tale.

Silhouette-animation short films of "Sleeping Beauty" were made by the German director and animation pioneer Lotte Reiniger in 1922 and 1954.

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Princess Aurora and her prince in the Disney Magic On Parade in Disneyland Paris.

The best-known movie adaptation of the tale is the 1959 animated musical Sleeping Beauty by Walt Disney which uses music adapted from the Tchaikovsky ballet. Although the film did not perform well originally, it has since been successfully rereleased multiple times and is now considered a classic. The character of the evil fairy Maleficent became one of the most popular Disney villains. In 2014, Disney Pictures released Maleficent, a live-action movie starring Angelina Jolie. The film retells the story of "Sleeping Beauty" from Maleficent's point of view. A sequel, Maleficent: Mistress of Evil, was released in 2019.

A live-action musical Sleeping Beauty (1987), part of the Cannon Movie Tales series, stars Tahnee Welch as Princess Rosebud and features Morgan Fairchild as the Queen and Kenny Baker as the Elf who gives the Queen the magical potion to grant her wish for a baby.

Direct-to-video animated adaptations were produced in 1991 by Golden Films (USA) and in 1995 by Jetlag Productions (American-Japanese).

Other films based on or inspired by "Sleeping Beauty" include:

  • La belle au bois dormant (France 1908), a short silent film directed by Albert Capellini and Lucien Nonguet.
  • Dornröschen (Germany 1917), a silent film directed by Paul Leni.
  • La Belle au bois dormant (France 1922), a silent film directed by Stéphane Passet.
  • Prinsessa Ruusunen (Finland 1949), based on a Finnish version of the story by Sakari Topelius and directed by Edvin Laine.
  • Dornröschen (West Germany 1955), a color film directed by Fritz Genschow.
  • Dornröschen (East Germany 1971), a Deutsche Film movie directed by Walter Beck.
  • Jak se budi princezny (Czechoslovakia 1978), directed by Václav Vorlícek.
  • Šípková Růženka (Czechoslovakia 1990), directed by Stanislav Párnicky.
  • Sleeping Beauty (USA 2014), a fantasy adventure film directed by Casper Van Dien.
  • The Curse of Sleeping Beauty (USA 2016), a fantasy horror film inspired by the tale, directed by Pearry Reginald Teo.

Television movies based on "Sleeping Beauty" include BBC adaptations in the United Kingdom (1955 and 1959) as well as French (1954 and 2010) and German (2008 and 2009) versions.

The sleeping beauty - a play for home acting and young performers (1861) (14802329873)

Illustration from The Sleeping Beauty: a play for home acting and young performers by Julia Corner(1861).

The eighth episode of the American children's television series Shirley Temple's Storybook is an adaptation of "Sleeping Beauty". The episode was first broadcast on NBC on June 8, 1958.

Episode 5 of the second season of the television series Faerie Tale Theatre is based on "Sleeping Beauty". The episode was first shown on Showtime on July 7, 1983. It stars Christopher Reeve as the prince and Bernadette Peters as the princess.

The story was adapted as the eighteenth episode of the Japanese anime series Grimm's Fairy Tale Classics (Japanese: グリム名作劇場; Gurimu Meisaku Gekijō). The episode first aired on TV Asahi on February 17, 1988.

Season 1 of the HBO Family animated television series Happily Ever After featured an episode inspired by "Sleeping Beauty". Marie Barrientos voiced Rosita, the character based on the princess, and Ricardo Montalbán voiced her father King Carlos. The episode first aired on April 23, 1995.

See also


  1. In Tchaikovsky's ballet The Sleeping Beauty and the 1959 Disney movie, the princess is given the name of Aurora.

External links

  • Text of "Sleeping Beauty in the Wood" in French and English on Wikisource.
  • Text of "Briar Rose" in German and English on Wikisource.
  • Text of "Sun, Moon, and Talia" in English on Wikisource.
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