Some time ago we recorded the traditional version of The Sleeping Beauty by Charles Perrault. You can still listen to Part One here and Part Two here.
This is Bertie's version for Storynory. Like many fairy tales, Sleeping Beauty has the theme of a King and Queen who long for a child, but usually this is dealt with in a couple of lines. Our "pre-story" is a little longer. We also introduce a wizard who has a spell for every human wish.
The second chapter of "A Sleeping Beauty" will follow shortly.. .and that will take a very different turn from the original.
Read by Natasha. Original version for Storynory by Bertie. Duration 24 minutes
Centuries ago there lived a wizard who had as many spells as there were human desires - or at least, that was his boast.
Although his house was a long way from any town or city, each day brought people to his door to seek his help. If they had gold or silver, he might work some magic for them. But if they were poor, the journey was in vain, for he set a high price on his spells.
Every morning at first light, he went out into his gardens, rolled out a Persian rug on the grass, and settled himself into a deep trance. This was how he regenerated the magic power within himself. Behind him was a large white house, filled with curiosities and treasures. He liked to spend his money on precious things. But although he enjoyed celebrity and wealth, he was a lonely man, as there was nobody in his life to share his success.
One day in early spring, a lady made her way to the house of the wizard. A silk veil hid her beautiful face. She rode on a white horse and was accompanied by a single companion - an old and richly dressed woman. The wizard met the visitors, as was his custom, on the terrace overlooking his gardens. As soon as he saw the lady, he knew a great deal about her, even though her eyes remained hidden behind the veil. Over the years he had developed a great instinct for summing up people at a glance. He realised that she was rich and powerful He understood that she had a deep and private wish. He guessed that she longed for a child. And he sensed that he could demand almost any price for his services.
The older woman spoke first, and she asked that he swear a solemn oath of secrecy, which he duly did. Only then did she reveal that her mistress was none other than the Queen. The wizard did not kneel before royalty, as was the custom, but gave a slight bow which was little more than a nod of his silver head.
"We shall come straight to the point," said the old lady briskly. "Her Majesty is without child. She requires a magic cure for this condition. She will pay a generous reward for a satisfactory result."
"Indeed, indeed," answered the magician. He stroked his long chin as he glanced again at his veiled visitor. She sat perfectly still. He sensed her anxiety as she waited for his answer. "yes," he thought to himself. "I have helped many people during my long carreer. On this occasion, I shall do something good for myself."
"I too shall speak frankly," he declared. "I have no need of gold or silver. As you can see, I am not short of money. I require no payment for working this magic. I guarantee that within a year of my spell a baby daughter shall be born to Her Majesty. The king and queen, and the entire nation shall rejoice a the birth of the princess. My only request - that is, my only demand" - he corrected himself boldly - "is that on her sixteenth birthday, the princess shall marry me."
A look of horror came over the old woman's face. The magician noted her expression with satisfaction. He thought to himself: "She's never heard anyone one of the common people speak so boldly to royalty. But the queen will agree to my terms. She has no choice."
For a moment or two the queen remained still. Then she rose from her seat and pulled back her headscarf and veil. She shook her long dark hair free, so that some locks fell over her face. She was as beautiful as in the official portraits of her - perhaps more so. But her eyes were quite different. They did not shine with girlish charm. They blazed with fury.
"Let us go now, Eldora," the queen to her companion. "All my life I have not believed in wizards, fairies, or any type of magic. I came here only out of desperation. But this vulgar quack seeks to take advantage of my situation. It is what I should have expected."
And with those words both ladies departed. The wizard listened to the hooves of their horses as they left along the cobbled lane. He ground his teeth and cracked his knuckles. "In the fullness of time," he promised himself, "She shall feel my pain."
In the spring of the following year, the queen gave birth to a baby daughter. As she nursed the beautiful child in her arms the King said:
"New life truly is a miracle"
And the queen thought to herself how fortunate it was that she had not hired the charlatan wizard, for he would have claimed the credit for this miracle.
About a month later, the child was baptized in the chapel of the palace. She was named Princess Talia, and as was the custom in that country, she had twelve fairy godmothers. Although the queen did not believe in the magic of fairies, she had to admit that even at the great court dances, she had not seen twelve such beautiful women gather together under one roof. They truly did seem like they belonged to another world where everything is perfect.
The first stood over the crib of Princess Talia and said : "I give you the gift of beauty".
And the queen thought, "Well she has that already".
And the second fairy godmother said "I give you the gift of intelligence."
And the queen thought,"She'll have that, if she takes after her mother."
And the third fairy godmother gave her the gift of comedy so that she could make people laugh.
"That's an odd one for a princess" thought the queen.
And the fourth gave her the gift of tragedy so that she could make people cry.
"How very peculiar," thought the queen.
The fifth fairy gave her the gift of languages - which the queen thought might come in useful if she married a prince from a far away land.
These gifts were followed by music, dance, insight, patience, kindness, and obedience to her parents.
The twelfth and last fairy declared that hers was the greatest gift of all.
"I give you," she said, "The gift of love.".
"It's all very charming," thought the queen, but of course none of it means anything at all." But she did not express her thoughts to the King, because she knew that he was a superstitious man.
Dinner was served in the high vaulted banqueting hall. Musicians played and the fairy godmothers whispered among themselves while they ate the sumptuous food.
Princess Talia slept in her crib next to the queen's place in the centre of the at table. The queen hardly took any food from her plate. She preferred to rock the crib with on hand and gaze adoringly at the tiny princess. Then suddenly she started to scream.
"My Baby, My Baby !!"
The fairy godmothers ceased their chatter. The Queen seized the baby up and held it tightly to her chest sobbing and weeping loudly. And the baby began to cry.
Every one in the room smiled with relief. Everyone except the queen who continued to weep. "No, no, my baby is dead."
The King said gently: "My dear. She is well enough. She is crying." And the Queen stared at him like he was a dangerous madman. He had never seen such a look of fear and hatred in her eyes. And so he called for the doctor - he was not sure whether for the baby or the queen. The royal doctor came swiftly. He was a tall silver haired man who carried a small case and used a silver walking stick. He stood before the King.
"Sire..." he said.
The Queen looked up.
"You," she said.
"You know the physician"? asked the king. For he had not seen this particular doctor before and he did not like his manner.
"Yes," she replied. "And I do not want him near my baby. Have him thrown out."
The king called for the guards, but they remained motionless by the doors. "I do not understand" he thought, "Are they deaf? Or is this treachery?"
The doctor thumped the stone floor with his heavy silver stick. He spoke clearly so that all could hear his voice:
"I bring the thirteenth magical gift for princess Talia. Soon after her sixteenth birthday she shall prick her finger on the needle of a spinning wheel and she shall fall down dead."
And that was all he said, before he turned and strode past the guards and out of the hall leaving the sounds of crying and confusion behind him.
The fairy godmothers gathered around the crib like a crowd of mourners at a funeral. But although the baby was crying, she was otherwise quite alright. One fairy godmother touched her neck to feel her temperature. She did not seem hot. And then another godmother - the one who had given the gift of love - spoke up:
"Quiet my sisters. Quiet. Her Majesty has had quite a shock. I think we all have felt the presence of a great evil in this room just a few moments ago. That was no doctor, but a magician. Let us all hold hands and see if we can banish his wicked prophesy."
And the fairy godmothers stood in a ring and closed their eyes. But after some time the godmother of love said.
" The magic is too strong. But As I have given the gift of love, loved she must be, and love will overcome this evil. If princess Talia does indeed prick her finger on the needle of a spinning wheel, let her not fall down dead, but merely into a deep sleep until she is awoken by her true love. "
The following morning the Queen looked tiered and drawn. She said to the king: "I don't know what came over me yesterday. I don't believe in magic. It was all very unpleasant, but it was all so much nonsense."
"All the same," said the king, "We cannot take any chances. I shall ban all spinning wheels from the country until Talia's seventeenth birthday."
And although the queen did not believe in magic, she thought that no harm could come from this idea.
As Talia grew up, she seemed to have all the gifts of the fairy godmothers.
She was very good at her lessons, and could speak several languages by the time she was fourteen. She also could sing and dance and draw.
She was talented, gracious, patient, and obedient. But the the sum of all her gifts was that she made any one who met her feel brighter and better. Like anyone else, she could have her ups and downs - but these were never too terrible. And even when she was sad or angry, she was none the less beautiful.
And with every year she seemed to grow more beautiful. Nobody mentioned the nasty incident that took place on the day of her christening - because nobody wanted to frighten or upset her. Her sixteenth birthday passed happily without any great party or festivities. The king did not want to draw attention to her arrival at the fateful year.
To tell you the truth Talia was disappointed that there was no ball to celebrate her birthday. She had imagined that she might dance with some handsome prince. She wondered whether the King and Queen were making any plans for her to marry - but as she was was obedient to her parents, she did not question their wisdom in all things.
About a month after her birthday, Talia was wondering through the serving quarters of the palace in search of her old nanny. She wanted to give her a present of a drawing she had made of a rose. She did not know this part of the palace very well. She knocked on a door which she thought belonged to her nanny. A voice said
"Come in" and she entered. Before her she saw an old woman with a strange looking wheel. She was curious as she had not seen anything like this before. The old woman was not at all like her nanny. She was rather tall and wore a black scarf draped over her hair. Her voice was a little deep for a woman. She said:
"Sit here and try your hand at spinning. It is not difficult."
Talia sat in the old woman's place and worked the pedal with her foot. The wheel began to spin. She smiled. After a while, she stood up and examined the mechanism more closely - but oh dear - as she was doing so she pricked her finger on the needle.
"Ow!" she said, and she looked at her finger. A large spot of shiny red blood showed where she had pricked herself. Talia stared at this and thought, "How bright my own blood is," and then her legs began to feel weak. All of a sudden the room went black and she fainted.
It was her nanny who found her lying on the floor. She tried to rouse the princess, but she did not stir. First she called the servants, then the doctor, and finally the king and queen themselves were informed. But nobody could rouse the princess from her sleep. She was carried to her own room, and laid on the bed. Her mother pulled a cover over her. The cover rose and fell ever so slightly as her daughter breathed almost silently. Apart from that, the princes did not move. The queen thought of how she had sat long hours and watched the princess sleep when she was a baby. She thought about how, as a child, Talia had often been too excited to fall asleep easily. The queen had read her stories and sang to her until finally her breathing became deeper and she was gone into the land of sleep.
In those days, she had thought that no sight was more peaceful or more beautiful than her sleeping child. Now she sat and held her daughter's hand. And she whispered
"Talia, Talia my dear. Wake up."
But the princess slept on.
The king remembered the good fairy's spell - that Princess Talia would be awoken by her true love. From time to time he arranged for various princes to visit Talia's and to kiss her - always under close supervision. But although many princes were eager to try their luck, none could awaken her.
"How long," asked the King to the good fairy, "must we wait for her true love?"
And the fairy replied, "Who can say? True love is so very rare. It might take a year, or it might take 100."
"A 100 years !" said the king in astonishment.
"Sire, I can make no guarantees about true love. It might even take a 1000 years."
And the King shook his head in astonishment and thought to himself that perhaps this fairy's magic was not so powerful after all.
The years went by and the princess slept on. She did not seem to need food or water. She just slept. Her face was as young and as beautiful as ever. The queen never gave up hope of waking her. But in due course the king and queen both passed away. The kingdom was merged into another greater kingdom. The palace was abandoned. A forest closed in around it. The sleeping princess was forgotten. And still she slept.