I’ve recently been examining the fairy tale of Sleeping Beauty (for professional purposes), and something struck me as I was analyzing the script. The story is a fairly obvious allegory in the form of an inverse passion play.
An exalted princess is born, but Aurora is not just an ordinary baby. She is so special that she is visited by three special fairies who bestow gifts upon her. Despite the gifts, Maleficent, a demonic witch, curses the child to an untimely death. Flora, Fauna, and Merryweather can easily stand in for the three astrologers who visit the newborn Jesus; indeed, the fairies were astrologers in the original version, The Sun Moon and Talia. Just as young Jesus disappears from scripture, so does Aurora, who becomes Briar Rose.
And when Briar Rose pricks her finger on the spinning wheel, a crown of thorns wraps around the castle. What fitting imagery for our soon-to-be resurrected heroine. When Briar Rose collapses, the entire kingdom slumbers with her, and they awake when she wakes.
Aurora’s resurrection has changed considerably from the earliest version of Sleeping Beauty. In “The Sun Moon and Talia”, a king follows his falcon into the castle where our heroine is slumbering, rapes her, and leaves her there as a traumatized coma patient. While he’s gone, her slumbering body gives birth to twins, one of whom sucks the offending flax seed from her finger, searching for the nipple. The babies are named Sun and Moon. The king has a new wife, who is pissed about her new rival, the narcoleptic rape victim. Unfortunately, the rapist wins in the end, and his jealous wife is thrown into a bonfire of her own creation.
It’s not an accident that a spinning wheel becomes Aurora’s instrument of fate. The mythical Moirae, otherwise known as the three fates, were depicted as prophetic seamstresses. Clotho would spin lives into existence, Lachesis would measure the length of their lives, and Atropos would take her little scissors and decide when those lives would end. Interestingly, Clotho the spinner, was known as Nona by the Romans, who saw her as the goddess of pregnancy.
The flax seed that pricks Talia’s finger is also an important symbol. Flax seeds were used to spin burial linens, even in ancient Egypt. Linens have also been associated with purity and sleep.
I bet you’ll never watch Disney’s cartoon the same way again…