• Weird History

In The Original Sleeping Beauty, The King Is A Sexual Harasser Who Forces Himself On The Princess

Fairy tales can be pretty dark, like the Brothers Grimm story of a father who chops off his daughter’s hands to make a deal with the devil. But the original Sleeping Beauty is in a league of its own. In Sleeping Beauty’s original story, the “hero” is a king who meets a beautiful sleeping princess and decides to rape and impregnate her while she’s sleeping.

The dark Sleeping Beauty story is miles away from the classic 1959 Disney movie—just like Disney’s Beauty and the Beast is completely different from the tragic true story of the couple behind the tale as old as time. In Giambattista Basile’s Sleeping Beauty story, called "Sun, Moon, and Talia" (1634), the “wicked queen” who became Maleficent is actually the “hero’s” wife—and hearing her side of the story will make you want to root for her. 

And Disney wasn’t the first to be deeply disturbed by the original Sleeping Beauty story. At the end of the sixteenth century, Mother Goose Tales told Charles Perrault’s Sleeping Beauty story, which took out the creepy sexual assault, including when Sleeping Beauty stripped naked in front of her assaulter’s wife. Once you read the original story of Sleeping Beauty, you'll never be able to look at the Disney version the same.

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  • Photo: Walter Crane / Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain

    When The King Returns, Sleeping Beauty Falls In Love With Him And Becomes His Mistress—No, Really

    Obviously the king hadn’t thought about Sleeping Beauty for a while—after all, she had time to give sleep-birth to twins. But then the king remembers her and, hoping for a “second date” with the sleeping woman, he returns to the palace. He must have been pretty surprised to find Sleeping Beauty awake—and taking care of his twins. The original tale claims that the king was “overjoyed, and he told Talia who he was, and how he had seen her, and what had taken place.”

    Again, that long sleep must have affected Sleeping Beauty, because rather than stabbing the king or demanding child support, Basile writes, “when she heard this, their friendship was knitted with tighter bonds.” The two begin a romantic relationship. The king leaves out one small detail, though: he's already married.

  • In The Original Version, Maleficent Is Not An Evil Fairy—She's A Queen, Married To A Cheating Rapist

    In the Disney's Sleeping Beauty, Maleficent is the self-proclaimed “Mistress of All Evil.” She is the one who curses baby Aurora with the threat of a spindle, and she is the one who builds the spindle that ultimately puts Sleeping Beauty to sleep. It is because of Maleficent that Aurora’s parents send her off to be raised with the fairies in the woods. And Maleficent transforms into a dragon to fight Prince Phillip when he tries to save Aurora’s life.

    Even in the Charles Perrault version of Sleeping Beauty, popularized in his Mother Goose Tales published in 1697, the evil woman is a hybrid between an “old fairy” and an “ogress,” filled with evil intentions. But the “villain” in Giambattista Basile’s Sun, Moon, and Talia is the king’s wife, a woman married to a cheating rapist.

  • Photo: Arthur Rackham / Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain

    The Wronged Queen Tries To Cook The Children To Feed To Their Father

    Maleficent might be innocent in the original version of Sleeping Beauty, but once she figures out that her husband is cheating, she turns vicious. She threatens a secretary to reveal the secret of the king’s mistress, warning him, “if you hide the truth from me, you will never be found again, dead or alive.” He spills the secret, and the queen tricks Sleeping Beauty into sending her children to the queen. 

    The queen orders her cook to slaughter the children and cook them up in “several tasteful dishes for her wretched husband.” The gentle-hearted cook could not possibly kill the adorable twins, so he hides them and cooks two lambs in their place. Then, the queen sits down with the king to watch him eat his children. Whenever he compliments the food, she says, “Eat, eat, you are eating of your own.”

  • Photo: Harry Clarke / Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain

    After Cooking The Children, The Queen Tries To Toss Sleeping Beauty Into A Fire

    The queen isn’t satisfied with simply feeding the children to her cheating husband, so she kidnaps Sleeping Beauty. The queen calls out Sleeping Beauty—obviously unaware of the rape—by saying, "You are a fine piece of goods, you ill weed, who are enjoying my husband." She goes on to call Sleeping Beauty “the lump of filth, the cruel b*tch, that has caused my head to spin.”

    The queen plans to toss Sleeping Beauty into a bonfire, but Sleeping Beauty tries to defend herself by saying it wasn’t her fault, “because the king her husband had taken possession of her territory when she was drowned in sleep.” But, by this point, the queen is out for blood.