10 Differences Between The Sleeping Beauty by Charles Perrault and Brothers Grimm

by Tolovaj

Sleeping Beauty is a fairy tale known in hundreds of variations. What are the most important differences?

Charles Perrault and Brothers Grimm are most credited authors of The Sleeping Beauty, but essentially most of us are familiar only with Grimms'.

This article aims at explaining why are these two versions, one being published at the end of the 17th and the other at the beginning of the 19th century historically by far the most important ones.

Perrault wrote for nobility with ironic subversive undertones and Brothers Grimm for academicians at first but transforming their stories into educational tools for kids in the next editions.

What are the key differences between these two versions of Sleeping Beauty? Here is the list of ten:

1. The Title

While most of us know this fairy tale just like The Sleeping Beauty, actually none of the presented variations is titled with exactly those words. Perrault wrote The Sleeping Beauty in the Wood (La Belle Aus Bois Dormant) and Grimms titled it Little Brier-Rose (Dornröschen). This is a very important difference because it describes the content in two very different ways.

The Sleeping Beauty in the Wood focuses on the sleeping and the wood as the mysterious act and place where forbidden things may happen. The story is much more focused on the prince than the princess. It's a story about jealousy.

Brier-Rose is about a thorn flower with two obvious meanings: you need to overcome an obstacle / defeat an enemy to find the right person and it's about a beautiful girl who is becoming a woman. It's a story about growing up.

Just remember - there are hundreds of known versions of the story about Sleeping Beauty.

2. The Birth

While the king and the queen in both versions wished for a child for a very long time, Perrault made them much more active. They were drinking healing waters, making vows, and going to pilgrimages while according to Grimms they just said "Oh, if only we had a child" every day.

On the other hand at Perrault the queen one day just realized she'll have a baby. But Jacob and William included a very special messenger - a frog who foretells the happy news to the queen. Frogs, of course, have numerous symbolic meanings and fertility is one of the most important ones.

Sleeping Beauty by Henry Thiriet
Sleeping Beauty by Henry Thiriet

3. The number of fairies

There are seven fairies invited to a christening at Perrault. It's the eight one who caused problems. In the version by Brothers Grimm twelve fairies are invited and the thirteenth throws a curse.

While the numbers twelve and thirteen obviously allude to the last supper of Jesus Christ, numbers seven and eight need more explanation. Seven is probably the most magic of all numbers (even more than three) and is derived from the four moon phases, each lasting seven days. But several old cultures used eight-day weeks in their calendars, including Burmese, Celts, and Etruscans. In Rome eight- and seven-day weeks coexisted and competed for several centuries until Emperor Constantine declared the seven-day week as the only legal way of counting days in calendars.

If we return to both fairy tales about the Sleeping Beauty, we can see Perrault used more pagan and Grimms more Christian relationships with numbers, but both with strong symbolic meaning.

You can always explore more facts about The Sleeping Beauty, just don't forget to return!

4. The reason for not inviting one of the fairies

In Perrault's version they simply just found seven fairies. They believed the eighth is already dead because nobody saw her for decades. At Grimms, they know there is one more, but they have only twelve golden plates for the fairies and they naively believed the thirteenth won't know she was left from the list.

Sleeping Beauty by Georg van Caspel
Sleeping Beauty by Georg van Caspel

5. The curse and its antidote

Perrault's seventh fairy anticipated something bad may happen when the eight one came to the christening and hides with a plan to repair it if necessary. When the death by pricking with a spindle is declared, the seventh fairy softens the curse into one hundred years long sleep.

The time of the princess's accident is not specified. Only later we find out it happened when she was fifteen or sixteen (legal age of marriage in 17th century France). When the princess falls asleep, the fairy is informed by a dwarf with seven-league boots and she instantly came to the castle (in a chariot drawn by dragons) and puts to sleep most of the court too.

While that part sounds picturesque and attractive, it really loosens the dramatic structure by including unnecessary characters and subplots into the story.

For Little Briar-Rose on the other, hand the curse came completely by surprise. It was pure luck the eleventh fairy didn't give her gift yet and had a chance to transform death into one hundred year sleep. It was foretold this would happen in her fifteenth year (no specific day, only later versions put that on her birthday).

Sleeping Beauty by George W. Brenneman
Sleeping Beauty by George W. Brenneman

6. What happened to her parents

In The Sleeping Beauty in the woods, the parents of the princess put her into a room and leave the castle for good.

They never see each other again. It was a pretty common situation in the 17th century.

When the girl married, she was often sent far away and all her connections with her former family were broken. She was sent into a completely new life.

In Little-Briar-Rose parents fall asleep together with the rest of the court. After a century, the princess can return in her environment, enriched with Prince Charming.

7. The protection of the princess

We can imagine it was not very safe to sleep in an unprotected castle for a full century. While in both cases the castle was immediately surrounded by the wood, Perrault used it just to hide it from the curious eyes.

Brothers Grimm, who loved to include some blood into their tales, added thorns and numerous princes who died trying to get through the obstacles. Yet in both cases, the prince, who came after one hundred years, didn't have any trouble getting through, though. He was just at the right time in the right place.

Sleeping Beauty by Frederic Theodore Lix
Sleeping Beauty by Frederic Theodore Lix

8. The reason for awaking the princess

The kiss by which the princess is awakened is one of the most famous elements in literature. But there is no kiss at Perrault, she woke up simply because one hundred years passed.

The kiss is an invention of Brothers Grimm. Otherwise they were not fond of erotic parts in fairy tales, but they probably used the kiss as the symbol of love, not necessarily physical, with strong Christian roots.

9. What happens after the awakening of the princess

Brothers Grimm just threw the wedding and it's over. The mission of the princess is simple: to get married. She is grown-up now and nobody really cares what happens next.

Charles Perrault stayed more faithful to older versions (especially Basile's). While he didn't want to follow the plot of the jealous wife in Giambattista Basile's Sun, Moon, and Talia (the prince, who found the sleeping princess was already married), he still tried to include some unsolved issues of the prince. At Perrault, they are presented through the prince's mother who is a cannibal and orders her daughter in law and her two kids (yes, Sleeping Beauty becomes a mother in this version) for lunch. This means somebody must die before the happy ending!

Sleeping Beauty by Harry Clarke
Sleeping Beauty by Harry Clarke
Which version is closer to your recall?

10. Corrections

We don't know how much time Perrault spent on his Sleeping Beauty. He wrote it where he was already way over sixty years old while Brother Grimm first published it in their twenties. They were hesitating to include it in their collection at first because it had Italian and French roots.

But when they managed to connect it with the myth about Brunhild, they decided to use it. In seven editions of their fairy tales, published during their lives, The Little Briar-Rose went through four significant corrections.

All used images are in Public Domain. Resources:

https://charles-perraults-fairy-tales.weebly.com/books/

http://vintagebooks.joomla.com/8-fairy-tales/2-sleeping-beauty-van-caspel/

https://childrensandhouseholdtales.wordpress.com/2018/07/23/the-sleeping-beauty-picture-book-by-george-w-brenneman/

https://yesterdaysdream.hatenablog.com/entry/2019/09/13/065700/

Updated: 04/16/2020, Tolovaj
 
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2

Can you add another important difference between Perrault's and Grimms' Sleeping Beauty?

Only logged-in users are allowed to comment. Login
Veronica on 04/26/2020

I am signed up for it so I may " see " you there if you do. It s free and not too much work. Plenty reading … but that s OK.

Tolovaj on 04/25/2020

Great, Veronica, I'll have a look!

Veronica on 04/23/2020

Hello Tolovaj,
My small business does its professional development training with a free online learning tool which has courses from universities all over the world. So far this year, I have done courses on Book of kells ( Dublin University ) Jane Austen's world ( Southampton ) WW1 Heroism and propaganda ( Leeds ) and Social reform Peterloo to the Pankhursts. ( London- Holloway )
I am at the moment on an Understanding Autism course and am hoping to start the Fairy tales one in July. It is from the University of Western Australia.
Anyone can sign up for a short, free course on so many topics. Or for a fee you can upgrade and get a certificate for doing the course.

The course Fairy tales; Meanings, messages and morals explores fairy tales, puts them into social context and looks at literary analysis of them . It is a 3 week course with 9 hours of study and short assessment at the end.

The online learning site is called FUTURELEARN.com sign up for free and you will have a world of free learning at your finger tips. I wholeheartedly recommend it , And, you get the tutors from the universities teaching the courses.

I get my staff to do as many as they want.

Tolovaj on 04/23/2020

Hi, Veronica, nice to see you again. I am glad you found the article interesting. Can you share a thought or two about the 'Fairy Tale online' you mentioned?

Veronica on 04/22/2020

I hadn't realised the connections between these two. How fascinating. In fact, I am hoping to do a Fairy Tale online from an Australian University in July. Your articles will be so helpful thank you.

Tolovaj on 04/17/2020

Thank you, Mira, for your kind words. There are quite a few allusions on The Sleeping Beauty in current situation, indeed. Happy Easter!

Mira on 04/17/2020

Wow, how interesting! And how eerie to read this in a lockdown :) I am so happy you continue to write on this site, Tolovaj. I will now probably use The Sleeping Beauty in some of my writings. Thanks, and Happy Easter!

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