Last summer, I was asked to write a reverse harem version of the Sleeping Beauty fairytale. I knew two very very different versions of the story. First, I knew the Disney story. As a teenager, that version appealed to me, not so much because of the princess, but because of the poor witch who was the only one without an invitation to the biggest party of the year. RUDE.
Then, I knew the Anne Rice version, which I had found at fourteen years old, in the romance section of Barns and Noble. For those of you who haven’t read this story, it is hard to describe. There’s a lot going on, and since this is a PG site, I’ll just say my personal opinion is it’s more erotica than romance.
So when I was asked to retell this story, I knew I had to do some research. And like the Disney vs. Anne Rice versions, Sleeping Beauty was told in vastly different ways. Surprisingly, most of them were closer to Anne Rice than Disney. Most of us readers know that Grimm’s fairytales are pretty dark, but Sleeping Beauty is verrrrrrry dark.
I decided if there can be such disparate versions of one tale, I can take those aspects of the story—sleep, a curse, a witch, magic, beauty—and turn them into something I’d want to read. Pushing the versions I learned from my mind, I focused on the similarities between the stories. Sleeping Beauty is a character who lives her life with a curse hanging over her head. She is someone who is kept in the dark, but who knows something is up, even if no one will tell her exactly what.
And let’s not forget the princes. One of my fairytale pet peeves are princes who fall in love with a princess because she is beautiful. In most fairytales, beauty is synonymous with kindness and goodness.
I think that’s unfair not only to the princess, but to the princes. What does it say about them that they can fall for someone just because they’re pretty?
Beauty has to look beyond the outward appearance of the Beast, but Prince Charming comes across an unconscious Snow White and decides she’s perfect. Sorry. That’s messed up.
My Sleeping Beauty is different, and hopefully falls between the Disney-ed version and the very unhappily-ever-after life she led in the traditional stories. Because you can’t have a fairytale without a happy ending, and honestly, I’m over you’re-so-beautiful-this-must-be-love.
I want more than pretty. I want to read about someone who can overcome adversity through determination and strength. And hopefully, other readers do, too.
“She shall prick her finger on a spinning wheel, and fall to sleep…”
There once was a girl who was born to be cursed. By no fault of her own, she was doomed to remind her kingdom of everything ugly. No matter how many good deeds she did or how kind she was, it was her destiny to die, and take her kingdom with her. Her mother and father wept when they saw her, and the witch who cursed her celebrated gleefully as each year passed.
Except there was hope. Her sisters, older and wiser, and with no small amount of magic of their own, countered the witch’s curse. If Kumiko could be loved, truly loved, the curse would be broken, and everyone would see what the witch had hidden.
But all her life, Kumiko had been let down—by the parents who hid her away and by an ill-fated curse.
Until they arrived.
Four princes, full of smug confidence and pride, were determined to break the princess’s curse before her twenty-first birthday.
All they had to do was fall in love.