In those days they depended on the beneficence of fairies to grant long life and happiness. And so it was that when the Princess Aurora was born, her mother and father contrived to invite all the influential fairies to join them at the party.
Like so many busy people, however, they relied on their household staff to insure the invitations were sent. And so they were except to the fairy Caraboose.
Now Caraboose was not a very likeable fairy, nor was she much liked by anyone who knew her. In fact, she was known to be vindictive. She suffered from bad temper and an evil disposition. She was not one to except the explanation that an invitation was lost in the mail, or that she was welcome despite the unfortunate oversight. She was likely to take offense and hold a grudge against the slight.
The party was splendid, as befits the birthright of a Princess. All the dukes and duchesses, counts and countesses, every marquise in the kingdom donned their finest finery to attend. There was much dancing and all the fairies who were invited bestowed their gifts on Aurora. Fairy gifts were magical of course, so she was given Joy and Sincerity, Goodness and Beauty.
Her many nannies and nurses were proud to pass the child into the hands of her benefactors. Each fairy held her so she could dance with her even though she was but an infant in swaddling. The gaiety of the party was sublime. It was evident that all the guests felt the honor of being invited to such a special fete.
There was a sudden disturbance in the midst of this celebration. A sulphurous cloud exploded at the palace door and from it emerged a large carriage drawn by monstrous bugs. The carriage pulled up into the courtyard, and Caraboose, dressed all in black, descended majestically. Caraboose raged, “Why was I not invited to honor the new-born?” She whirled in anger around the assembled guests. The other fairies looked on in dismay. All their gifts, and all their hopes for Aurora’s happiness were about to be obliterated by Caraboose’s fury.
The angry fairy cursed the child, predicting a certain death for her. She would not live once she began to weave or darn or sew. The point of a needle would instantly kill her, Caraboose promised. As she ranted, delivering her words of doom, all the family and household retainers looked on helplessly. Aurora’s mother, the queen was distraught at hearing the curse. Indeed, all who loved the child were stricken.
But Caraboose had arrived too soon. The purple fairy had not yet brought her gifts to Aurora. Now she was able to cast a spell that could forestall the curse. She could counter the fatal blow Caraboose intended. The purple fairy emerged from the back of the courtyard to offer some respite. Aurora would not die from the touch of the needle, but would fall into a deep sleep. So that they would not lose her completely, all the castle would join her in this sleep.
It might be a very long sleep and it would certainly be dreamless, but it would not be fatal. This spell, the purple fairy predicted, would be broken by a kiss from a Prince who was truly in love with the Princess. Only true love could awaken her. Once she awoke, all the castle would come to life again as well. Aurora was not doomed to death and this good news spread to all the celebrants at the party.
With this reprieve, the castle went about its business. Days passed, then years. The king and queen were worried, of course, and took precautions to protect their child. There were no needles in the castle. Needles were kept from Aurora and Aurora was kept from ever seeing a needle.
Soon Aurora grew to be old enough for dances and parties and even suitors. She was sixteen and the prince of Russia, the thane of Condor, the duke of Beltheny and princes from France, Germany, and Italy all came to celebrate her birthday. Some of them came to honor her parents, some to seek her hand. The party, like the one given at her birth, was gay and the princess was happy. Of course, she had never seen a spinning wheel, or a knitting needle, but she did not miss these. Her life was carefree. She danced with all the frivolity and naiveté of a young girl entering young womanhood. She flirted a little too with all the young worthies who came from so far just to celebrate her sweet sixteen.
The retainers, her nurses and nannies were all alert to the danger of her finding a spindle in the castle. They went to great lengths to protect their charge. They kept all the sewing and mending out of her reach. No one in the castle ever wove cloth or knit or stitched. This was quite a hardship to the staff.
In those days, cloth was always made by hand, and someone had to weave it. Dresses and robes were also handmade and someone needed to stitch them and sew them, Then there were rips and tears to finery and aprons alike that needed to be mended. All this had to be done outside the castle and far away. No one could even pin up a dress to shorten it or tighten it lest Aurora suffer a pricked finger.
For instance, for her birthday party, Aurora had a glorious pink and gold gown made of many layers of cloth. It was designed just for her but it was made miles away and brought to her. The fabric was checked and prodded to make sure no pins and no needles were left in the cloth. She tried the dress on and it was adjusted but the seamstress used only wooden clothespins to hold the alterations. Then the seamstress got into a royal buggy and rode miles into the woods to a secluded studio to make the alterations. This procedure was repeated many times because the young Princess fidgeted so much when trying on her new dress. The poor seamstress took five trips to her studio before she completed the gown.
It was deemed perfect and everyone was pleased, no one more so then the weary seamstress. Now all she had to do was mend the king’s robes and repair the queen’s dresses. She traveled back and forth to the studio in the woods each day for two weeks before the big day came.
The castle was decorated with paper streamers and garlands. Prickly roses and sharpened swords were no threat to the Princess as they had not been part of the original curse. Consequently, roses decorated the courtyard and bloomed abundantly on all the patios. Young men sharpened their swords and decorated their points with festive colors.
The castle was as splendid as it had been for Aurora’s first party. As many guests and more had been asked to come celebrate the Princess’s sixteenth birthday. The king and queen, still mindful of the curse looming over them, invited all the powerful fairies to attend. Caraboose was not invited but this time she did not expect to be. And this time she did not mind the slight. She had plans to have her prophecy of doom fulfilled at the height of the celebration.
The ever-watchful purple fairy joined her friends at the festivities. But even her care could not keep the playful Princess in her sight at all times. While every adult danced and ate and toasted the great day, the children, with the Princess in the lead, ran and explored. Caraboose had smuggled a spindle into the central gazebo in the back garden. “Hide and seek, my little one,” Caraboose muttered to herself. Soon, Aurora was drawn to the unfamiliar object in the gazebo.
The spindle was thread with glittery strands of gold and silver, ready for an inexperienced hand to begin weaving. The Princess, alone because she had outrun her companions, entered the gazebo and stared in wonder at the unusual object in front of her. She approached the spindle, merrily, pulled at the shiny threads, and touched the needle at its tip.
A hush settled over the castle, the courtyard and the gardens, as the wounded Princess twirled into view. The tip of the spindle was still in her hand as she fell at the queen’s feet. At once, the purple fairy began dancing around the stricken child. She kept the furious Caraboose away from Aurora as she danced. You see, Caraboose had smuggled herself into the castle along with the dreaded needle. She was disguised as a worshipful peasant woman come to the party to wish Aurora well. In fact, she wished the Princess and all her family and friends ill as she had always done. She shed her disguise now and approached the prone figure to insure that her curse prevail. The purple fairy, summoning her cohorts, continued to dance about the Princess. Caraboose could not get close but she had done enough damage.
It was time for the purple fairy to use her magic to turn the curse from death to sleep ash she had promised so many years before. She worked all her might as she wove the spell over and over, fighting all Caraboose’s considerable power. The purple fairy spun and twirled and waved her hands, and called on the friendly fairies for their aid. She cast her spell until Caraboose withdrew, defeated and then she spun some more. Sleep began to take over the entire castle. First the girl, who never woke from the prick of the spindle, then her father and mother, and nurses and swains. Finally, she cast a web of sleep over everything in the castle, even the family’s dog.
Rugged vines enveloped the grounds and a maze of mystery fell over the castle and its grounds. Time buried the castle and all its inhabitants deep in a distant woodland. Everyone slept. The Princess Aurora slept in her maiden innocence. The household chef slept with his toque jaunty on top of his head. Princess Aurora’s favorite nurse slept with her heavy hands folded on her apron. All was quiet except the rhythmic breathing of one thousand sleeping souls. It was dark in the distant woodland and there was no one to discover the castle’s secret or her quiet inhabitants.
Years passed in silence in the castle. Everyone slept a dreamless sleep. In the outside world there was sunshine and bright colors. New fashions came into favor. Young people danced and went to parties. They flirted and wooed and married. Soldiers went to wars and shepherds tended their sheep. At night there was moonlight and clouds sometimes burst froth with rain. Days and nights passed as they do in the world. Deep in her castle’s courtyard, Princess Aurora slept.
Nearly 2 centuries had passed. Caraboose forgot the vengeful curse she cast over the Princess and her family. The purple fairy kept watch over them. She knew she would recognize the prince who could break the spell and bring the Princess and all who cared for her back to life.
The purple fairy watched over her. She waited for the right moment to introduce her to her prince. She knew that soon she would find the prince whose love would bring the girl and all those in her castle back into the world. The day came. The purple fairy saw the prince in the valley below the distant woodland. She lured him from his hunting party up the mountain and to the castle. She created a miasma to look like the Princess Aurora to dance before his dazzled eyes. The image he saw drew the prince ever closer and onto the castle grounds. Prince Desire was in love with the Princess before he met her. He could not help himself. The purple fairy cast the spell that brought him to his destiny. The purple fairy saved the Princess from her endless sleep. Her gift to the family was renewed life and happiness.
When Prince Desire came upon the sleeping girl, he was enthralled. He knelt down, reached for her, and kissed her. That kiss of love brought Aurora awake. As she awoke, stretching her arms in delight, the rugged vines and all the mystery that surrounded the castle grounds fell away. Everyone awoke to the sound of the Princess’s happy laughter. Suddenly, there was a great din where there had been quiet. The chef opened his eyes and stirred the ladle in the big copper port. He clanged the lid shut on the soup bowl. The nurse awoke and clapped her heavy hands together. Aurora’s mother and father awoke and shouted to their butler. A thousand voices that had been shushed were suddenly heard calling to each other. The delight of this moment was exquisite.
Since so much time had passed them by, everyone in the castle was eager for news of all they had missed. They had missed a lot, of course. Many things change as time passes and nearly 200 years had passed. The castle was abuzz with stories of new kings and kingdoms, of battles fought and victories won. Some of the castle’s inhabitants even heard about children born to their children’s children while they slept.
There were new tastes in food and drink noone in the castle could have imagined. Pointy shoes with little heels were all the rage among men of fashion. There were new ideas, too, about the laws of man and nature, and thoughts that were almost scandalous about man’s place in the universe.
The seamstress was sent to create a new wardrobe for the royal family. The chef rode off to learn more about sauces and pheasant under glass. The carriage maker set out to have wood turned for the inside of a shiny new cab for his master and mistress. Aurora just wanted to stare into Desire’s eyes as they moved to music she had never heard before.
Soon it would their love that occupied everyone’s interest. Tongues wagged about having seen the young people out on horseback together. Everyone noticed them dancing on the hillside. And everyone chattered happily. The king and queen were happy. Aurora’s favorite fat nurse was happy. The purple fairy was happy.
Most importantly, Prince Desire and Princess Aurora were happy. They were happy when rode the trails together. They were happy when they walked in the woods together. They were happy wandering over the hills together. They were happy as they danced, and dined and talked together.
It came as no surprise to anyone in the kingdom when Prince Desire asked the king for his daughter’s hand. It came as no surprise that the king and the queen were delighted to give their daughter’s hand to the Prince. Everything was in preparation for the celebration when Prince Desire rode back to bring his family to the castle. Invitations were sent far and wide to all the most important and fashionable people. This was the wedding that everyone wanted to attend. And everyone was invited to attend this wedding.
Desire’s family were very happy to see him so happy. He had enjoyed the company of other young women before he met Aurora. He had gone to many parties, danced at many dances, hunted with his friends, but he had never seemed so content before. He was ready to settle down and his family, particularly his father, were very happy to see this. True, he was still young, but it was his turn to take on the responsibilities of his kingdom. Desire’s family also liked Aurora. She was polite with old-fashioned manner. Her years of sleep had made her a little more pensive than she had been at her sweet sixteen. Still, she had all the charm of a young girl on the brink of adulthood. And she clearly loved their son very much.
Times had changed. Science and reason was all that was needed to ensure one’s happiness. Fairies, while still active, were no longer essential. At court, people no longer believed in their powers. Some country people still relied on fairies, of course. To the more modern people in this new world, they were no longer considered necessary to help improve one’s quality of life. Aurora and her family insisted on inviting all the friendly fairies to the wedding. No one objected. Even Desire’s mother, who was a modern thinking queen, wanted to have the purple fairy in the wedding party. The purple fairy had place of honor at this wedding. It was she who had brought the young couple together. She and her friends were welcome and they would entertain the guests with their dancing.
Fairies no longer cast spells or used magic. They would bring more ordinary gifts to Aurora and Desire.
Caraboose with her carriage drawn by giant bugs had retired to Umbria. She grew grapes. She was ill suited by temperament to be a vintner but she had the skills to make an excellent vinegar. It sold well and was known for its well-balanced acerbity. She may even have used a little magic to keep her vinegar fresh as it traveled to markets all over the world.
Caraboose had received an invitation to the wedding. Along with her regrets, she sent a case of vinegar to the household. The note said, “All the best my pretties. May nothing make you sour or embitter your life. Vinegar is only a seasoning.”
With the invitations sent and RSVPs arriving and presents coming in, all was in preparation for the festivities. The celebration was expected to last a fortnight. Desire’s friends planned a bachelor feast for him that included a hunt on the mountain. Aurora’s friends had a simpler plan for her bachlorette party. They would have a sewing circle to make a quilt for the young couple’s bed. The Princess was excited to be able to ply a needle at last.
Desire’s and Aurora’s parents, the two kings and the two queens, planned to get to know each other better before the wedding day. They spent several evenings together. The queens talked and played cards. The kings made plans to expand their territories and merge their kingdoms. They decided to give the young people a duchy or tow to rule. They got on well and learned a good deal from each other. Aurora’s parents were able to offer history. Desire’s parents understood the world as it had become.
The castle’s household staff were all very busy during this time. The chef prepared dozens of dishes. He had learned to make many sauces and every dish he made had its own special sauce. He brought in a pastry chef to make breads and cakes and croissants for all the many guests as they arrived. Everyone who came to stay for the wedding had to be fed. Maids polished silver and shined stair rails and washed dishes and cleaned the castle’s many rooms. They plumped feather beds and laid out linen.
Butlers set about decorating inside the house. Gardeners planted and then cut flowers. There were roses everywhere on the castle grounds. Peonies bloomed in the back garden. The gardeners handed bouquets to the butlers. Livery boys fetched baggage. Groomsmen settled anxious and tired horses in the stable yards. Everyone was busy and everyone was happy. Spirits were high as the preparations proceeded.
Guests arrived and were greeted warmly. They brought trunks full of clothes and many gifts. They smiled and laughed. They hugged their hosts. Butlers served them cheeses and sausages from the larders and poured wine and beer for them. The guests were hungry and thirsty after their journeys.
The castle was filled with merriment and merry makers. The festivities leading up to the wedding day began. Everyone looked forward to seeing the young couple get married at last. They shared rumors about the groom’s garments and the bride’s gowns. They gossiped and exchanged opinions. Everyone agreed that this would be an advantageous match.
Musicians tuned their instruments. There was dancing every night for two weeks before the wedding day. No one had ever seen such a celebration! Sweetmeats and wine were abundant. The musicians played new music and some older tunes that made Aurora smile. Days passed happily and finally the wedding morning came. The musicians were ready to play for the wedding party. Garlands decorated the wedding bower. The setting was complete.
The day came, and everyone said that the sunrise was spectacular! It was as if the sun shone only for Aurora and Desire. Everyone gathered in the gardens. The guests and the household staff were prepared to enjoy the day. Desire appeared in a splendidly tailored suit, his wig powdered and his shoe buckles shiny. He turned with all the guests to watch Aurora as she appeared on her father’s arm. She was a vision as many brides are. You could hear Desire gasp in delight as she approached him.
The ceremony was short but the young couple were impatient. It seemed overlong to them. The wedding was splendid. At last, Desire kissed his bride, a kiss that promised long-life and happiness to them both. Their noisy guests applauded and rose glasses to toast the union. The fairies appeared from the back of the crowded gardens to dance in joy around the couple. The purple fairy kissed the young couple each on the cheek. She blessed the day for all time. This was the happy ending her magic had promised so long ago. It came to pass in the age when reason and science prevailed.
A Tale Retold by Tamara Beck