“She was one of the those forest witches driven to the margins a thousand years ago, and a bad lot. She cursed the babe at birth, such that when the girl was eighteen she would prick her finger and sleep forever.”
Sleeping Beauty has gotten its fair share of retelling. Heck, Sleeping Beauty itself is a retelling. But there is something to be said about Neil Gaiman’s version that makes it so very other-worldly. Sure, Chris Riddell’s artwork is amazing and adds to the feel of the storytelling– but even without it, the words itself seem to have a weight upon them as they spin the tale of Briar Rose.
I love the fact that our protagonist is a woman–and Snow White at that. She has her own story that doesn’t get told outright, but is filled in through trickles of exposition that feels like accidents. It’s as if the character herself doesn’t want to take away from the gravity of her adventure to save her kingdom–and the babe who was cursed by the witch–
And then there’s the lightness in the sparse dialogue peppered throughout the story, as if to balance the whole affair.
But what I love most about The Sleeper and the Spindle is how it subverts expectations. Everyone knows the story of Briar Rose in one form or another, but even as Gaiman ticks off the plot developments that people expect–he also adds his own whimsical twists to the events that unfold, pushing the familiar story into new territories.
The Sleeper and the Spindle ends where Sleeping Beauty ends; with the curse lifted, and the witch defeated. But Gaiman also provides a different happy ending for his characters. He doesn’t tie their destinies to each other just because it is what’s expected. He gives them the happy ending they all deserve. Freedom to choose their own fates–something they hadn’t been given their whole lives.
And I realized I sort of spoiled the ending.
Believe me, though, when I say that The Sleeper and the Spindle is worth reading on your own. Multiple times. And then sharing the story with friends. And acquaintances. And even strangers.
Let it cast its spell on you.