My short story, Between the Sun and the Moon, was published in a charity anthology “Library of Dreams” in 2013. The main theme of the anthology were, of course, dreams.
Dreams, dreams, dreams… what story to write about dreams? It didn’t take me long to come up with the general idea, and from there on, the tale just took flight.
The inspiration came from an article I’d read a couple of years prior. It spoke of a girl affected by Sleeping Beauty Syndrome, a.k.a. The Kleine Levin Syndrome.
I did further research, watched documentaries about teens suffering through it. I will admit, it was awful…
“KLS is a rare and complex neurological disorder characterized by recurring periods of excessive amounts of sleep, altered behavior, and a reduced understanding of the world. At the onset of an episode the patient becomes progressively drowsy and sleeps for most of the day and night (hypersomnolence), sometimes waking only to eat or go to the bathroom. Each episode lasts days, weeks or months during which time all normal daily activities stop. Individuals are not able to care for themselves or attend school and work. In between episodes, those with KLS appear to be in perfect health with no evidence of behavioral or physical dysfunction. KLS episodes may continue for 10 years or more. KLS is sometimes referred to in the media as ‘Sleeping Beauty’ syndrome.”
Imagine slipping in and out of sleeping episodes, where you might “sleep” for days and weeks, only half-waking to eat, take care of your basic needs, some even have violent outbursts… and then, when you wake from an episode, you don’t remember anything. The affected miss their own birthdays, proms, Christmases, major exams, dates, performances… You get the idea.
However, this blog post is not about the Kleine Levin Syndrome, so if you want to know more, I urge you to do some research… you can start here.
Back to the Sleeping Beauty part of the syndrome. In my story, I combined it with some Sleeping Beauty folk tale elements, and then went to the extremes. My story is not a representative case of someone suffering through it. It is purely a piece of fiction, inspired by the what ifs of the syndrome.
Of course, I did my research on the folk tales as well, and was quite surprised with what I uncovered. Shocked, even.
The Dark History
As I delved deeper into Briar Rose, I discovered that the original folk tale is quite different from the story we all “know” – a very grim, twisted and dark story.
It all started in 1528, maybe even earlier, but in that year, Perceforest, a medieval courtly romance, was published. In the tale, princess Zellandine falls in love with Troylus. Her father sets challenging tasks before Troylus, insisting that he prove himself worthy of his daughter. While Troylus is gone, Zellandine falls into an enchanted sleep. When he finds her, he impregnates her in her sleep. Her baby is born, and he latches onto her finger and draws out the flax that caused her sleep. After waking, Zellandine recognizes the ring on her finger, realizing the father of her child is Troylus, who later returns to marry her.
Giambattista Basile published his version Sun, Moon and Talia in 1634 in The Pentamerone. This version is even darker and more twisted than Perceforest and even has a sequel. The beginning of Basile’s version of the tale is pretty similar to the familiar Disney’s version of the story. The difference is that a king, not a prince, stumbles upon a beautiful young woman, Talia. He cannot wake her…
“… he believed that she was asleep, and he called her, but she remained unconscious. Crying aloud, he beheld her charms and felt his blood course hotly through his veins. He lifted her in his arms, and carried her to a bed, where he gathered the first fruits of love. Leaving her on the bed, he returned to his own kingdom, where, in the pressing business of his realm, he for a time thought no more about this incident.”
Talia becomes pregnant and gives birth to twins. Suddenly, fairies arrive to help put the babies to their sleeping mother’s breast. When one of the babies accidentally suckles on Talia’s finger, the splinter of flax is drawn out, waking Talia.
In short, she names the twin babies “Sun” and “Moon”, and the king remembers her and returns to see her again. (Probably to “gather the fruits of love” again…) He finds her with the babies and they decide that they love each other.
Of course, his wife, the Queen, finds out the truth, and…
“told the cook to kill them /the babies/, and to make them into several tasteful dishes for her wretched husband.“
The cook is not as cold-hearted, and in the end, the Queen’s plan backfires. She ends up dead.
“He /the Rapist King/ married Talia to wife; and she enjoyed a long life with her husband and her children, thus experiencing the truth of the proverb:
Those whom fortune favors
Find good luck even in their sleep.”
I don’t know what’s lucky about being raped while unconscious. What lesson would you take away from this story? You can read the whole tale here.
In 1687 Charles Perrault made his own version of the tale called La Belle au bois dormant, “The Beauty Sleeping in the Wood”. In this version, among other changes, the king is not married and is a prince, and he did not rape the girl.
“He approached with trembling and admiration, and fell down before her upon his knees. And now, as the enchantment was at an end, the princess awaked, and looking on him with eyes more tender than the first view might seem to admit of.”
They do have children, although not twins, and not conceived while she was sleeping. Here start the similarities to Basile’s version again.
“… had by her two children, the eldest of which, who was a daughter, was named Morning, and the youngest, who was a son, they called Day, because he was a great deal handsomer and more beautiful than his sister.”
This time, there is no scorned Queen, but the Prince’s enraged mother, an orc. Yes… you read that right.
“But he never dared to trust her with his secret; he feared her, though he loved her, for she was of the race of the ogres, and the king would never have married her had it not been for her vast riches; it was even whispered about the court that she had ogreish inclinations, and that, whenever she saw little children passing by, she had all the difficulty in the world to avoid falling upon them. And so the prince would never tell her one word.”
The similarities continue, and these two quotes (by the Prince’s mother) illustrate it perfectly:
““I have a mind to eat little Morning for my dinner tomorrow.”
About eight days afterward the wicked queen said to the clerk of the kitchen, “I will sup on little Day.””
And, in Perrault’s words, the moral of the story is:
“Many a girl has waited long
For a husband brave or strong;
But I’m sure I never met
Any sort of woman yet
Who could wait a hundred years,
Free from fretting, free from fears.
Now, our story seems to show
That a century or so,
Late or early, matters not;
True love comes by fairy-lot.
Some old folk will even say
It grows better by delay.
Yet this good advice, I fear,
Helps us neither there nor here.
Though philosophers may prate
How much wiser ’tis to wait,
Maids will be a sighing still —
Young blood must when young blood will!”
How would you interpret it?
Perrault’s version inspired the Brothers Grimm variant Little Briar Rose, but their version ends when the prince arrives to wake Sleeping Beauty. The brothers considered rejecting the story completely on the grounds that it was derived from Perrault’s version, but the presence of the Brynhild tale convinced them to include it as an authentically German tale. Still, it is the only known German variant of the tale, and Perrault’s influence is almost certain.
In 1959, the Charles Perrault and Brothers Grimm versions were adapted into a Walt Disney animated film.
Sleeping Beauty’s name
In Sun, Moon, and Talia, she is named Talia (Sun and Moon being her twin children). She has no name in Perrault’s story, but her daughter is called “Aurore”. The Brothers Grimm named her “Briar Rose” in their 1812 collection. Tchaikovsky’s ballet and Disney’s version named her Princess Aurora; however, in the Disney version, she is also called “Briar Rose” in her childhood, when she is being raised incognito by the good fairies. John Stejean named her “Rosebud” in TeleStory Presents.
Theme of the story
Some folklorists have analyzed Sleeping Beauty as indicating the replacement of the lunar year (with its thirteen months, symbolically depicted by thirteen fairies) by the solar year (which has twelve, symbolically the invited fairies). The basic elements of the story can also be interpreted as a nature allegory: the princess represents nature, the wicked fairy godmother is winter, who puts the royal court to sleep with pricks of frost until the prince (spring) cuts away the brambles with his sword (a sunbeam) to allow the Sun to awaken the sleeping princess (nature). (1)
There are many adaptations and works inspired by Sleeping Beauty: poems, stories, novels, animated and live-action movies, comic books, music, and ballet. It would take a whole new blog post just to list them all.
If you are interested in reading my take on Sleeping Beauty combined with KLS, you can buy a copy of Library of Dreams, all author profits go to LitWorld organization, or sign up to my newsletter, and you’ll be first to know when I post it on my website for free.
This was not the first time I was inspired by old folk tales and fairy-tales. In my short story, The Red Menace, I drew inspiration from The Little Red Riding Hood. You can read about my findings here: Little Red Riding Hood – moral warnings and sexual implications.
And of course, there’s my first fantasy novel, Dragon’s Treasure, inspired both by Beauty and the Beast, and the dragon-maiden-prince trope.
Thank you for reading. I hope you enjoyed this long post, and that you learned something new.