I fancy myself as a budding aficionado when it comes to fairy tales and folk tales. I can attribute this curious life-long fascination to my mother who was quite the story-teller. She had the unusual ability to pluck a tale from her imagination and tell it in a faultless stream of words that would keep me spellbound from till the very last word.
I had very few toys as a child. I had to use my imagination to think up games which was very easy to do with the expanse of wilderness that surrounded our ramshackle home in Kenya. However, when the skies tore apart and the rains came, I felt trapped and restless. I often sought refuge in the raggedy sun-bleached pages of various fairy tale anthologies that lurked on my bookshelf. Hours if not days of my life have been spent on reading old old fairy stories. Some forgotten, some re-imagined and some that the modern reader may wish never was written.
Recently, there seems to be a revival in interest in fairy-tales and I often hear people blithely declaring that they wish that their life was more like a fairy tale. How careless people are with their wishes! I can think of a few fairy tale snippets that are less that delightful.
Let’s start with the tale of Sleeping Beauty, or as I like to call it…The disturbing tale of molestation and intended cannibalism.
The tale that you may know is much ado about a comatose princess who is gently and magically awoken from her mystical slumber with a kiss from a handsome prince is not exactly how the original tale was told.
Her name was Talia and she was the daughter of a great but superstitious lord from a far away land. The upon her birth the lord called an assembly of wise men and astrologers to predict the future of his newborn daughter where he learned that great danger would befall his precious Talia from a splinter of flax.
Lo and behold, despite the lords many precautionary measures. One old lady seemed to miss all the memos and kept her spindle. So came the day when Talia was sent into a comatose stupor by….. a splinter of flax from this very spindle.
Her father, believed her to be dead yet was unable to bury his daughter. Instead, he has her body placed in one of his many country manors and left to the elements. Along comes a king from another land who finds Talia and after an unsuccessful attempt to wake her……rapes her and saunters off back to his land. She gives birth to twins who the fairies look after and place at her breasts. One day, a child mistakes her thumb for a nipple and draws out the poison that keeps his mother unconscious and she wakes to more disturbing drama. She names the twins, “Sun” and “Moon” and.
Now the lusty molesting King who seemed to forget all about his dirty deed, suddenly remembers the sleeping beauty and wishes to see her again. How surprised he must have been to see Talia awake and with twins! Talia, far from harbouring vengeful, murderous thoughts about the King, gladly falls into bed with him again.
The drama does not end there! Now the King was a sleep talker and he jabbers on about Talia the Sun and Moon to his queen who flies into a rage. She threatens the King’s secretary who then spills the beans and the sordid tale is out.
The queen hunts down the children and orders her cook to kill and cook them. The cook takes pity of the kids and hides them away. Meanwhile she has Talia brought her and she welcome’s her with a fine speech….
“Welcome, Madam Busybody! You are a fine piece of goods, you ill weed, who are enjoying my husband. So you are the lump of filth, the cruel bitch, that has caused my head to spin? Change your ways, for you are welcome in purgatory, where I will compensate you for all the damage you have done to me.”
The mortified Talia tries to explain to the furious queen that she was raped but the queen has gone past the point of listening and decides that she would like Talia burned at a stake. Eventually after much hoo-ha with clothes and more cussing. The king comes to the rescue and saves Talia who he marries and they live happily ever after with their children. The tale ends on a rather chilling note;
“Those whom fortune favours
Find good luck even in their sleep”
This is from the original tale of sleeping beauty called The Sun, Moon and Talia by Gamabattista Basile written in 1634. The story was then changed by Charles Perrault in 1697 to something more like the tale most people know today.
| Wikipedia|Various versions of the tale|