The Fairy Tale

Having grown up with German fairy tales collected by the Brothers Grimm, I always thought that what I know as Dornröschen was what English speakers commonly refer to as Sleeping Beauty — which I still think is true, even though it isn’t technically the same tale if you go by their titles. Grimms’ Dornröschen (Little Briar Rose) from 1812 is based on Perrault’s La Belle au Bois Dormant (The Sleeping Beauty in the Wood/The Beauty in the Sleeping Wood) from 1967. Though fairy tales of primarily French origins were removed from Grimms’ collection in later editions, they justified the presence of Dornröschen based on the similar tale of Brynhild in the Völsunga saga.

I hardly ever hear the name Little Briar Rose in English, though I cannot speak for native English speakers as I did not grow up with English. Perhaps Sleeping Beauty is indeed used to refer to both tales in English, as an alternate name for Little Briar Rose — after all, the princess is a sleeping beauty. (This is also why I use the term several times across this shrine — not as the title of a tale, but as a way to refer to its main character.)

Writing styles aside, the two tales do differ in several ways; most of all, La Belle au Bois Dormant continues after the prince and the princess’ wedding. That continuation is offered as a separate tale — a fragment of a tale, to be precise — in the first edition of Grimms’ collection, titled Die Schwiegermutter (The Mother-in-Law). I have listed the differences between the two versions below, and you can read the fairy tales themselves here and here.

Little Briar Rose (Brothers Grimm) Sleeping Beauty in the Wood (Perrault)
  • a frog makes a prophecy
  • no prophecy is made
  • 12 wise women are invited
  • 7 fairy godmothers are invited
  • 1 wise woman has to stay home because there are only 12 golden plates
  • 1 aged fairy is forgotten because she hasn’t left her tower for over 50 years; a place is laid for her when she arrives late, but there are only 7 golden sets of cutlery
  • not all gifts are listed
  • all gifts are listed
  • the princess is to prick her finger on her 15th birthday
  • no particular date is given in the curse
  • the last wish does not foretell an end to the slumber
  • the last wish foretells that a prince will come awaken the princess
  • the entire castle falls asleep the moment the princess pricks her finger, including the royal couple
  • only the princess falls asleep, and there are attempts to wake her; the 7th fairy is called in, and she puts all the people to sleep so that they’ll be ready to service the princess once she awakens; the royal couple leaves the castle
  • a thorn hedge begins to grow around the castle, growing higher every year
  • the fairy conjures a forest with a vast quantity of trees, brambles and thorns to keep the princess away from prying eyes
  • after a hundred years, a young prince comes to the country, hears the legend of Little Briar Rose and the dead young men, and decides to go see the beautiful princess
  • after a hundred years, the throne has passed to another family, and the prince happens upon the castle by chance while hunting; there are a lot of stories about the castle (involving ghosts, witches, an ogre, and the princess herself); after hearing them, the prince decides to enter the forest for adventure, glory and love
  • upon approaching the thorn hedge, it turns into flowers that separate themselves to form a path
  • upon entering the forest, the trees, brambles and thorns separate themselves to form a path
  • the prince awakens the princess with a kiss
  • the prince gets on his knees beside the princess in admiration; as it’s the hour of disenchantment, the princess wakes up naturally and says she’s been waiting a long time
  • mention that the princess has dreamt a lot and that her clothes have become old-fashioned; marriage is kept secret for two years; two children (Dawn and Day); the prince fears his mother’s appetite for human flesh, for she is an ogre
  • more personality overall (especially the princess and the fairy)

So, if the fairy tale you know ends with the wedding, it’s the “German” Little Briar Rose, whereas if it continues, it’s the French The Sleeping Beauty in the Wood/The Beauty in the Sleeping Wood. Three things strike me about Perrault’s version: Firstly, the sincerity towards the forgotten guest — they didn’t neglect to invite her by choice just because there weren’t enough plates; they had assumed she was dead or bewitched because she had been away from the public for so long, and readily offered her a place when she showed up (though both situations are meant to amuse). Secondly, the fairy in Perrault’s version is given much more personality and power, as she anticipates the last guest’s vengeful intentions, rides a chariot drawn by dragons, decides to cast a sleep spell on all the castle’s inhabitants and conjures an entire forest. Thirdly, as the royal couple leaves the castle, the princess is without parents when she finally awakes.

Kaori Yuki’s retelling is based on Grimms’, not just due to Ludwig Revolution being a parody of Grimms’ tales specifically, but because of the presence of the prophecy, the amount of invited guests, the golden plates and how the princess’ parents are among the sleeping people. I’m pointing this out because I’ve read other fairy tale retellings that had versions of the original tales confused while calling themselves reimaginings of Grimms’ tales; in fact, Kaori Yuki’s Cinderella can be regarded as a combination of different versions.