Once upon a time there was a king and a queen who grieved sorely that
they had no children. When at last the queen gave birth to a daughter
the king was so overjoyed that he gave a great christening feast, the
like of which had never before been known. He asked all the fairies in
the land--there were seven all told--to stand godmothers to the little
princess, hoping that each might give her a gift, and so she should have
all imaginable perfections.
After the christening, all the company returned to the palace, where a
great feast had been spread for the fairy godmothers. Before each was
set a magnificent plate, with a gold knife and a gold fork studded with
diamonds and rubies. Just as they were seating themselves, however,
there entered an old fairy who had not been invited because more than
fifty years ago she had shut herself up in a tower and it was supposed
that she was either dead or enchanted.
The king ordered a cover to be laid for her, but it could not be a
massive gold one like the others, for only seven had been ordered made.
The old fairy thought herself ill-used and muttered between her teeth.
One of the young fairies, overhearing her, and fancying she might work
some mischief to the little baby, went and hid herself behind the
hangings in the hall, so as to be able to have the last word and undo
any harm the old fairy might wish to work.
The fairies now began to
endow the princess. The youngest, for her gift, decreed that she should
be the most beautiful person in the world; the next that she should have
the mind of an angel; the third that she should be perfectly graceful;
the fourth that she should dance admirably well; the fifth, that she
should sing like a nightingale; the sixth, that she should play
charmingly upon every musical instrument. The turn of the old fairy had
now come, and she declared, while her head shook with malice, that the
princess should pierce her hand with a spindle and die of the wound.
This dreadful fate threw all the company into tears of dismay, when the
young fairy who had hidden herself came forward and said:
"Be of good cheer, king and queen; your daughter shall not so die. It is
true I cannot entirely undo what my elder has done. The princess will
pierce her hand with a spindle, but, instead of dying, she will only
fall into a deep sleep. The sleep will last a hundred years, and at the
end of that time a king's son will come to wake her."
The king, in hopes of preventing what the old fairy had foretold,
immediately issued an edict by which he forbade all persons in his
dominion from spinning or even having spindles in their houses under
pain of instant death.
Now fifteen years after the princess was born she was with the king and
queen at one of their castles, and as she was running about by herself
she came to a little chamber at the top of a tower, and there sat an
honest old woman spinning, for she had never heard of the king's edict.
"What are you doing?" asked the princess.
"I am spinning, my fair child," said the old woman, who did not know
"How pretty it is!" exclaimed the princess. "How do you do it? Give it
to me that I may see if I can do it." She had no sooner taken up the
spindle, than, being hasty and careless, she pierced her hand with the
point of it, and fainted away. The old woman, in great alarm, called for
help. People came running in from all sides; they threw water in the
princess's face and did all they could to restore her, but nothing would
bring her to. The king, who had heard the noise and confusion, came up
also, and remembering what the fairy had said, he had the princess
carried to the finest apartment and laid upon a richly embroidered bed.
She lay there in all her loveliness, for the swoon had not made her
pale; her lips were cherry-ripe and her cheeks ruddy and fair; her eyes
were closed, but they could hear her breathing quietly; she could not be
dead. The king looked sorrowfully upon her. He knew that she would not
awake for a hundred years.
The good fairy who had saved her life and turned her death into sleep
was in the kingdom of Mataquin, twelve thousand leagues away, when this
happened, but she learned of it from a dwarf who had a pair of
seven-league boots, and instantly set out for the castle, where she
arrived in an hour, drawn by dragons in a fiery chariot. The king came
forward to receive her and showed his grief. The good fairy was very
wise and saw that the princess when she woke would find herself all
alone in that great castle and everything about her would be strange. So
this is what she did. She touched with her wand everybody that was in
the castle, except the king and queen. She touched the governesses,
maids of honour, women of the bedchamber, gentlemen, officers,
stewards, cooks, scullions, boys, guards, porters, pages, footmen; she
touched the horses in the stable with their grooms, the great mastiffs
in the court-yard, and even little Pouste, the tiny lap-dog of the
princess that was on the bed beside her. As soon as she had touched them
they all fell asleep, not to wake again until the time arrived for their
mistress to do so, when they would be ready to wait upon her. Even the
spits before the fire, laden with partridges and pheasants, went to
sleep, and the fire itself went to sleep also.
It was the work of a moment. The king and queen kissed their daughter
farewell and left the castle, issuing a proclamation that no person
whatsoever was to approach it. That was needless, for in a quarter of an
hour there had grown up about it a wood so thick and filled with thorns
that nothing could get at the castle, and the castle top itself could
only be seen from a great distance.
A hundred years went by, and the kingdom was in the hands of another
royal family. The son of the king was hunting one day when he discovered
the towers of the castle above the tops of the trees, and asked what
castle that was. All manner of answers were given to him. One said it
was an enchanted castle, another that witches lived there, but most
believed that it was occupied by a great ogre which carried thither all
the children he could catch and ate them up one at a time, for nobody
could get at him through the wood. The prince did not know what to
believe, when finally an old peasant said:
"Prince, it is more than fifty years since I heard my father say that
there was in that castle the most beautiful princess that ever was seen;
that she was to sleep for a hundred years, and to be awakened at last by
the king's son, who was to marry her."
The young prince at these words felt himself on fire. He had not a
moment's doubt that he was destined to this great adventure, and full of
ardour he determined at once to set out for the castle. Scarcely had he
come to the wood when all the trees and thorns which had made such an
impenetrable thicket opened on one side and the other to offer him a
path. He walked toward the castle, which appeared now at the end of a
long avenue, but when he turned to, look for his followers not one was
to be seen; the woods had closed instantly upon him as he had passed
through. He was entirely alone, and utter silence was about him. He
entered a large forecourt and stood still with amazement and awe. On
every side were stretched the bodies of men and animals apparently
lifeless. But the faces of the men were rosy, and the goblets by them
had a few drops of wine left. The men had plainly fallen asleep. His
steps resounded as he passed over the marble pavement and up the marble
staircase. He entered the guard-room; there the guards stood drawn up in
line with carbines at their shoulders, but they were sound asleep. He
passed through one apartment after another, where were ladies and
gentlemen asleep in their chairs or standing.
He entered a chamber
covered with gold, and saw on a bed, the curtains of which were drawn,
the most lovely sight he had ever looked upon--a princess, who appeared
to be about fifteen or sixteen, and so fair that she seemed to belong to
another world. He drew near, trembling and wondering, and knelt beside
her. Her hand lay upon her breast, and he touched his lips to it. At
that moment, the enchantment being ended, the princess awoke, and,
looking drowsily and tenderly at the young man, said:
"Have you come, my prince? I have waited long for you." The prince was
overjoyed at the words, and at the tender voice and look, and scarcely
knew how to speak. But he managed to assure her of his love, and they
soon forgot all else as they talked and talked. They talked for four
hours, and had not then said half that was in their heads to say.
Meanwhile all the rest of the people in the castle had been wakened at
the same moment as the princess, and they were now extremely hungry. The
lady-in-waiting became very impatient, and at length announced to the
princess that they all waited for her. Then the prince took the princess
by the hand; she was dressed in great splendour, but he did not hint
that she looked as he had seen pictures of his great-grandmother look;
he thought her all the more charming for that. They passed into a hall
of mirrors, where they supped, attended by the officers of the princess.
The violins and haut-boys played old but excellent pieces of music, and
after supper, to lose no time, the grand almoner married the royal
lovers in the chapel of the castle.
When they left the castle the next day to return to the prince's home,
they were followed by all the retinue of the princess. They marched down
the long avenue, and the wood opened again to let them pass. Outside
they met the prince's followers, who were overjoyed to see their master.
He turned to show them the castle, but behold! there was no castle to be
seen, and no wood; castle and wood had vanished, but the prince and
princess went gayly away, and when the old king and queen died they
reigned in their stead.