I will start our fairy tale discussions with one of my all-time favorites, “Sleeping Beauty.” This is one fairy tale I enjoyed as a child in both its Disney form and its original form, though I didn’t find the original form nearly as interesting as the movie when I was a child. As an adult, I really don’t like the original version at all, and though I like the movie, I can see both versions have major flaws. Looking back on it, those flaws interfered with my enjoyment of the story even when I was a child.
The Disney version sparked my imagination in many ways, but never fully satisfied it. That’s why when I wasn’t watching “Sleeping Beauty,” I was running around in circles expanding upon concepts in the movie that I found interesting. The fairies’ raising the princess in the woods was probably the main concept I did that with. I often came up with my own ideas on what happened when Briar Rose was a pre-pubescent child and even still an infant with the fairies. Some of these ideas included the fairies finding a kitten for her to play with and drawing pictures of what she would be like when she grew up.
In addition to expanding on existent concepts in “Sleeping Beauty,” there was one non-existent concept that, as a kid, I thought would be interesting if present in the movie. This was Briar Rose’s finding out about the missing Princess Aurora, and not discovering until later that she is this person. I had this thought while watching the part of the movie where Briar Rose is out picking berries and looks unknowingly at her father’s castle.
When I read the original Brothers Grimm version as a child, I enjoyed it mostly because my love for the movie made it cozy and familiar. Aside from that, I found it pretty boring. Most of the interesting concepts in the Disney version were absent from it. Sure, there were the fairies giving her gifts as an infant, but nothing could make that scene as interesting as it was in the Disney version, not even there being twelve good fairies instead of just three. Yeah, there was the evil fairy, but not only was she not nearly as cool as Maleficent in the Disney version, her reason for being upset about not being invited to the baby shower didn’t even make sense, regardless of the version I read. In some versions she wasn’t invited because no one knew her whereabouts, and in others she wasn’t invited because there were only twelve golden plates for fairies. At least in the Disney version, they didn’t invite her because they knew she was evil!
Another complaint I have about the bad fairy in the Brothers Grimm “Sleeping Beauty” is that after giving the princess her terrible gift, she disappears and is never seen again. According to Sheldon Cashdan in The Witch Must Die: How Fairy Tales Shape Our Lives, she doesn’t even constitute as an actual witch because of that: “”Once she [the evil thirteenth fairy] arrives at the ball celebrating the infant Rosamond’s birth and delivers her pronouncement, she is never heard from again. There is consequently no enduring malevolent presence in the story, and no penultimate struggle between the forces of good and evil” (Cashdan, 25). Needless to say, this story would have been much more interesting if there was a “penultimate struggle between the forces of good and evil,” which is part of the reason I like the Disney version much better. As we will later explore, this “penultimate struggle” (Cashdan, 25) has highly symbolic value.
There is also absolutely nothing interesting between the baby shower and the princess falling asleep in the original version. There’s no princess being raised in the forest by fairies, none of the evil fairy’s wrath, no falling in love with a supposed stranger, no fairies making funny mistakes while making a cake and gown for the princess’ birthday, no kings arguing over whether it’s a good idea for their children to get married when they’ve never met, and no prince defeating a fire-breathing dragon with the help of three fairies who are much spunkier than the princess. Even though those concepts weren’t expanded on enough in the Disney version, at least they were there. They weren’t even present in the original version! For that reason, I saw the original version as a very boring story when I was a child, just a I do as an adult.
I still like the Disney version now, though, and after recently re-watching it a couple of times, I had some other thoughts on which concepts in the movie would have contributed more had they been expanded. One was the fairies wishing Briar Rose didn’t have to go back to being a princess so they could keep her in the forest and, similarly, Briar Rose being unhappy upon hearing she’s a princess instead of a peasant girl.
The main reason she was unhappy about this was that she thought she loved someone other than her betrothed. This concept would have obviously added more to the story if the young man she met really was someone other than the prince she was betrothed to. It also would have been much more interesting, much less creepy, and made much more sense if the handsome “stranger” she met hadn’t fallen for her just because of her voice. The creepiest parts of this exchange, though, were his excuse of meeting her “once upon a dream” for not being a stranger and her falling for both him and the excuse at first glance, before they even knew each others’ names! As an adult, that’s the main concept in the Disney version that bothers me, and it’s why I think the songs “I Wonder” and “Once Upon a Dream” are stupid. Though “Sleeping Beauty” is one of my favorite Disney movies, I’ll be the first to say others have much better songs, including my other favorite, “Beauty and the Beast.” Even as a child, I tried to make sense of that love at first sight garbage, but I couldn’t. Now I know this was because there is no sense to be made. There is no real “love at first sight.” Real romantic love comes from spending time getting to know someone you really like and want to be close to. Remember this, kids, for when you get old enough for romance. Real love is nothing like how they depict it in fairy tales.
Anyway, if the concepts I named about her falling in love with someone she met in the forest were both different and expanded upon, they would have contributed much more to the story. There are two more concepts I feel that way about as an adult. One is the princess’ father questioning whether it’s a good idea to marry her to someone she’s never met. As people of the 21st century, we know that’s a really stupid, archaic thing to do, so it would have made much more sense to us if he had continued to feel that way and actually done something about it, instead of relenting right away and deciding his daughter and his best friend’s son were “bound to fall in love with each other.” After all, that practice wasn’t at all archaic in medieval times, and so if someone thought it was a bad idea then, that would have been a revolutionary thought. It would have been very interesting to see how it plays out in a medieval setting.
Another concept, or in this case character, I think would have contributed more to the story if expanded on was Merry Weather. She is quite the tough and cool fairy, with much more of an attitude than her two sisters. There are, in fact, at least two occurrences where she tries to confront Maleficent but the others stop her. They should have let this strong, brave fairy confront her, and then helped her defeat this evil witch! That would have made these fairies even spunkier heroines than they were to begin with! And the fact that I have always believed something like this is clear, because when I was eight, I would fantasize about the three good fairies dueling with Maleficent. Why not?