Walt Disney's Sleeping Beauty

Walt Disney's Sleeping Beauty:
A Literary Approach

Diana Kathryn Geleskie
Vanessa Kolberg
Updated April 19, 2007

Works Cited
Fairy Tale Book

The Fairy Tale of the Sleeping Beauty

Charles Perrault's "The Beauty of Sleeping Wood", The Grimm Brothers's "Little Brier-Rose", Walt Disney's Sleeping Beauty Comparison

Charles Perrault

La Belle au Bois dormant (The Beauty of Sleeping Wood) La Belle au Bois dormant


The King and Queen are blessed with a daughter after many years of trying for a child. At the christening, the seven fairy godmothers of the Princess each bestow a gift upon the child.

After the ceremonies, the eighth old fairy appeared, upset at not being invited to the festivities. Like the other fairies, the old fairy cursed the Princess with death from piercing her hand on the spindle of a spinning wheel. Aghast, a younger fairy promised the King and Queen that their only daughter would not die from the curse, but will fall into deep sleep of a hundred years that can only be lifted by a prince.

The King then ordered for all spinning wheels to be burned, in order to prevent the misfortune promised by the old fairy. However, sixteen years after the curse was places upon her, the Princess was exploring the rooms of the castle and found an old woman, spinning thread on a wheel. Intrigued, the princess tried to spin thread and, as promised, pricked herself on the needle and fell down fast asleep. The young fairy who had lessened the earlier curse then placed the entire kingdom in a hundred-years sleep as well, so as not to die before the Princess would awake.

A hundred years later a prince from a neighboring kingdom came upon the area surrounding that of the Princess. He had heard rumor that there was a beautiful princess in the kingdom, who could only be awakened by a prince. He fought his way through the forest and into the castle in order to find the Princess.

As he sat admiring the Princess, she awoke after a hundred years sleep and greeted her prince. The rest of the palace awakened as well, in celebration that the Princess had finally risen. The Prince returned to bring the good news to his family that he had found a bride. However, his mother was upset at his decision. She was a member of the Ogres, and would do all she could in her power to rid her son of his new bride.

One day, the Ogress sent the Princess out to the country house, and she remained home with the Princess’s children. Being the evil creature that she was, the Ogress desired to eat the two children of the Prince and Princess. She then ordered for the Princess to be brought and killed as well in order to be eaten. However, the servant sent to kill them allowed the family to escape and brought back to the Ogress another meat, which she happily ate.

The Ogress then heard the voice of the Princess and her children, and it upset her so much that she threw herself into a vat of vipers and was killed.

The Grimm Brothers

Dornröschen (Little Briar-Rose) Dornröschen


The King and Queen, who prayed for a daughter every day, are finally granted one. In his joy, the King orders a great feast. At the celebration, the eleven Wise Women came to give their gifts to the baby. After giving the gifts, the thirteenth Wise Woman came, upset at not being invited to the party.

The evil woman cursed the baby with death at age fifteen through the pricking of herself on a spindle of a spinning wheel. The twelfth Wise Woman, who still needed to give a gift to the Princess, lessoned the curse from the thirteenth and promised the Princess would not die, but sleep one hundred years.

The cautious King then ordered for all spinning wheels in the kingdom to be burned in order to protect his daughter.

Fifteen years later, the Princess was exploring the palace and found in a tower and old woman using a spindle to spin thread. Since she has never seen such a device, the Princess took the spindle and pricked her finger, as promised years prior. As she fell asleep, the kingdom did so as well, in order to remain from dying before the princess awoke. Around the castle, as the palace slept, grew hedges of thorns all the way up the castle walls, so that it was hidden. The Princess then became nicknamed Briar-Rose, due to her beauty and the thorns surrounding her.

Many princes tried to rescue her by going through the thorns, yet they were caught and then died a terrible death.

One hundred years had passed and a brave prince set out to try and find the princess. And while the Princess slept the palace had been guarded in thorns, but now was covered complexly in beautiful flowers, allowing easy access to the castle. The prince found the Princess in her tower and kissed her. As he drew away, the princess finally awoke and so too did the rest of the kingdom. The two were then married and lived happily together for the rest of their lives.

Walt Disney's

Sleeping Beauty

In Comparison to Charles Perrault

It is evident by reading the story’s summary that Disney followed the Perrault story when creating the film. As seen in the movie, the Princess (although unnamed in the Perrault text) is blessed by fairies who bestow upon her gifts. In the movie, Maleficent appears in order to curse the child, representing the jilted evil fairy of Perrault’s story. The curse is the same in either version, as is the changing of death to sleep for the Princess. However, a time frame is given in the Perrault text of a hundred years, while the movie does not specify how long the Princess must sleep, just that she be awaken by the kiss of her true love. The King also orders the spinning wheels to be burnt in the movie as well as the text.

The Disney version, however, sends the Aurora to live with the three fairies to escape harm. There she meets her betrothed Prince Phillip, who will one day awaken her from her slumber, unlike in the Perrault text where no one prince is named. The movie quickly returns to the story in which it was based, however, by having the Princess explore the castle to find the only spinning wheel left in the kingdom. It is here the Princess pricks her finger and falls into a deep sleep, a point mirrored in both versions.

Prince Phillip comes to save his princess after not a sleep of a hundred years, but of a much shorter time. He finds the kingdom asleep and must combat Maleficent, who has cursed the palace with thorns, in order to reach Aurora. The Perrault version makes the Prince’s rescue much simpler but introduces the Ogress mother, which Maleficent is another representation of. While she does not wish to eat the Princess and her children due to a dislike of the marriage, Maleficent does try to stop Phillip. However, she is unsuccessful and Aurora is awakened by the kiss of her true love, Phillip. The Disney movie ends shortly after Aurora rises, although the Perrault version continues to encompass a life after the Prince and Princess are married.

In Comparison to the Grimm Brothers

The Grimm story is also closely related to Disney’s Sleeping Beauty, with similarities between the text and the movie. The Grimm Brothers also use many elements of the Perrault tale, bringing about a unity and consistency throughout the text.

Much of the beginning part of the story is the same as in the movie, with the exception of the Wise Women. Additionally, the Princess of the movie is sent away to live with the fairies, a concept not seen in either version examine of the tale. Even the name Briar-Rose is used in the Disney movie, although originates much earlier in the plot.

While the thorns around the castle mirror those in the movie, the similarities between the two end here. The prince in the Grimm Brothers does not have to fight through thorns or an evil dragon to get to the Princess, as in the movie. Instead, the quest is made easy for him, unlike the battles shown between Maleficent and Phillip in Disney’s movie. The Grimm Brother’s tale and the Disney movie both come to a concise ending, however, unlike that of Perrault which continues after marriage.

Prince Phillip and the Dragon

Photo Credits are listed within the Works Cited