I have created this project for the course "Does The Shoe Fit?: Fairy Tales as Literature for Children" as part of the Rutgers University Youth Literature Online Certificate Program. I am presenting a study of the "Sleeping Beauty" tales, briefly summarizing various versions (classic, cross-cultural, and modern) and posting my reaction to each. I have also include relevant links for further information. Enjoy!

Click here to read about the history of the Sleeping Beauty tale.

Sun, Moon, and Talia (An Italian Tale)

Basile, Giambattista. The Pentamerone. Benedetto Croce, translator. New York: Dutton, 1932., Day 5, Tale 5.

Click here to read the complete tale.

This is the second known version of the Sleeping Beauty tale, after Perceforst, which is thought to be the earliest. In Sun, Moon, and Talia, a king is told by fortune tellers that his daughter will suffer greatly as the result of flax. Upon hearing this, the king announces that no flax is to be brought into his castle, hoping that by doing so Talia will be safe. However, this does not solve the problem, as years later Talia sees a woman spinning and becomes intrigued; she must know how to do this thing! As predicted, some flax gets under the girl’s finger nail and she falls to the ground. The king has her placed in a castle in the country and never goes to see her again.

Some time later, a king happens by this castle, discovers Talia inside, and sees she will not wake up. The tale goes, “So, after admiring her beauty awhile, the king returned home to his kingdom, where for a long time he forgot all that had happened.” Evidentially, he raped Talia, as the next sentence reads, “Meanwhile Talia gave birth to two little twins…” As they are hungry for food, they accidentally suck on her finger, thus removing the splinter and waking Talia. Eventually the king remembers what happened and is thrilled to find Talia awake and to meet his children. Talia is happy to meet him and apparently has no problem with the fact that she was raped in her sleep: “…they formed a great league and friendship, and he remained there for several days, promising as he took leave to return and fetch her.”

Back at home, the king’s wife has grown suspicious and demands the king’s secretary tell her what is going on. He tells the queen of Talia, she sends for the children, and orders the cook to kill and prepare them for her husband to eat. The cook instead kills and cooks two young goats and puts the children in hiding. Later, the queen sends for Talia and upon her arrival orders her to be burned to death. Buying time, Talia begs that she at least be able to remove her clothing before going into the flames, which she does one article at a time, and the king arrives just as she is being dragged away. When the king sees this and realizes it is his wife who is behind it, he orders her to be burned in the flames instead, along with his secretary. The cook’s life is spared when he reveals that he had in fact saved and hidden the children, who at this point are brought out of hiding by the cook’s wife. The cook is rewarded for his good deed, the king marries Talia, and they live happily with their children Sun and Moon for a long time. The tale ends: "He who has luck may go to bed, and bliss will rain upon his head.”

Obviously, I find the rape aspect troubling. It is understandable that the king's wife would be jealous and very angry, but I don't understand why the children would have to be eaten. Also, doesn't Talia mind that the father of her children is already married? And I am really at a loss for this "moral" at the end. What does that mean?

Click here to learn more about The Pentamerone.

Little Briar Rose (A German Tale)

Grimm, Jacob and Wilhelm. The Complete Fairy Tales of the Brothers Grimm. Jack Zipes, translator. New York: Bantam, 1987.

Click here to read the complete tale.

The Grimms version introduces the Wise Women to the tale, much like the fairies of other versions, who each endow the baby girl with an important quality at her birth feast. One Wise Woman feels slighted for not having been invited to the event, and thus curses the princess to prick her finger with a spindle and die on her fifteenth birthday. Fortunately, there remains one Wise Woman who has not yet given a gift, and she softens the evil curse by changing it to a 100-year-long sleep instead. As the king prohibited flax in Sun, Moon, and Talia, this king orders all spindles in his kingdom to be burnt in an effort to better his daughter’s fate. But on her fifteenth birthday, she discovers an old woman spinning flax in a tower of the castle, pricks her finger, and falls into the long sleep along with everyone else in the castle. Thorns grow around the castle so that it cannot be seen, but the story of Briar Rose spreads far, enticing princes to come and try to break the spell. Many die a miserable death caught in the castle’s thorns, until the hundred years are up and a young prince successfully makes his way into the castle. The spell breaks just as the prince kisses Briar Rose, and things return exactly as they were one hundred years before. Briar Rose and the prince are married and “they live contented to the end of their days.”

This tale is much tamer in that it eliminates the rape aspect as well as the evil wife. Unlike later versions, the kiss does not appear to break the spell but instead coincidentally occurs just as the spell was about to break anyway. The only force of evil is the angered Wise Woman. It is never mentioned, but I suppose it could be implied that the old woman in the castle spinning flax was the evil Wise Woman; how else coud a spindle have made its way into the castle when they had been banned? There are no children and we do not see any activity past the wedding. The Grimms do not attempt a moral, and I struggle to find one. I suppose it could be that no one can change their destiny.

Click here to learn more about the Brothers Grimm.

Sleeping Beauty

Lang, Andrew, ed. "Sleeping Beauty." The Blue Fairy Book. New York: Dover, 1965. (Originally published 1889.)

Click here to read an annotated version of this tale.

This is Charles Perrault’s version of the tale, who according to Heidi Anne Heiner was the first to use “Sleeping Beauty” as the title. He uses seven (unlike the Grimms twelve) good fairies, the eighth being the uninvited and wicked one. As in other versions, the King bans the use of spindles. Perrault states plainly that the woman who was spinning on the ill-fated day was in fact a good woman who simply had not known about the ban (whereas in some versions it seems that perhaps the old woman was the wicked fairy in disguise). The prince arrives to waken Beauty just as the spell is up, and they are married. This version spends a great deal of time explaining what happened after the marriage. The prince finds it necessary to conceal his marriage from his parents, particularly his mother, who is part Ogress and known to eat children (the prince and Beauty now have two children, named Morning and Day). Years later he makes his marriage known, and the Queen-mother sends Beauty away to a country house so that she may “gratify her horrible longing.” When the Queen-mother sends her clerk of the kitchen to kill and cook Morning, he instead kills a lamb and hides Morning with his wife (same as in “Sun, Moon, and Talia”). About a week later, she wishes to eat Day, and this time the clerk kills and cooks a young goat instead. When the wicked queen desires to eat Beauty, the clerk kills and cooks a deer. She decides she will tell her son that wolves have eaten his wife and children, until one evening she discovers the three still alive in the kitchen clerk’s home! She thus orders Beauty, Morning, Day, the kitchen clerk, and his wife to be thrown into a large tub “filled with toads, vipers, snakes, and all sorts of serpents.” Fortunately, the prince (now king) arrives just in time and the Ogress dives into the horrible tub, rather than explain herself to her son (this part is a little vague). The tale ends with all happy and content.

I highly recommend reading the annotated version of this tale, which I have provided a link to above. The annotations provided are quite insightful and interesting!

Walt Disney's Sleeping Beauty

Disney's Sleeping Beauty (1959). Walt Disney, producer.

Click here for background information on the film.

In this well known animated film set in Medieval Times, the princess (Aurora) is promised to a prince at her christening. Two good fairies present her with the gifts of beauty and song, but then the uninvited Maleficent arrives with the curse (she is clearly evil and even has horns). The last good fairy softens the curse by declaring that she will not die, but fall asleep, and will be awakened by true love’s kiss. There is conveniently no mention of a hundred year time frame for the spell, and it is also convenient that there are only three good fairies and all the princess needs are to be beautiful and have a good singing voice. They take her away into the forest to protect her from the spell, and she lives unaware that she is a princess, having been given the new name of Briar Rose. The animals of the forest love her (this seems a Disney requirement). When the fairies do tell her she is a princess and that she is betrothed to a prince, she is disappointed because she has just met a man in the woods she has fallen in love with (unaware that he is in fact the same prince to whom she was promised). The prince has fallen in love with her as well, even though he thinks she is a mere country girl. He is determined to marry her despite the difference in status. I think this element is there to show that the love is true.

When she returns to the kingdom unharmed, it seems that Aurora has escaped her fate, until Maleficent comes to the castle and puts her under some sort of spell. When the fairies are not around, the princess is led to prick her finger on the spindle in what appears to be a trance. When they discover her asleep, they put everyone else to sleep as well. In the meantime, Maleficent has captured the prince and is torturing him in a dungeon. The fairies assist him by setting him free and providing him with a sword of truth and shield of virtue (obviously showing how good triumphs over evil). Maleficent summons all the powers of hell, turning herself into a dragon in an attempt to defeat the prince, but he kills her with his sword. The thorns she has surrounded the castle with are gone. The prince awakens the prince and arm in arm they descend the stairs. The sleep conveniently only lasts one day!

I probably wouldn’t like this retelling so much if I was just seeing it for the first time. Fortunately or unfortunately, it was one of my favorites as a child and I still love the music, fairies, and animals. While there were many changes made that folklorists are probably not happy about, I have to admit I still love it.

Click here for character analysis.

Sleeping Persun of Better-Than-Average Attractiveness

Garner, James Finn. "Sleeping Persun of Better-Than-Average Attractiveness." Once Upon a More Enlightened Time: More Politically Correct Bedtime Stories. New York: MacMillan, 1995.

Having at this point read A LOT of Sleeping Beauty tales, I can honestly say that this short story was a welcome change! As in other versions, a frog predicts the conception, (the king and queen have been having difficulty conceiving a child) adding “Get some regular exercise, eat more greens and grains, and eliminate animal fat from your diet. Later, if you need one, I can recommend a good lactation consultant” (66). Amusing and up-to-date twists on the tale are found throughout the story. The first fairy blesses Rosamond with a good body image, another with good math skills, and so on. Finally, the thirteenth and uninvited fairy curses the baby: “May you grow up thinking you can’t be complete without a man, put unrealistic hopes of perfect and total happiness on your marriage, and become a bored, dissatisfied, and unfulfilled housewife” (68). The twelfth fairy softens the curse with the traditional spindle prick and hundred year sleep, adding, “By that time, perhaps men will be more evolved and your pain in finding a progressive, affirming lifemate will not be so great” (69). One hundred years later, a prince discovers the castle, believing he has stumbled upon a “top-notch meditation center” (72). He is very impressed with everyone’s ability to maintain their meditative state, particularly, Rosamond, who he wants for a teacher. She wakes up, but she does not want to be his teacher, she wants to be his princess. The story ends, “And so, with this standoff, the prophesies of the 12th sister of sorcery, as well as those of the 13th, were fulfilled” (75).

I think anyone with some background knowledge of traditional fairy tales and a sense of humor will be entertained by this little book. I included a review from someone who wasn’t as impressed with the book as me, however, to show varying viewpoints.

Click here to read a review of this book.

Sleeping Bunny

Keller, Emily Snowell. Sleeping Bunny. New York: Random House, 2003.

Click here to learn more about Sleeping Bunny.

This is a retelling of the Grimms’ version, the obvious difference being that the main character is a bunny. I might have even disliked the book because the story itself is not that creative, were it not for the fact that I absolutely ADORE the illustrations. I encourage you to click on the link provided above and explore the sight so that you can see for yourself; I know I would have loved this book as a child and I think lots of children, especially girls, will love it too! I think it is cute how all of the good fairies are pigs, while Mildew, the wicked fairy, is a rat. The illustrations show her to be the one spinning in the tower the day the spell takes effect. Interestingly, this version has a slightly more realistic outcome: “Princess Bunny and her Prince grew to truly love each other and eventually decided to marry” (the key word being “eventually,” whereas in many versions the love and marriage are immediate). And of course, they live “hoppily ever after.”

Briar Rose (Sleeping Beauty) by Anne Sexton

Sexton, Anne. "Briar Rose (Sleeping Beauty)." Transformations. Houghton Mifflin Co., 1979.

Click here to read the poem.

Sexton’s poem deals with father/daughter rape while also telling the traditional Grimm’s tale. Briar Rose is cursed by a fairy with “eyes burnt by cigarettes / her uterus an empty teacup.” I thought perhaps this was Sexton’s way of hinting that aside from being angry that she wasn’t invited to the christening, she was also jealous of the queen’s ability to have a child, as well as Beauty’s youth. After she awakens, she is afraid to sleep and is an insomniac. She fears her father and what can be done to her as she sleeps; she can’t handle the loss of control. The only way she can sleep is with “the court chemist / mixing her some knock-out drops / and never in the prince’s presence.” She has transferred the fear of her father onto (her now husband) the prince. I also found the “knock-out drops” line interesting and think it is a comment on how many women affected by rape or incest grow to be more likely to have drug problems as a way to handle the pain. She writes, “There was a theft.” I think this refers to her innocence being taken from her. She says, “I was abandoned” (perhaps by her mother?). There is reference to how the king made all the men in the court scour their tongues with Bab-O (a cleaning agent with bleach) and to the men who attempted to get into the castle but were killed by the thorns. This can be seen as a comment on how women who have undergone such a horrible experience are not able to ever really let another man into their lives because they cannot trust; ultimately it was her father that kept potential princes from her. The last four lines read: “What voyage this, little girl? / This coming out of prison? / God help --- / this life after death?” Once again I feel like the message is that although she is now an adult, she is still trapped as an abused little girl, unable to heal the past, asking, “What kind of a life is this?” I must say there is a lot of room for interpretation here and I’d love for readers to click on the link to the poem and have a look. I’d like to know your take on it.

Click here for a feminist analysis of this poem.

Watching the Roses

Geras, Adele. Watching the Roses. San Diego, CA: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1992.

Click here to learn about more young adult books by this author.

Alice has been raped. It occurred at her eighteenth birthday party, the day her nasty aunt Violette wished for her to die. Another aunt, Marguerite, had softened this wish by combating it with a wish for long life, saying, “what with Violette’s wish, there may be an accident or an illness, or something of that kind, but Alice will live to a ripe old age.” Since the rape, Alice has been existing in almost a comatose state, probably from the shock and trauma. During this time, she appears to be sleeping to all who visit her, but when no one is around, she shares her story in an old notebook. This is where we learn all about Alice’s life, her thirteen aunts who each give her a special gift (fairies or Wise Women), house surrounded by roses which go unattended while she is convalescing (castle surrounded by briars), jealous aunt Violette, angry for not having been invited to Alice’s christening (the scene of the curse), boyfriend Jean Luc (prince), brooch given to her by Violette which she accidentally pricks herself with (spindle prick), constant desire to sleep and the near silence that has come over her entire house (the spell), parents who prior to Alice’s birth had difficulty conceiving a child (the king and queen), a stranger’s prediction of her birth, (as foretold by a frog in many versions), Miss van der Leyden, a kind old lady staying in Alice’s house known for her ability to make clothing (like the good old woman spinning in many tales), and eventual healing (the breaking of the spell).

I was pleasantly surprised by this book, but I must say I think many of the allusions mentioned above may go unnoticed by a young adult not looking for such precise similarities. That aside, I still think many young people will like this book. Yes, it is graphic at parts and even frightening, but I think it could actually help young women who have had a similar experience, as it emphasizes that the rape was in no way Alice’s fault, and shows that with time and by acknowledging her feelings she is able to recover. This book is part of the Egerton Hall Trilogy, about Alice and her friends Bella and Megan, and all are inspired by fairy tales. I could definitely see myself checking out other books in this trilogy as I grew to enjoy the three friends and the atmosphere the author creates.

Sleeping Ugly

Yolen, Jane. Sleeping Ugly. New York: The Putnam & Grosset Group, 1997.

Click here to visit the author's official site.

This is a great read-aloud book I’m sure kids will love. Princess Miserella is beautiful, but not nice, and Plain Jane is nice, but not beautiful. They are joined in this tale by a fairy with the ability to grant wishes, who puts all three of them to sleep in Plain Jane’s cottage for one hundred years. They are then discovered by Prince Jojo, who is familiar with fairy tales and princesses, and knows he is responsible for waking these sleeping women up. First he wakes up the fairy, and then Jane, at which point Jane announces, “I wish he loved me” and the fairy grants it. Jojo, looking at Miserella, is familiar with “that kind of princess […] Pretty on the outside. Ugly within.” And so does not kiss her, in fact, she is never awakened, and remains in Jojo and Jane’s happy home as a conversation piece! A good discussion would be the significance of the title. Children should come away understanding that Princess Miserella, though outwardly attractive, was the real “Sleeping Ugly” because she was not kind. I would hope they would not misunderstand and think that “Ugly” was meant for Jane or the old fairy!

Click here to read a feminist analysis of this book.

Sleeping Bobby

Osborne, Mary Pope and Will Osborne. Sleeping Bobby. New York : Atheneum, 2005.

Click here to read a brief autobiography of Mary Pope Osborne.

This is a fun book! It draws mostly on the Grimms version (as described in the Authors’ Note). I think it will appeal to kids not only because of the popularity of the authors, but also because of the darling pictures. There is a great deal of humor in this book, for example, when the twelfth Wise Woman says, “On his eighteenth birthday he will not die, but fall into a deep sleep that will last for a hundred years,” there is a pause before the king asks, “Is that the best you can do?” I found it interesting that the authors chose the eighteenth birthday for the date of the spell to take effect. On the other hand I can see how it makes sense in that girls have a special party for their 15th or 16th birthday in many cultures while boys do not; eighteen seems to mark the beginning of manhood for boys while womanhood begins earlier for girls. While there is some ambiguity in other versions about whether or not the wicked fairy/wise woman and the old woman spinning in the tower are the same person, there is no doubt that they are one and the same here. To add to the humor, the wicked lady says, “Good night, Bobby,” when the prince pricks his finger (I know my students would laugh at this scene). To take away the goriness, this version has the princesses who come to wake Bob “stopped by the sharp prickly thorns” (they do not actually try to make their way to the castle and die in the process in the way other tales have the princes do). The book also allows for a fun way to practice comparing and contrasting (the old tale with this version). I’m looking forward to incorporating this book into my teaching!

Click here to learn more about the illustrator.

Leaping Beauty

Maguire, Gregory. "Leaping Beauty." Leaping Beauty: And Other Animal Fairy Tales. New York: HarperCollins, 2004.

This short story is part of the book with the same name. Beauty is a frog whose parents are king and queen. At her birth party, bumblebees and butterflies give the young frog wonderful gifts, but the fun is stopped by a mean old hornet, angry for having not been invited to the party. Old Dame Hornet says to Beauty, “Before your first birthday you shall bite down on a stray explosive from some stupid human engineering project, and you shall blow yourself to smithereens!” The beetles, who have not yet given their gift to Beauty, soften this curse by saying that although she will indeed bite down on this explosive, she will not blow up, but instead cry in pain, and will be called “Weeping Beauty.” Old Dame Hornet liked her curse better, but is still pleased, saying, “Well, crying all the time, that’s pretty bad too” (funny statements like this are enjoyed throughout the story). Sure enough, the curse comes true, but the king and queen have a plan of their own. They bring the loudly crying Beauty to the bottom of the tree where Old Dame Hornet lives, and she eventually can’t stand the constant crying another second. She consults with the bishop of the beetles, who says he will fix the spell if she apologizes to Beauty and promises to never hurt her. Still resentful, the hornet goes to see if the baron of the butterflies will help her instead, and he changes the spell from “weeping” to “sleeping.” She falls right to sleep, but unfortunately for Old Dame Hornet, she snores, and loudly! Unable to bear the noise, the hornet pays a visit to the boss of the bumblebees, who agrees to change the spell from “sleeping” to “leaping,” in exchange for a date with Old Dame. However, when this spell was broken, the “weeping” spell was reinstated. When Old Dame Hornet cannot take it anymore, she finally apologizes and promises to never harm Beauty. Beauty grows up to become a ballerina and all live happily ever after.

This was a delightful read. It was very entertaining on many levels, and I think children as well as adults will really get a kick out of this book. Click here to read a review of this book.

Ruby Slippers, Golden Tears

Datlow, Ellen and Terri Windling, eds. Ruby Slippers, Golden Tears. New York: Avon, 1996.

This book contains three twists on the Sleeping Beauty tale, which I will discuss separately:

“Summer Wind” by Nancy Kress presents what it might have been like had the spell taken hold of everyone in the castle EXCEPT for Beauty, who instead has to live in real time while everyone around her has frozen stiff. Bored to tears, Briar Rose still talks to the frozen people although they cannot hear her, cleans, and makes new clothing for everyone. Princes come and go, but of course none are ever able to make their way through the deadly briars. All the while, she is aging, as she has not been affected by the spell. She often hears the whispers of old women, whom she joins at the end of the story, when everyone else comes back to life. These women, apparently magical in some way, tell her, “You have seen, as few do, what and who you are. But Rose is ungrateful for her experience: “I would rather have had lost my life” (67).

“The Crossing” by Joyce Carol Oates tells the story of a woman in a coma, unaware of her state, whose dreams bring her to the place of an intended visit. This visit will never really happen, as she was involved in a train crash on her way to see her aunt in upstate New York. Martha never realizes she is dreaming, although she is often bewildered by the strange feelings she is having. The saddest part of the story is how her husband sits dutifully by her side, never giving up hope that she will wake up. There does seem to be a connection between the things he says to her and her dreams, suggesting that people in comas are somewhat aware of what is going on around them, although they do not realize it. When Martha, in her dream state, gets on board a train at the place her accident occurred, she dies, and her husband is left to feel intense guilt as she was alone at the time. But I think she probably wasn’t able to die with him there; you hear about this sort of thing a lot.

“Waking the Prince” by Kathe Koja tells two stories in one. One tale is of a prince in a real coma, whether this is the result of some sort of spell is never shared, while the other “prince” is very much awake but still inattentive to his girlfriend Cissy and unaware of or indifferent to the promises he makes. The latter story was effective, demonstrating how women often try to make their boyfriends into something they are not, putting them on an undeserved pedestal. I think that maybe by using the parallel story, the author was trying to make it clear that her inspiration came from a fairy tale. However, in this collection, that wasn’t really necessary, as that is the idea behind every story in the book. I was happy to see the main character Cissy finally break up with her undeserving prince. She was blinded to his insincerity for a while because he was outwardly attractive, but in the end she was able to let him and her imagined fairy tale ending go.

After taking this course I can see that I will really enjoy reading books such as this that draw on fairy tales for their inspiration. It really is amazing, the unlimited creative opportunities fairy tales offer.

Click here to read a review of this book.

Shelley Duvall's Faerie Tale Theatre: Sleeping Beauty

Shelley Duvall's Faerie Tale Theatre: Sleeping Beauty (1983) (TV). Jeremy Kagan, director.

Click here to watch it on YouTube!

This was really entertaining for me, especially because I remember watching the series as a child and I now better understand the humor. In fact, I felt like maybe this was a little too risqué for children and am curious if it was originally intended for kids? The queen is unhappy but she doesn’t know why. A little woman pops out of what appears to be a jewelry box and explains to her that the reason she is sad is because she wants to have a baby. She then whispers to her how to go about making one (we don’t hear this), the queen whispers to the king, and they go under the covers. Another scene I thought was a bit much was between the prince (Christopher Reeve) and an ill-intentioned princess (Bernadette Peters). The prince has been searching and searching for a bride, but cannot find someone who is as kind as he. He is very interested in helping the poor, so this princess convinces him to take all the pearls off of her midriff top, with his teeth (claiming that the pearls could be used to help the needy). It turns out that this princess was in fact the evil fairy in disguise. The evil fairy makes another disguised appearance as the old lady who leads the princess to prick her finger. The prince encounters the wicked one as he attempts to get through the briars, and this time she is a giant (I have to say that I think the special effects were probably not that great, even for 1983). Like in the Disney film, he kills the fairy and then enters the castle to save the day.

The presentation of the woodcutter telling the tale to the prince and his squire was reminiscent of the frame stories often used in traditional tales, and I liked this aspect. Setting the story in Russia was also an interesting twist (although it bothered me that some characters had accents and some did not). I did enjoy watching this, but I’m just not sure that such suggestive scenes are appropriate for young kids. I could definitely see older kids and adults developing a new appreciation for fairy tales through this series, however.

Click here for a complete list of Faerie Tale Theatre episodes.


Harvey-Fitzhenry, Alyxandra. Waking. Orca Book Publishers, 2006.

I found this to be a quick and enjoyable read. Beauty is a teenager enrolled at Briar High, and her mother has recently committed suicide by cutting her wrists. As a result, her father is extremely overprotective and won’t allow any sharp objects at all in the house; Beauty isn’t even allowed to wear a pin given to her by a friend or cut her own food. The only comfort she finds is in tending her mother’s rose garden, and her artwork, but even that is difficult for her now. Through a new friendship with the new girl in town, Luna, Beauty is able to let out some of her emotions about the tragedy and learn to express herself more, getting back to her artwork and even creating a painting that represents her mother’s death. This is her awakening, finding out who she is and healing. She is haunted by nightmares of “The Shadow Lady,” who is always trying to get her, but at the end we find out that the Shadow Lady is really just a manifestation of all her fears. In the dream, she says to her, “You will never find true love” and her mother gives her a mirror. Beauty kisses herself in the mirror, showing that she has learned to love herself. I really liked that; she didn’t need the love of a man to overcome this struggle. There is a crush, Poe, who plays a significant part of the story and is definitely the prince character, but the real healing and awakening comes from within, and from the wonderful female friendship she has with Luna. I think young adults would like this book; although some might find it a little “corny” (the Sleeping Beauty connection would have been apparent without actually naming the main character “Beauty,” for example). But I think there are some very important themes here, mainly the importance of allowing the healing process to occur in healthy ways when dealing with grief. And as I already mentioned, the boy isn’t the solution to the problem but is more of a bonus to the story; the most important love is the one Beauty learns to have for herself.

Click here to visit the author's official site.

Princess Sonora and the Long Sleep

Levine, Gail Carson. Princess Sonora and the Long Sleep. New York: Harpercollins, 1999.

This book is part of "The Princess Tales" series, and I enjoyed it so much that I ordered "The Princess Tales" Volume I and Volume II for my young cousin! Princess Sonora is blessed at her christening with many wonderful traits, but the most important one is that she is ten times smarter than anyone else. Once blessed, she learns to speak immediately, and continues to amaze all around her with her brilliance. That is until the amazement turns to annoyance, hence the popular saying, “Princess Sonora knows, but don’t ask her!” Of course, because this is a Sleeping Beauty tale, she is also cursed to prick her finger and die, and of course, another fairy softens the curse by putting her and everyone around her to sleep for 100 years.

At the age of fourteen, it is time for Sonora to meet her future prince, Melvin. The chosen one, who is not at all her choice is, well, not at all smart either. Luckily Sonora, who is ten times smarter than anyone else, devised a plan long ago to use the spindle prick curse when it was most convenient for her. Secretly, she had hidden a spindle in a special place for just the right time. This plan backfires when her mother discovers the spindle, Sonora hears her mother screaming, runs to see what is the matter, they collide, she is pricked, and the spell takes hold. I thought this part was amusing and original. Yes, the princess is too smart for the curse, but fate takes over anyway.

As the years go by, the story of Sonora and the sleeping castle becomes something of a legend. When Prince Christopher, who is full of questions, hears that there is a princess named Sonora who is full of answers, he must find her. Specifically, he wants her to answer the question of why his kingdom’s sheep are losing their fur. When he finds Sonora in her bedchamber, he sees a sign that reads, “I am Princess Sonora. Kiss me, prince, and I shall be yours forever.” Prince Christopher can’t go through with it (“What was that on her cheek and in the corner of her mouth? Spit? Bird droppings? Ugh!”). But then he hears her start to talk in her sleep, and is so impressed with how smart she is even when she is asleep that he quickly kisses her. Not only does Sonora answer the question about the balding sheep, but she and Christopher are married right then and there. And Christopher and Sonora, who are both very clever, explain to Prince Melvin that he wouldn’t be the prince of his kingdom anymore (since no one else from his kingdom had fallen under this kingdom’s spell), and he is pleased to be dubbed a knight.

I loved how this little book combined traditional fairy tale whimsy with modern and realistic humor. Honestly, I rarely choose to read children’s books for my personal reading (usually I read them for academic/professional reasons; I choose different books for reading in my spare time), but I think I would actually enjoy reading more of this series just for fun!

Click here to read an interview with Gail Carson Levine.

The Sleeping Beauty

Hyman, Trina Schart. The Sleeping Beauty. Boston: Little, Brown and Company, 1977.

Click here to learn more about the illustrator and view some of her work.

This is a retelling of the Grimms version, so I will focus more on the illustrations here as I have already discussed the Grimms tale. Trina Schart Hyman captures the many emotions in the characters’ faces as well as the doom and gloom of the tale (an example of this doom and gloom can be seen by clicking here). She effectively demonstrates the passing of time by showing various seasons. Hyman also chose to have fairies rather than “wise women,” and I wonder if she did this because of the artistic possibilities this afforded her. The fairies wear fascinating costumes and don wings of all colors and sizes, and the thirteenth fairy is truly frightening with her hooded black cape and sunken eyes. I do think younger children would be scared of some of the illustrations found in this book, but I think older children would be drawn to the many works of art found on these pages, particularly those children with an interest in art. I think this book would be a great way to share the Grimms version because of the high caliber of illustrations.


Block, Francesca Lia. "Charm." The Rose and the Beast: Fairy Tales Retold. New York: Harper Collins, 2000.

Click here to visit the author's official site.

This Sleeping Beauty Tale uses a syringe instead of a spindle, and heroin instead of a fairy’s curse. Rev, asleep only in the way that she thinks her soul is dead, has lived a life of abuse, drugs, and forced pornography and sex. It isn’t until she visits the home of the actress Miss Charm, who witnesses her being raped, that anyone steps in and tries to help her. There is something very familiar about this woman, but Rev has erased many of her memories because they are too painful. Miss Charm lets Rev stay and get better, helping her through her difficult detox and caring for her in a way that no one has ever cared for her before. Days later, Rev discovers Miss Charm crying as she looks at a pornographic picture of two little girls. It turns out that the two little girls in the picture were the young Rev and Miss Charm; this is why she had been so familiar. The story ends, “When Charm kissed her, Rev felt as if all the fierce blossoms were shuddering open. The castle was opening. She felt as if the other woman were breathing into her body something long lost and almost forgotten. It was, she knew, the only drug either of them would need now” (97).

I know this is a modernization of a fairy tale, and fairy tales are make believe, but something about the at-home detox rubbed me the wrong way. Heroin addicts need to be hospitalized and detoxed by professionals, and major therapy and rehabilitation are necessary; drug addiction isn’t simply cured by kindness and love. In general I have a problem with what seems like a glamorization of drug abuse, and I can see that in this story. I appreciate this story because I do find it a very creative way to adapt the Sleeping Beauty tale, but I guess I worry about the message it might send about drugs, as it is a book marketed to young adults.

Click here to read a review of this book.

Sleeping Boy

Craddock, Sonia. Sleeping Boy. New York: Atheneum Books for Young Readers, 1999.

Herr and Frau Rosen are thrilled about the birth of their baby boy, Knabe Rosen, so thrilled that they throw a huge party to celebrate. Everyone is invited, that is except for Major Krieg (“They don’t like him. He makes them feel uneasy”). Friends and family wish all the best for the baby and all is joyous, until Major Krieg arrives and says, “Listen to this sleeping boy: On your sixteenth birthday you will hear the drums drumming as the army marches by. Oh yes! Rat a tat tat! Rat a tat tat! Off to war you’ll go—and you will not come home.” Fortunately, Tante Taube has not yet made her wish for the boy, and she makes it so that on his sixteenth birthday, he will instead fall asleep at the sound of the drums, and not wake up until Berlin is at peace. Even though Herr and Frau Rosen had made it so no marching bands are allowed to come down their street, this ill-fated day does arrive. Until then, Knabe Rosen has led a very protected and sheltered life, and wants very badly to join in with the marching band when he hears the music far off in the distance. Instead, he falls asleep on his way down the stairs. As everyone in the Rosen home sleeps, poverty, war, bad times, and sadness occur around them. The house actually gets buried inside the Berlin Wall (like the briars of other tales). They all awaken when the Berlin Wall crumbles and they are happy once again.

This tale would be useful to show variety in a unit with other Sleeping Beauty tales, provided the students have some previous knowledge of the historical references. However, it doesn’t actually teach anything about German history. I think adults would maybe appreciate the book more than children, assuming they have previous knowledge of both the traditional tale as well as the period in history that is being alluded to. Otherwise the power of the allegory would clearly be lost.

Click here to read reviews of this book.

Briar Rose

Coover, Robert. Briar Rose. New York: Grove Press, 1998.

Click here to read a hypertext version of this book, as well as information on the author and reader/professional reviews.

This short novel (86 pages) invites the reader into Briar Rose’s dreams during her long sleep. We also get to experience the thoughts of the prince and the wicked fairy. In her dream state, Briar Rose frequently speaks with the wicked fairy who put her in this predicament, and the wicked fairy tells her over and over again various versions of the Sleeping Beauty tale. Readers who are not familiar with the various versions will not appreciate this aspect as much as those who are familiar with the different versions. Briar Roses’ reaction to these tales is always disapproval, with responses like, “But it’s terrible!” (upon hearing that the prince who broke the spell was already married or that the princess was raped as she slept). In a way it seems that the author is poking fun at the earlier versions of the tale which contain such gruesome elements, while at the same time using Briar Rose’ reaction to these tales as a ways to show how young audiences might feel about the stories, as Briar Rose is indeed a young girl. We learn that the wicked fairy often enjoys sharing these horrid tales just to make the young girl’s sleep that much more unpleasant. The thing that makes the book so different is the nature of the dreams; I had always imagined Sleeping Beauty/Briar Rose’s long sleep to be restful and peaceful, where Robert Coover puts the exact opposite notion out there for readers to consider.

The wicked fairy also speaks about things that I’m sure many people have considered when reading the traditional tale, such as, “Has that smug sleeper paused to consider how she will look and smell after a hundred years, lying comatose and unattended in an unchanged bed? A century of collected menses alone should stagger the lustiest of princes” (6). In many versions, Sleeping Beauty is dusty or covered in cobwebs, but really, the reality would be absolutely horrific in smell and appearance (I know “reality” is an odd choice of words here). In this sense the fairy is sort of like the voice of reason of the story. The prince, who we also hear from throughout the book, is motivated first to wake the princess out of duty and for the desire to be a hero, much more so than to find true love. In an interesting twist, the prince does indeed make his way through briars to wake a princess, but we find out at the end that it was the wrong princess, not Briar Rose. When he goes to awaken Briar Rose, his motives have changed because he has had the experience of being married to someone who is not a good match for him. The story ends just as the prince is about to kiss Briar Rose, and we are left to create our own ending. I thought this was a very creative and pleasurable read and recommend it to any fairy tale fan.

Beauty Sleep

Dokey, Cameron. Beauty Sleep. New York: Simon Pulse, 2002.

Young people may enjoy the conversational tone the narrator and main character, Aurore, uses throughout this book. I personally didn’t enjoy this book as much as some of the others read for this project. Like all Sleeping Beauties, Aurore is cursed at her christening, but this time it is not by a fairy, but instead the angry and often forgotten Cousin Jane. Fairies are not really necessary in this kingdom because there is already so much magic. Prior to her birth, Aurore's cousin Oswald had been named the heir to the throne, as it did not appear that her parents would ever be able to have children (the difficulty the parents have conceiving is common to many of the Sleeping Beauty tales). Later, her father will decide to instead make Aurore his heir, because of her strong desire to leave the palace walls and learn how the people of the kingdom live. Oswald and she have had a strained relationship to this point, but now it grows more troubled. The relationship is a confusing one, and it becomes even more confusing as the story goes on.

When terrible things begin to happen in the kingdom as a result of the curse not coming to fruition, Aurore decides she must leave to save her people and ventures into an enchanted forest. Here she meets Prince Ironheart, and throughout their adventures it is assumed that they will end up together. He has come to the forest to discover a sleeping princess who he will kiss and wake up, and she is of course this princess. It is when she is helping him sew up a wound that she pricks herself with a needle. He kisses her and brings her back to his castle, which is the same castle she grew up in. One hundred years have passed while Aurore was in the woods, and Ironheart is in fact Oswald’s great grandson. Oswald is still alive, and Aurore tells him she has always loved him. They kiss and he is young again. Not only do they find true love but they also both get to rule the kingdom.

So, young readers aren’t going to be able to accept this relationship, even if it is explained that cousin marriage was once quite common, particularly among royal families. I have to admit even I had some trouble accepting it, even though there were hints that the two had strong feelings for one another and I thought it might happen. Certain interactions between the two characters are flirtatious and you wonder why they aren't a couple, then you remember they're cousins. At the same time, however, the author did make it clear that Aurore and Ironheart seemed to have more of a brother/sister relationship and didn’t feel anything for each other romantically. Of course, they turned out to be related as well, so even if they had ended up together there still would have been the element of incest.

Click here to read the School Library Journal review of this book (from Amazon).