Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Understanding the Fairies of Sleeping Beauty Fairy

Article by Ty Hulse

Similar Articles: Fairy Stories    Woodland fairies   Forest Fairies    Types of Fairies

"Sleeping Beauty" is the story of a water fairy who is an artist and a story teller. A water fairy who manipulates events to make the story of "Sleeping Beauty" possible.

The story of "Sleeping Beauty" opens with a water fairy providing the king and queen with a child. In “Briar Rose,” the water fairy appears in the personified form of a frog to tell of the child that will be born. In “Sleeping Beauty in the Wood,” the version collected by Perrault, the king and queen take a much more active role in seeking help from the water fairy with the opening lines; “They went to all the waters in the world; vows, pilgrimages, all ways were tried.”
By the time the story was collected, of course, churches had long since rededicated fountains and waters to saints. However, such a rededication is merely a change of form rather than of function. What we see in the king and queen’s search is that despite the fact that the king-dom in which they lived had 13 fairies (or 7 in Perrault’s version) the king and queen chose to seek help in having a child or ultimately received it from the spirit of the water. Water fairies have a unique ability to see the future so this spirit of the wells would have foreseen much of the epic tale that was about to unfold because of its action of helping the king and queen to have a child. Certainly, the story that resulted has been with us for hundreds of years and is now one of the most popular stories in the world. The well fairy then is creating a form of art by setting this story up, and so one could argue that all the other characters are simply bystanders in what happens next. The fairy who lays the curse on Briar Rose/Aurora has no real choice but to be spiteful given her nature. The king and queen are simply humans prone to stupid mistakes. The good fairy is limited in her capacity to help and so had few options open to her. The prince does very little but get curious about what’s in the palace. When he walks up to it, the way is made for him, presumably by the fairy, who said that Briar Rose would be awakened after a hundred years. The princess is blessed and cursed from birth so she has no choice in anything that happens to her.
The only character with a choice in this story then is that of what could be called its writer, the water fairy. The water fairy did not need to grant the king and queen’s wish in either ver-sion of the tale. In one story, most wells refused the king and queen showing that it could have done so easily as well. In the other the frog simply shows up and grants the wish of its own accord. Yet despite the fact that this is the one character with a choice in the story, the one character who sets things into motion, the water fairy is the most ignored of all the characters. So as with many fairies, the one who begins this tale is the anonymous artist who sets every-thing into motion.
Let us consider now the next set of fairies to enter the stories, the norns, the fate bringers. They are in many ways similar to the three norns which come to make important children he-roes. In “The Edda,” the majority of the norns are kind and helpful, but one of them is spiteful and curses the child to die. In “The Edda,” this occurred because the norn tripped and hurt herself as she approached the child whereas in “Sleeping Beauty” the fairy cursed the child with death because she felt slighted by the king and queen. This difference is important be-cause while the norn in “The Edda” only curses the child with death, the fairy in “Sleeping Beauty” is angry at the king and queen so she does much more than this by cursing the child and the kingdom’s source of power over its fate. A spindle, the item the fairy says will ulti-mately kill the princess, is more than just a way to make clothes in folklore; it’s a way to make fate. Fate is spun, and magic is woven by women. Jacob Grimm’s “Teutonic Mythology” notes, “Women gain their power, their heroic respect at this time from the magic that comes from the spindle.” In “The Golden Bough” it’s stated that “Women become very nearly or perhaps in some ways more than gods from the power over fate that they have, a power which comes from spinning.” By saying that Briar Rose will die from the spindle that provides power, the fairy has effectively denied Briar Rose this power. So while
she may grow up to be rich and beautiful, she is powerless; she is meaningless. Further, for fifteen years after this the whole kingdom must suffer the same fate because the king and queen outlawed all spindles. The insulted fairy/spinner of fate then curses the kingdom to not have fate spun for their children for fifteen years. She curses the women to lose much of the magical power they might have. She has cursed the men to do without these powers as they go to war. Finally, she has cursed these women and the princess to live meaningless lives unable to affect the world around them the way the women in other kingdoms can. Cursing someone to die because of a spindle, cursing a kingdom to live without their spindles for over a decade then is perhaps one of the worst curses imaginable. 


stasha said...

thank you. i appreciate this perspective.