Fairy Tale Friday: Sleeping Beauty

November 13, 2009 at 12:10 am Leave a comment

I’ve been thinking a lot about the Sleeping Beauty fairy tale lately. It’s always been one of my favorites, maybe because the Disney version is so much fun, with its eccentric good fairies, fire-breathing evil dragon/fairy sorceress, dashing and rebellious young prince, and of course, the beautiful princess.

But while the Disney movie is mostly a classic battle between good and evil, the original fable is mostly about delayed fulfillment. The king and queen in the story try desperately to have children for an incredibly long time; when that child arrives, they all must wait 16 years to see if she’ll fulfill the evil fairy’s prophecy; Sleeping Beauty and her kingdom finally must wait 100 years in order for her prince to find her and wake her up.

But as psychologist Bruno Bettelheim notes, when the awaited-for events do occur, they’re none the worse for the wait. The king and queen do have a beautiful daughter, though she does have to undergo a terrible ordeal. And though Sleeping Beauty must wait 100 years for her prince, the protective wall of thorns around her tower does a nice job of weeding out the weaker suitors before the prince comes and Sleeping Beauty can finally live happily ever after.

Apparently this is a common theme in fairy tales. As the princes in Sleeping Beauty struggle to reach the princess prematurely and die as a result,  the reader is essentially told  “don’t worry and don’t try to hurry things — when the time is ripe, the impossible problem will be solved, as if all by itself,” just as the thorns turn to flowers when the correct prince arrives after 100 years (Bettelheim, 233).

That’s not a bad lesson, is it? For children, who always want to grow up faster than they can, it’s a lesson that adulthood will still be there and still be amazing when they reach it. And for us adults, sometimes it’s important for us to remember that it might take 100 years and a struggle through a wall of briars to reach our goals, but when we finally make it, we’ll know it was worth it. :)

(PS: Oddly enough, Kate Beaton‘s comic today deals in part with Sleeping Beauty and delayed fulfillment of a slightly different sort. Check it out!)

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Entry filed under: Fairy Tale Friday. Tags: , , .

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