This is one of the most romantic fairy tales. It's themes are love and chivalry. The ending is, of course, happy, but not quite ever after. There is a little known second part, which you can find here.
Read by Natasha. Version by Andrew Lang (from Charles Perrault). Duration 20 Minutes.
Proofread by Jana Elizabeth.
The Sleeping Beauty -
Once upon a time, there lived a king and a queen, who had no children. They were so sorry about having no children, that I cannot tell you how sorry they were. At last, however, after many years, the queen had a daughter.
There was a very fine christening for the baby princess. The king and queen looked throughout the kingdom for fairies to be her godmothers, and they found seven fairies. Each fairy godmother was to give the princess a gift, as was the custom of fairies in those days. In this way, the princess had all the perfections imaginable.
After the christening ceremony was over, the whole party returned to the king’s palace, where there was prepared a great feast for the seven fairy godmothers. There was placed before each one of them a magnificent case of gold, in which were a spoon, knife, and fork; all of pure gold set with diamonds and rubies. But as everyone was sitting down at the table, they saw come into the hall a very old fairy, whom they had not invited, because she had not left the tower where she lived for over fifty years, and she was believed to be either dead or under an evil spell.
The king could not give her a case of gold as the others had been given, because they had only seven made for the seven fairies. The old fairy felt insulted and muttered some threats between her teeth. One of the young fairies who sat by her overheard how she grumbled; and guessing that she might give the little princess an unlucky gift, went, as soon as they rose from table, and hid behind the curtains, so that she might make the last wish for the little princess, and use it to put right any evil that the old fairy might do with her magic spell.
Meanwhile, all the fairies began to give their gifts to the princess. The youngest wished that she should be the most beautiful person in the world. The next, that she should have the intelligence of an angel. The third, that she should have a wonderful grace in everything she did. The fourth, that she should dance perfectly well. The fifth, that she should sing like a nightingale, and the sixth, that she should play all kinds of music to the utmost perfection.
The old fairy’s turn came next, and shaking her head more with spite than anger, said that one day the princess would have her hand pricked by a needle on a spinning wheel and that she would die of the wound. This terrible gift made the whole company tremble, and everybody began to cry.
At this very instant the young fairy came out from behind the curtains, and spoke these words aloud:
“Assure yourselves, O King and Queen, that your daughter shall not die of this disaster. It is true, I have no power to undo entirely what the elder fairy has done. The princess shall indeed pierce her hand with a needle on a spinning wheel, but instead of dying, she shall only fall into a deep sleep, which shall last a hundred years, at the end of which a king’s son shall come and awake her.”
The king, to avoid the misfortune foretold by the old fairy, immediately made a law by which everybody was forbidden, on pain of death, to use a spinning wheel, or to have any spinning wheel in their houses.
About fifteen or sixteen years later, on a day when the king and queen were busy in a far corner of the vast palace, the young and beautiful princess amused herself by running up and down the corridors and going up from one apartment to another. Eventually, she came into a little room at the top of the tower, where a good old woman, alone, was spinning with her wheel, for this good old woman had never heard of the king’s law against spinning wheels.
The princess said: “What are you doing there, good old woman?”
[old lady’s voice] “I am spinning sheep’s wool into thread so that I can knit it into a cardigan.”
“Ha!” Said the princess, “that’s very clever. I’ve never seen that done before. How do you do it? Give it to me, so that I may see if I can do the same.”
Now whether it was because she was in too much of a hurry, or whether it was because she was clumsy, or whether it was because the old fairy had wished it so, I cannot say – but no sooner than the princess took the spinning wheel, than she pricked her hand on the needle, and she fell down in a faint.
The good old woman, not knowing what to do, cried out for help. People came rushing from all over the palace and they came in great numbers. When they saw the princess lying in a deep, deep sleep on the floor, they threw cold water on her face, they loosened her clothes, they struck her on the palms of her hands, and they rubbed her temples with smelling salts, but nothing they could do would awaken the princess.
The king, who heard the great commotion from the far end of the palace, remembered the terrible warning of the fairies, and guessing what had happened, came rushing to the tower. There he saw the princess lying in a deep, deep sleep, and he ordered her to be carried into the finest apartment in his palace, and to be laid upon a bed all embroidered with gold and silver.
If you had seen her, you might have taken her for a little angel, she was so very beautiful, for her swooning away had not paled her complexion; her cheeks were like roses, and her lips were like sea coral. Indeed, her eyes were shut, but she was heard to breathe softly, which persuaded everyone that she was not dead. The king commanded that they should not disturb her, but let her sleep quietly until her hour of awaking was come.
When this accident happened to the princess, the good fairy who had saved her life by condemning her to sleep for a hundred years, was in the kingdom of Matakin, twelve thousand miles away, but she quickly heard the terrible news from a little dwarf, who had one hundred mile boots, that is boots with which he could tread over one hundred miles of ground in a single step. The fairy came immediately, and she arrived at the palace about an hour later, in a fiery chariot drawn by dragons.
The king took her hand as she stepped out of the chariot, and they both went to look at the sleeping princess. As the fairy was very good at thinking and planning ahead, she realised that in one hundred years time when the princess would wake up, she might not know what to do with herself, being all alone in this old palace. So this was what she did: she touched with her wand everything in the palace (except the king and queen), nannies, maids of honour, ladies of the bedchamber, gentlemen, officers, stewards, cooks, undercooks, cleaners, guards, with their beefeaters, pages and footmen. She also touched all the horses in the stables and fields, the fierce guard dogs in the outer court, and pretty little Mopsey too, the princess’s little puppy, which lay by her on the bed.
Immediately, as soon as she touched them they all fell asleep, so that they might not awaken before their princess, and that they might be ready to serve her when she wanted them. Even the great fires in the ovens of the kitchen, that were just then roasting partridges and pheasants, fell asleep too. All this was done in a moment. Fairies do not take long to finish their business.
Now the king and the queen, having kissed their dear child without waking her, went out of the palace and made an order that nobody should dare to come near it. This, however, was not necessary, for in a quarter of an hour’s time there grew up all round about the palace grounds such a vast number of trees, great and small, bushes and brambles, entwining one within another, that neither man nor beast could pass through; so that nothing could be seen but the very top of the towers of the palace. Nobody doubted but the fairy had demonstrated a very extraordinary sample of her power, that the princess, while she continued sleeping, might have nothing to fear from any curious people.
When a hundred years had passed by, the son of a king from another family had gone a-hunting in that part of the country where the palace used to be. He asked: “What are those towers in the middle of that great thick wood?”
Everyone answered with the rumours that they had heard. Some said that it was a ruinous old castle, haunted by spirits. Others, that all the sorcerers and witches of the country used to meet there at midnight when there was a full moon. Most people believed that an ogre lived there, and that he used take there all the little children he could catch, so that he could eat them up whenever he pleased, without anybody being able to follow him, as only he had the power to pass through the wood.
The prince was all in a quandary, not knowing what to believe, when a very good countryman said to him: “May it please Your Royal Highness, it is now about fifty years since I heard from my father, who heard my grandfather say that there was then in this castle a princess, the most beautiful that was ever seen; that she must sleep there a hundred years, and should only be waked by a king’s son.”
The young prince was all on fire at these words, believing, without thinking things through, that he could save the princess, and pushed on by love and honor, he swore that moment that he would do just that.
As he rode on his horse toward the wood, all the great trees, the bushes, and brambles gave way to let him pass through. He walked up to the castle which he saw at the end of a large avenue and he went into it. What rather surprised him was that none of his people could follow him, because the trees closed again as soon as he had passed through them. However, he did not stop; a young and amorous prince is always brave. He came into a wide, wide outer court, where everything he saw might have frozen the most fearless person with horror. There was a most frightful silence; the image of death everywhere showed itself, and there was nothing to be seen but stretched-out bodies of men and animals, all seeming to be dead.
The prince realised when he saw the red faces and pimpled noses of the guards, that they were only asleep; and that their glasses, in which there still remained some drops of wine, showed plainly that they had fallen asleep, while drunk.
He then crossed a court paved with marble, went up the stairs and came into the corridor where guards were standing, with their rifles upon their shoulders, snoring as loud as they could. After that he went through several rooms full of gentlemen and ladies, all asleep; some standing, others sitting. At last he came into a chamber all gilded with gold, where he saw upon a bed the most wonderful sight that had even met his eyes – a princess, who appeared to be about fifteen or sixteen years of age, and whose bright and rosy beauty was quite angelic. He approached with trembling admiration, and fell down before her upon his knees and kissed her hand.
Now, as the evil fairy’s spell was at an end, the princess opened her blue eyes for the first time in one hundred years and looking at him said: “Is it you, my prince? You have waited a long time.”
The prince, charmed with these words, and much more with the manner in which they were spoken, knew not how to show his joy and gratitude. He assured her that he loved her more than anyone or anything in the whole wide world. Their conversation did not make much sense – they spoke with little reason but a great deal of love. He was more lost for words than she, and we need not wonder at it; she had time to think what to say to him; for it is very probable (though history mentions nothing of it) that the good fairy, during so long a sleep, had given her very agreeable dreams about handsome princes coming to her rescue. In short, they talked four hours together, and yet they said not half of what they had to say.
In the meanwhile, all the palace awakened, and as all of them were not in love, they felt most desperately hungry after 100 years without a bite to eat. The chief lady of honor grew very impatient, and told the princess aloud that supper was served up. The prince helped the princess to rise. She was entirely dressed, and very magnificently too, but His Royal Highness took care not to tell her that she was dressed in the fashion of one hundred years ago, like his great-grandmother. She looked not a bit less charming and beautiful for all that.
They went into the great hall of mirrors, where they ate supper, and were served by the princess’ officers. The orchestra played old tunes, but very nice ones, and after supper, without losing any time, the priest married them in the chapel of the castle, and the chief lady of honour drew the curtains. They had but very little sleep – the princess had had too much of it recently, and the prince left her the next morning to return to the city, where the king was anxiously waiting for him.
And that’s the end of the first part of The Sleeping Beauty. If you want to know what happened to the prince and the Sleeping Beauty after that, you’ll have to listen to the next Storynory.
Prince Bertie the Frog would like you to meet all his new friends at his lovely green and purple website. You can see what he looks like there. So drop by at Storynory.Com.