Disney's The Sleeping Beauty was actually a flop. And was the last fairy tale Disney did until The Little Mermaid was released in 1989.
The 1959 animated Disney classic called Sleeping Beauty was an adaptation of Charles Perrault's classic story of The Sleeping Beauty in the Wood and the Brothers Grimm version Little Briar-Rose.
Disney changed the title to just Sleeping Beauty. Why? I'm going to guess it was probably because in the original version when Sleeping Beauty had pierced her hand on the spindle (not her finger) and was put in an eternal sleep, the fairy that had exchanged the Princess's fate of death for sleep had covered the palace with trees and bushes for 100 years. Therefore, the palace with the beautiful sleeping princess was deep in the woods. In the Disney version, the Princess was hidden in the woods by the fairies in a woodcutter's cottage and grew up there for 16 years. But returned to the palace on her 16th birthday to accept her duty as Princess Aurora where she was then put to eternal sleep by Maleficent. The castle was only momentarily covered by dry thorny bushes created by Maleficent.
The Plot: Princess Aurora's Birthday
If you haven't noticed most of the plot happens around one day, Aurora's birthday. At the beginning when she was born and given the gifts by the fairies and when she turned 16.
Most of the events happen on her birthday (except for after they were married) and happen in three different years instead of two. The day she was born and given the gifts. When she turned 16 and pricked her finger and went into a deep sleep. And the day she met the prince who broke the curse 100 years later.
What takes 100 years in Charles Perrault's version happens in less than 1 day in Disney's version
In the Disney version, the Princess sleeping for 100 years is mentioned in the plot of Sleeping Beauty, but only stays as an idea of Maleficent that she tells the Prince when she captures him. At about 17 or 18 minutes into the movie, we meet Briar Rose/Aurora at the age of 16 for the first time. And until the end of the movie the rest of the plot is in one day.
Whereas in Charles Perrault's version from the time she turns 16 until the time she gets married to the Prince it spans over 100 years. Even though, most of the plot she was asleep.
In the 1959 Disney version, the Prince was actually older than the Princess and had first met her when she was in a crib. He looked to be about... 8 or 9. So when the Princess was 16, the Prince was in his 20s when they met and "fell in love". In the Charles Perrault version the princess was about 16 years old, 100 years before the Prince was born. The Prince met her when she was in the body of a 16 year old, but was actually in love with a 116 year old woman. So they actually took turns in both versions being a "cradle robber".
What's In a Name?
One reason why Disney had to change a few things. Some writers like Charles Perrault and the Brother's Grimm rarely gave names to some of their characters. Especially the main characters. In fact, sometimes you knew the secondary character's names more than you knew the main character's names. And sometimes the main characters were the only one with names.
They were often referred to their status or a characteristic such as "The King's son", "The Princess", "The good fairy" or "The good old woman". Cinderella also was called Cinderbreech in Perrault's version. Both Cinderella and Cinderbreech were actually a nickname that her stepsisters gave her, but not her actual name. The name Briar-Rose was taken from The Brothers Grimm version of Sleeping Beauty and was the main character's name and the only characters' name they mentioned. While the name Aurora was taken from Charles Perrault's version of Sleeping Beauty. But Aurora was originally the name of the daughter of the Princess (Aurora) and the Prince (Phillip).
True Love's Kiss
In the Disney version, Princess Aurora could only be awakened by true love's kiss, but in the Charles Perrault version the spell could only be broken by a King's son. In fact, the forest let him enter the castle since he already fulfilled the spell's requirements of it being 100 years and him being the son of a King. The spell says nothing about "true love" or "true love's kiss". Why?
Charles Perrault had written in one of his morals ( I believe it was Little Red Riding Hood) teaching young ladies how to conduct themselves in public. And that grace and beauty for a young lady were above all the most coveted features that a young lady should have. It also makes sense why Charles Perrault did not include "True Love's Kiss" in Sleeping Beauty. If Sleeping Beauty's morals were to teach young ladies how to act in public, he would not have had a "woman of grace and beauty" be kissed be a man while she was asleep and whom she had not met.
(The kiss was actually from the Brothers Grimm's version, but the curse did not mention anything about a kiss at all. In fact, it just mentioned that she would prick her finger on a spindle and fall into a deep sleep for 100 years. And this is also the version I use to think was creepy because the Prince kisses a girl he's never met on the lips without her permission.)
In the Charles Perrault version, there were seven fairies that granted the Princess gifts. The gifts were for the Princess to be the most beautiful woman in the world, have wit, grace, the ability to dance perfectly, "sing like a nightingale" and play all kinds of music perfectly. In the Disney version, there were three fairies. Flora gave Aurora the gift of beauty and the ability to be graceful in everything she does (which is actually two gifts). Fona gave Aurora the gift of song. Therefore, I guess the grace covers dance and grace and the gift of music covers singing, dancing and being able to play all instruments. The only one that Disney didn't include was wit. They could've made a fourth fairy, but I guess Disney couldn't make a girl have a sense of humor or intelligence. Anyway, I always wondered about the seventh fairy's gift in Charles Perrault's story and third fairy's gift in Disney's version would have been if they did not have to counteract the curse.
The King's Proclamation
After King Stefan is told his daughter's fate, he immediately has all the current spindles burnt in the Disney version (This also happened in the Brothers Grimm version). In the Charles Perrault version however, he forbids the use or ownership of spindles and orders the death of anyone who uses or owns a spindle.
Which begs the question, I wonder what happened to the "good old woman" who owned the spindle that the Princess pierced her hand on?
In Charles Perrault's version, seven fairies were invited to a feast and had food decorated with a gold cover and silverware in gold with diamonds and rubies. (Although it's not silver so it's not really silverware, is it?) At the feast they noticed an old fairy who was not invited because no one knew what had come of her since she stayed in a tower for about 50 years. She got mad and resented the King and Queen for not inviting her or giving her the treatment that the other fairies were getting and she cursed the Princess. She did not continue to obsessively make sure that Sleeping Beauty stayed asleep like in the Disney movie. Once the spell was cast, the old fairy who had cast the spell was not mentioned anymore in the story.
(In the Brother's Grimm version, the King and Queen only had enough gold covers for 12 witches, but there were 13. So they decided to not invite one of the witches. The witch got mad stormed in and said that she hoped that the Princess would prick her finger on a spindle and die at the age of 15 and then stormed out.)
There were other differences
- In the Disney version, the Prince went to rescue the Princess with a sword of truth and a shield of virtue against Maleficent who turned herself into a dragon. The only dragon that was used in Perrault's version was the dragon that transported one of the fairies to the palace when she heard of the Princess being in a deep sleep.
- Charles Perrault did not finish the story with "Happily Ever After" like in the Disney version. The story was probably to remind young ladies that even if you wait a hundred years for your prince to come, there still will be some obstacles you will have to face as a couple. The after story (after the Prince and Princess got married) was a blend of Snow White (the first part of Sleeping Beauty also had some elements of Snow White) and a Hansel and Gretel like theme. (Which would probably be a nightmare for little kids if Disney included it.) Basically, the Prince was handsome, charming and rich, but the Prince's father was a golddigger and his mother was an Ogress who in simple terms was an incredibly ugly rich woman who was a cannibal and especially liked eating children.
g on February 12, 2015: