The Fairy Tales of Charles Perrault, by Charles Perrault

The Sleeping Beauty in the Wood

The Sleeping Beauty in the Wood

There were formerly a King and a Queen, who were so sorry that they had no children, so sorry that it cannot be expressed. They went to all the waters in the world; vows, pilgrimages, all ways were tried and all to no purpose. At last, however, the Queen proved with child, and was brought to bed of a daughter. There was a very fine christening; and the Princess had for her godmothers all the Fairies they could find in the whole kingdom (they found seven), that every one of them might give her a gift, as was the custom of Fairies in those days, and that by this means the Princess might have all the perfections imaginable.

After the ceremonies of the christening were over, all the company returned to the King’s palace, where was prepared a great feast for the Fairies. There was placed before every one of them a magnificent cover with a case of massive gold, wherein were a spoon, knife and fork, all of pure gold set with diamonds and rubies. But as they were all sitting down at table, they saw come into the hall a very old Fairy whom they had not invited, because it was above fifty years since she had been out of a certain tower, and she was believed to be either dead or inchanted. The King ordered her a cover, but could not furnish her with a case of gold as the others, because they had seven only made for the seven Fairies. The old Fairy fancied she was slighted, and muttered some threat between her teeth. One of the young Fairies, who sat by her, overheard how she grumbled; and judging that she might give the little Princess some unlucky gift, went, as soon as they rose from the table, and hid herself behind the hangings, that she might speak last, and repair, as much as possible she could, the evil which the old Fairy might intend.

"At this very instant the young fairy came out from behind the hangings"
“At this very instant the young fairy came out from behind the hangings”

In the mean while all the Fairies began to give their gifts to the Princess. The youngest gave her for gift, that she should be the most beautiful person in the world; the next, that she should have the wit of an angel; the third, that she should have a wonderful grace in every thing 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 upon all kinds of music to the utmost perfection.

The old Fairy’s turn coming next, with a head shaking more with spite than age, she said, that the Princess should have her hand pierced with a spindle, and die of the wound. This terrible gift made the whole company tremble, and every body fell a-crying.

At this very instant the young Fairy came out from behind the hangings, and spake these words aloud:

“Be reassured, O King and Queen; your daughter shall not die of this disaster: it is true, I have no power to undo intirely what my elder has done. The Princess shall indeed pierce her hand with a spindle; but instead of dying, she shall only fall into a profound sleep, which shall last a hundred years; at the expiration of which a king’s son shall come and awake her.”

The King, to avoid the misfortune foretold by the old Fairy, caused immediately proclamations to be made, whereby every-body was forbidden, on pain of death, to spin with a distaff and spindle or to have so much as any spindle in their houses.

About fifteen or sixteen years after, the King and Queen being gone to one of their houses of pleasure, the young Princess happened one day to divert herself running up and down the palace; when going up from one apartment to another, she came into a little room on the top of a tower, where a good old woman, alone, was spinning with her spindle. This good woman had never heard of the King’s proclamation against spindles.

“What are you doing there, Goody?” said the Princess.

“I am spinning, my pretty child,” said the old woman, who did not know who she was.

“Ha!” said the Princess, “this is very pretty; how do you do it? Give it to me, that I may see if I can do so.” She had no sooner taken the spindle into her hand, than, whether being very hasty at it, somewhat unhandy, or that the decree of the Fairy had so ordained it, it ran into her hand, and she fell down in a swoon.

The good old woman not knowing very well what to do in this affair, cried out for help. People came in from every quarter in great numbers; they threw water upon the Princess’s face, unlaced her, struck her on the palms of her hands, and rubbed her temples with Hungary-water; but nothing would bring her to herself.

And now the King, who came up at the noise, bethought himself of the prediction of the Fairies, and judging very well that this must necessarily come to pass, since the Fairies had said it, caused the Princess to be carried into the finest apartment in his palace, and to be laid upon a bed all embroidered with gold and silver. One would have taken her for an angel, she was so very beautiful; for her swooning away had not diminished one bit of her complexion; her cheeks were carnation, and her lips like coral; indeed her eyes were shut, but she was heard to breathe softly, which satisfied those about her that she was not dead. The King commanded that they should not disturb her, but let her sleep quietly till her hour of awakening was come.

The good Fairy, who had saved her life by condemning her to sleep a hundred years, was in the kingdom of Matakin, twelve thousand leagues off, when this accident befell the Princess; but she was instantly informed of it by a little dwarf, who had boots of seven leagues, that is, boots with which he could tread over seven leagues of ground at one stride. The Fairy came away immediately, and she arrived, about an hour after, in a fiery chariot, drawn by dragons. The King handed her out of the chariot, and she approved every thing he had done; but, as she had a very great foresight, she thought, when the Princess should awake, she might not know what to do with herself, being all alone in this old palace; and this was what she did: She touched with her wand every thing in the palace (except the King and the Queen), governesses, maids of honour, ladies of the bedchamber, gentlemen, officers, stewards, cooks, under-cooks, scullions, guards, with their beef-eaters, pages, footmen; she likewise touched all the horses which were in the stables, as well as their grooms, the great dogs in the outward court, and pretty little Mopsey too, the Princess’s little spaniel-bitch, which lay by her on the bed.

Immediately upon her touching them, they all fell asleep, that they might not awake before their mistress, and that they might be ready to wait upon her when she wanted them. The very spits at the fire, as full as they could hold of partridges and pheasants, did fall asleep, and the fire likewise. All this was done in a moment. Fairies are not long in doing their business.

And now the King and the Queen, having kissed their dear child without waking her, went out of the palace, and put forth a proclamation, 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 park, such a vast number of trees, great and small, bushes and brambles, twining one within another, that neither man nor beast could pass thro’; so that nothing could be seen but the very top of the towers of the palace; and that too, not unless it was a good way off. Nobody doubted but the Fairy gave herein a sample of her art, that the Princess, while she continued sleeping, might have nothing to fear from any curious people.

"The prince enquires of the aged countryman"
“The prince enquires of the aged countryman”

When a hundred years were gone and past, the son of the King then reigning, and who was of another family from that of the sleeping Princess, being gone a-hunting on that side of the country, asked, what were those towers which he saw in the middle of a great thick wood? Every one answered according as 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 kept there their sabbath, or nights meeting. The common opinion was that an Ogre1 lived there, and that he carried thither all the little children he could catch, that he might eat them up at his leisure, without any-body’s being able to follow him, as having himself, only, the power to pass thro’ the wood.

1 Ogre is a giant, with long teeth and claws, with a raw head and bloody-bones, who runs away with naughty little boys and girls, and eats them up. [Note by the translator.]

The Prince was at a stand, not knowing what to believe, when a very aged countryman spake to him thus: “May it please your Royal Highness, it is now above fifty years since I heard my father, who had heard my grandfather, say that there then was in this castle, a Princess, the most beautiful was ever seen; that she must sleep there a hundred years, and should be awaked by a king’s son; for whom she was reserved.” The young Prince was all on fire at these words, believing, without a moment’s doubt, that he could put an end to this rare adventure; and pushed on by love and honour resolved that moment to look into it.

Scarce had he advanced towards the wood, when all the great trees, the bushes and brambles, gave way of themselves to let him pass thro’; he walked up to the castle which he saw at the end of a large avenue which he went into; and what a little surprised him was, that he saw none of his people could follow him, because the trees closed again, as soon as he had pass’d thro’ them. However, he did not cease from continuing his way; a young and amorous Prince is always valiant. He came into a spacious outward court, where everything he saw might have frozen up the most fearless person with horror. There reigned over all a most frightful silence; the image of death everywhere shewed itself, and there was nothing to be seen but stretched out bodies of men and animals, all seeming to be dead. He, however, very well knew, by the ruby faces and pimpled noses of the beef-eaters, that they were only asleep; and their goblets, wherein still remained some drops of wine, shewed plainly, that they fell asleep in their cups.

He then crossed a court paved with marble, went up the stairs, and came into the guard-chamber, where the guards were standing in their ranks, with their muskets upon their shoulders, and 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 curtains of which were all open, the finest sight was ever beheld: a Princess, who appeared to be about fifteen or sixteen years of age, and whose bright, and in a manner resplendent beauty, had somewhat in it divine. He approached with trembling and admiration, and fell down before her upon his knees.

"He saw, upon a bed, the finest sight was ever beheld"
“He saw, upon a bed, the finest sight was ever beheld”

And now, as the inchantment was at an end, the Princess awaked, and looking on him with eyes more tender than the first view might seem to admit of: “Is it you, my Prince,” said she to him, “you have tarried long.”

The Prince, charmed with these words, and much more with the manner in which they were spoken, knew not how to shew his joy and gratitude; he assured her, that he loved her better than he did himself; his discourse was not well connected, but it pleased her all the more; little eloquence, a great deal of love. He was more at a loss than she, and we need not wonder at it; she had time to think on 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 entertained her with pleasant dreams. In short, when they talked four hours together, they said not half what they had to say.

In the mean while, all the palace awaked; every one thought upon their particular business; and as all of them were not in love, they were ready to die for hunger; the chief lady of honour, being as sharp set as other folks, 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, but his Royal Highness took care not to tell her that she was dressed like his great grand-mother, and had a point-band peeping over a high collar; she looked not a bit the less beautiful and charming for all that.

They went into the great hall of looking-glasses, where they supped, and were served by the Princess’s officers; the violins and hautboys played old tunes, but very excellent, tho’ it was now above a hundred years since they had been played; and after supper, without losing any time, the lord almoner 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 no occasion, and the Prince left her next morning to return into the city, where his father must needs have been anxious on his account. The Prince told him that he lost his way in the forest, as he was hunting, and that he had lain at the cottage of a collier, who gave him cheese and brown bread.

The King his father, who was of an easy disposition, believed him; but his mother could not be persuaded this was true; and seeing that he went almost every day a-hunting, and that he always had some excuse ready when he had laid out three or four nights together, she no longer doubted he had some little amour, for he lived with the Princess above two whole years, and had by her two children, the eldest of which, who was a daughter, was named Aurora, and the youngest, who was a son, they called Day, because he was even handsomer and more beautiful than his sister.

The Queen said more than once to her son, in order to bring him to speak freely to her, that a young man must e’en take his pleasure; but he never dared to trust her with his secret; he feared her, tho’ he loved her; for she was of the race of the Ogres, and the King would never have married her, had it not been for her vast riches; it was even whispered about the court, that she had Ogreish inclinations, and that, whenever she saw little children passing by, she had all the difficulty in the world to refrain from falling upon them. And so the Prince would never tell her one word.

But when the King was dead, which happened about two years afterwards; and he saw himself lord and master, he openly declared his marriage; and he went in great ceremony to fetch his Queen from the castle. They made a magnificent entry into the capital city, she riding between her two children.

Some time after, the King went to make war with the Emperor Cantalabutte, his neighbour. He left the government of the kingdom to the Queen his mother, and earnestly recommended to her care his wife and children. He was like to be at war all the summer, and as soon as he departed, the Queen-mother sent her daughter-in-law and her children to a country-house among the woods, that she might with the more ease gratify her horrible longing.

"'I will have it so,' replied the Queen, 'and will eat her with a Sauce Robert'"
“‘I will have it so,’ replied the Queen, ‘and will eat her with a Sauce Robert’”

Some few days afterwards she went thither herself, and said to her clerk of the kitchen:

“I have a mind to eat little Aurora for my dinner to morrow.”

“Ah! Madam,” cried the clerk of the kitchen.

“I will have it so,” replied the Queen (and this she spake in the tone of an Ogress, who had a strong desire to eat fresh meat), “and will eat her with a Sauce Robert.”2

2 This is a French sauce, made with onions shredded and boiled tender in butter, to which is added vinegar, mustard, salt, pepper, and a little wine. [Note by the translator.]

The poor man knowing very well that he must not play tricks with Ogresses, took his great knife and went up into little Aurora’s chamber. She was then four years old, and came up to him jumping and laughing, to take him about the neck, and ask him for some sugar-candy. Upon which he began to weep, the great knife fell out of his hand, and he went into the back-yard, and killed a little lamb, and dressed it with such good sauce, that his mistress assured him she had never eaten anything so good in her life. He had at the same time taken up little Aurora, and carried her to his wife, to conceal her in the lodging he had at the end of the court yard.

About eight days afterwards, the wicked Queen said to the clerk of the kitchen:

“I will sup upon little Day.”

He answered not a word, being resolved to cheat her, as he had done before. He went to find out little Day, and saw him with a little foil in his hand, with which he was fencing with a great monkey; the child being then only three years of age. He took him up in his arms, and carried him to his wife, that she might conceal him in her chamber along with his sister, and in the room of little Day cooked up a young kid very tender, which the Ogress found to be wonderfully good.

This was hitherto all mighty well: but one evening this wicked Queen said to her clerk of the kitchen:

“I will eat the Queen with the same sauce I had with her children.”

It was now that the poor clerk of the kitchen despaired of being able to deceive her. The young Queen was turned of twenty, not reckoning the hundred years she had been asleep: her skin was somewhat tough, tho’ very fair and white; and how to find in the yard a beast so firm, was what puzzled him. He took then a resolution, that he might save his own life, to cut the Queen’s throat; and going up into her chamber, with intent to do it at once, he put himself into as great a fury as he could possibly, and came into the young Queen’s room with his dagger in his hand. He would not, however, surprise her, but told her, with a great deal of respect, the orders he had received from the Queen-mother.

“Do it, do it,” said she stretching out her neck, “execute your orders, and then I shall go and see my children, my poor children, whom I so much and so tenderly loved,” for she thought them dead ever since they had been taken away without her knowledge.

“No, no, Madam,” cried the poor clerk of the kitchen, all in tears, “you shall not die, and yet you shall see your children again; but it must be in my lodgings, where I have concealed them, and I shall deceive the Queen once more, by giving her in your stead a young hind.”

Upon this he forthwith conducted her to his chamber; where leaving her to embrace her children, and cry along with them, he went and dressed a hind, which the Queen had for her supper, and devoured it with the same appetite, as if it had been the young Queen. Exceedingly was she delighted with her cruelty, and she had invented a story to tell the King, at his return, how ravenous wolves had eaten up the Queen his wife, and her two children.

One evening, as she was, according to her custom, rambling round about the courts and yards of the palace, to see if she could smell any fresh meat, she heard, in a ground-room little Day crying, for his mamma was going to whip him, because he had been naughty; and she heard, at the same time, little Aurora begging pardon for her brother.

The Ogress presently knew the voice of the Queen and her children, and being quite mad that she had been thus deceived, she commanded next morning, by break of day (with a most horrible voice, which made every body tremble) that they should bring into the middle of the great court a large tub, which she caused to be filled with toads, vipers, snakes, and all sorts of serpents, in order to have thrown into it the Queen and her children, the clerk of the kitchen, his wife and maid; all whom she had given orders should be brought thither with their hands tied behind them.

They were brought out accordingly, and the executioners were just going to throw them into the tub, when the King (who was not so soon expected) entered the court on horse-back (for he came post) and asked, with the utmost astonishment, what was the meaning of that horrible spectacle? No one dared to tell him; when the Ogress, all inraged to see what had happened, threw herself head-foremost into the tub, and was instantly devoured by the ugly creatures she had ordered to be thrown into it for others. The King could not but be very sorry, for she was his mother; but he soon comforted himself with his beautiful wife, and his pretty children.

The Moral

To get as prize a husband rich and gay.

Of humour sweet, with many years to stay,

Is natural enough, ’tis true;

To wait for him a hundred years,

And all that while asleep, appears

A thing entirely new.

Now at this time of day,

Not one of all the sex we see

Doth sleep with such profound tranquillity:

But yet this Fable seems to let us know

That very often Hymen’s blisses sweet,

Altho’ some tedious obstacles they meet,

Are not less happy for approaching slow.

’Tis nature’s way that ladies fair

Should yearn conjugal joys to share;

And so I’ve not the heart to preach

A moral that’s beyond their reach.

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Last updated Thursday, March 6, 2014 at 16:24