So have I convinced you yet that all is not as it seems? Do you feel sad, or angry, about my perception of the story of Sleeping Beauty as more than lightweight, simplistic, romantic fluff designed to put kids to bed and train young ladies to passivity?
I don't think you'd be here if that were entirely true, unless you're a hater gathering blog ammunition. The reason I ask is that such uncomfortable or distressing emotions are all part of the alchemical game of transformation. In fact, it's a sign that you're struggling to maintain innocence on the matter of stories, like the parents in the tale. It's hard to let go of our innocence and it takes many forms, in this case the form of imagining that an adult life of completeness is as easy as "some day my prince will come"- if the prince is an actual human being. It will work for a while. That's the wisdom we struggle to learn, while at the same time we struggle against it, loathe to let go of our simple explanations of life and love.
The good news is that you don't really have to let go of the simpler way of relating to the story- you just have to understand it as one aspect of the psyche, of your experience. Innocence is a very important thing to keep, in fact, since it is a primary characteristic of the soul, that part of our being that is associated with the heart. And here's the metaphorical thing about it; fairy tales that feature royal families are talking about things that are happening in the soul's realms, the inner alchemical cauldron where our transformations occur. Other things can very well be happening in the time-space continuum for us, in consensus reality. But Briar Rose's magical hundred years of solitude do not conform with that topside reality. This story informs us of the place of not-doing, hence the arrested movement that occurs upon Briar Rose's finger prick. If the story were about me, for example, having an initiation experience, I would not really be lying on my bed for the whole darn thing. BUT- I would have to be focused on that other realm. I would have to be spending time (or actually not-time) in my inner castle, with what lies beneath, below my daily activity.
The castle and its royal family, its archetypal characters like bards and cooks and serving maids, are a metaphor for the soul which, again, is eternally innocent since it doesn't conform to our social conditioning. In the picture above note the swan, the bird of transformation I referred to in the last blog series, the Celtic bird of the poet and bard. The soul, with its innocence, the light-being that's having a human experience, is pretty heavily protected, as a castle is. We could say that the many psychological defenses we cocreate into adulthood comprise, to some extent, the ego or the personality, though it's not really that simple. But the castle walls, Maleficent's fury (the wise woman in the fairy tale isn't the same character as Maleficent; she's benign) , and the thorns that cover the castle walls can all be imagined as defenses.
I myself was very strongly immersed in this "imaginary" archetypal world of the soul-castle as an adolescent. As a little hippie, for a time I wore long skirts, a cape, went barefoot (unless I had an appropriately ancient-looking pair of shoes or boots), and actually imagined that I could live in a castle as an adult. Now some folks'll say that's because I was stuck in childhood fantasies, maybe a disease brought on by an overdose of fairy tales in childhood. But I say it's the other way 'round. The fairy tales do not create such ways of being in the world, that's silly. They are depictions of our inner being. One reason I'm encouraged to do my interpretation work is the overwhelming numbers of folks who are rediscovering the archetypal zone the SCA and D&D folks have known about for years, whether in graphic novels, video or other games, in film or in fantasy fiction.
The young woman of the story, variously named, has encounters with needles and/or pricks her finger on a rose thorn, and becomes pregnant. She's living in a castle, too, might I add. Tam Lin, her lover, is an interesting mixture of hero or more likely, lover, and fairy. The truth is, he's an inner figure, animus in Jungian terms. "Fairy" is often used in metaphorical story to refer to non-physical aspects in general, including our inner figures that we might find in our dreams and fantasies. The chooses woman the fairy's love over worldly goods and status, the key choice made by the alchemist. The transformation of the inner figure takes place at the end of the ballad, as the young lady is instructed to hold him tight, no matter what he looks like, no matter how frightening he may be. She is learning that what lies beneath the darkness, the shadow, her fear and anger or whatever, is love, the naked truth behind all illusion; she ends up with a naked lover in her arms. What lovely poetry! If you read the lyric you'll also see that she gets to have both the true love and the abundance after she's no longer afraid of her inner figure Tam Lin. The point there might be that abundance and power are states of being that proceed from true oneness. But I'm getting distracted...anyway, it's nice to have a story where women aren't altogether passive sometimes, for sure.