Necrophilial Desire: Psychoanalysis in Sleeping Beauty
Freud Lacan Fairy Tales Children’s Story Stories
Like most fairy tales, Sleeping Beauty has a host of origin stories and has been adapted over the years, both orally and on paper. Despite the passing of centuries, the story never seems to shift too drastically – a young woman is always hurt by a splinter or flax, put to sleep and eventually revived by the archetypal ‘Prince Charming.’
What many of us don’t realise, however, is that the story actually holds some disturbing latent content in its imagery, as well as a questionable sexual narrative thread.
First recorded by Charles Perrault as ‘Little Briar Rose’ in 1697, before being rewritten by The Brothers Grimm as the classic ‘Sleeping Beauty,’ the story is rife with repression and bizarre behaviour.
Sex, Spindles and The Return of the Repressed
The thirteenth (or seventh, depending on which version you’re reading) fairy who curses Sleeping Beauty becomes a threat only because she has been wilfully isolated, a psychoanalytic mechanism called ‘the return of the repressed.’
This proves true again in the story when the princess pricks her finger on the first spindle she sees, only because spindles have been banned from the Kingdom, leaving her inexperienced and, so, naturally curious.
Maria S. Kardaum asserts that ‘the content of the image sequence is much more important than the precise wording,’ in fairy tales, suggesting that the metaphorical images within stories are more important than setting or context. The virginal Sleeping Beauty is literally ‘pricked’ before slipping into a coma. The phallic imagery here – the castle turrets, thorns, spindles, and splinters are more telling than the story itself.
Sun, Moon, and Talia – Necrophilial Desire
Before Charles Perrault retold the tale of Sleeping Beauty, ‘Sun, Moon, and Talia,’ (Sole, Luna, e Talia) was well known across Italy. Not a far cry from the Sleeping Beauty we all know today, this original telling is a little more disturbing.
When the Prince finds the Princess, (Talia) asleep and fails to wake her, he actually sexually abuses her comatose body, presumably as a means to claim her for himself. As a near-dead body, she cannot elude him as she may choose to do in her waking life.
This bears similarities to the Prince who purchases the Princess’ corpse/casket in Snow White. The Princess goes on to give birth to twins following this assault.
Pick up your copy of The Original Folk and Fairy Tales of the Brothers Grimm to read the original fairy tales.