Saturday, 2 April 2011

Short Story Quest: Revisiting, Revising and Revamping Sleeping Beauty

The Once Upon a Time Challenge has certainly broken my no book buying rule, I have a selection of retold fairy-tales and a few non-fiction books about fairy-tales winging their way to me via amazon at the moment.
I have spent today reading versions of Sleeping Beauty. From what is believed to be the inspiration for the Grimms version Basile's 'Sun, Moon and Talia' and Perrault's 'Sleeping Beauty in the Woods' to versions of the tale set in our modern world with a Sci-Fi twist to them.

Giambattista Basile's 'Sun, Moon and Talia' tells of a young girl who falls into a deep sleep after having a piece of flax from a spindle wedged under her fingernail. Locked in a castle in a deep sleep she is visited by a king, and eventually two children who suck at her fingers dislodging the flax and thus waking her. From this their entreats a tale of jealousy and violence. Perrault's version 'Sleeping Beauty in the Woods' is far closer to the well known version with the fairies warning that a spindle will cause her harm and the whole castle being laid to sleep with her and awoken when her prince arrives.
For the Grimm's version of the tale I went to Maria Tatar's 'The Anotated Classic Fairy Tales' this version is the disney version we all grew up with, finishing with Sleeping Beauty (or Brair Rose as she is called in this version) awakening. Unlike the two previously mentioned stories their is no jealousy and violence, and no canibalism and rescue at the hands of older women. Tatar's version is accompanied by notes about various versions, as well as selections of art which has been used to depict the tale over the years.

I then went onto read two retellings from the collection 'Black Swan, White Raven' and one from 'My Mother she Killed Me, My Father he Ate Me'. The first 'The Black Fairy's Curse' by Karen Joy Fowler I think I will need to read again. It was very short and started with a woman escaping into the woods on horse back, the fast pace has her escaping up a tree and then she is suddenly with a man by a river. These seem a dream-like imagining, which later has her waking up with a man above her who she fears. I really enjoyed the pace and the way each iamge was created, but need more time to think over what was happening.
'Snow in Dirt'by Micheal Blumlein had a very different feel to it, and certainly had my favourite opening:
It can happen. Once a lifetime it should. I found the girl of my dreams in the garden. She was covered by dirt. I was digging a hole [....] She was hidden in soil, tucked between roots, still as a statue, beautiful.

Discovering this secret beauty, loner Martin takes her into his home. Gradually after days of wondering he takes her to the hospital to run tests - she is a conundrum they can't understand. When one day she suddenly wakes up he marries her, and then begins their life. Unlike a fairy tale, all is not happiness, but then it isn't all bad either.
The final version I read 'A Kiss to Wake the Sleeper' by Rabih Alameddine, features a first person narrator who is a watcher of all the happens. The girl is sent to the forest, to be treated by the sleeping beauty in an attempt to free the girl from a world trapped inside a protective bubble. The story led to a sexual encounter - fairly vividly described, which I wasn't expecting in the slightest. A clear tale of sexual awakening with violent overtones.

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