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.