I love this paper cutting by a woman who posted it on deviantart.com; she calls herself Rose Ann Mary K. It includes the alchemical sun and moon. The contrast between the fragility of the briar tendrils and the solidity of the castle are striking. I also like that she included the three star-wands or whatever they are on the upper right quadrant, since the star carries some of the same basic symbolism of the spinning wheel- destiny.
I've addressed so far the briar and rose as duality, the matter of love as a search for oneness beyond duality, the inner castle, the Fates and their fiber crafts, a little about innocence and the developmental necessity to move beyond it, and explored the Disney Maleficent character. A lot more to this story than meets the eye, hey? That's metaphor for ya.
But enough set up.
The Grimms' version now:
Long, long ago there lived a king and queen. Day after day they would say to each other:"Oh, if only we could have a child!"
Here's the longing that's so common in transformational fairy tales, and in this case, it's the soul (remember the castle bit?) longing for something new, a new development, since becoming parents is a major initiation. We will never be the same once we are parents. The birth of a child represents some new way of being in the world, and creativity. And here comes a harbinger of change, of transformation: the frog. While the queen's bathing in a lake or river, the little shapeshifter crawls up on shore and tells her "Before a year goes by, you will give birth to a daughter." Frogs and other animals that go through a metamorphosis hold the symbolism of personal development.
The king in the story and his seeming lack of social responsibility is the next subject, after the daughter's birth. He's dazzled by the beauty of the daughter (pretty silly in the real world; babies just aren't beautiful in the sense an older child or full grown woman is). He's feeling generous (throwing a huge party), but also cautious, because he doesn't invite the 13th wise woman. The number 13 is traditionally an unlucky number. 13 is the traitor Judas; 13 is the tarot Death card.
In Germanic/Nordic tradition, there were wise women or seers, the voluspa, who would travel to the home after a birth and pronounce the child's fate. This would certainly be a big deal in the case of a chieftan's daughter; maybe more than one of these ladies would attend. Anyway, the 12 are, as the father hopes, "kind and generous towards his child." The 13th, predictably for users of tarot at least, offers another sort of kindness; the kindness of death and transformation. At the adolescent age of 15, Briar Rose is fated, as many of us are more or less, to die to her innocent self and become initiated into adulthood. Before I go further, I invite you to widen your vision for a second and consider that the story, though it's about Briar Rose, is also a story about transformative initiations in general. A couple is transformed into parents, a girl becomes a woman, a prince falls into infatuated love; many young men die, the ultimate initiation into a transformed life. Though these life changes of adolescent to adult, from daughter to parent, seem like ho-hum stuff for the average contemporary American, the point to entering the archetypal (see the Metaphor 101 page) zone is to realize there is really no such thing as the mundane. Our normal human experiences are magical. Stories are often designed to remind us of this, the bard's and the artists' reason for doing the work.
There's not much worse for a parent than the fear of their children dying, and the threat offered by the ostracized wise woman touches humans to the quick, as does the subject of death in general. We can understand the king's banishment of spindles, and feel the parents' fear of loss, of death's inevitability, before their child has a chance to mature. However, this fear of spindles and their death-dealing ability is a metaphor for the resistance we have, that parents often quite obviously have, to the plunge into the dark that's necessary to living a life of wisdom. The largest section in my book of film reviews Poetry in Motion (here) addresses initiation stories; The Imaginarium of Dr. Parnassus is probably the truest to the fairy tale tradition, and features a young woman of the same approximate age.
So the soul must play out this eternal human story of innocence lost. It is our fate as humans to enter into this earthly drama. The two parents in the story are, perplexingly, gone upon Briar Rose's birthday; that is also her fate, I suppose. Briar Rose travels up a castle tower; the 'round and 'round of a spiral staircase accentuates the winding of yarn on the spindle, the turning of fate I talked about in the third post in this series on Sleeping Beauty. Castle towers are long associated with the "higher self", as it's often referred to these days. Thus Briar Rose is seeking after wisdom, the wisdom of initiation, as adolescents often are. She's curious about the endgame of human development, the wise elder in the tower who's been a hermit for at least 15 years, obviously a contemplative, focused woman like the three Fates or the Norns who are all-seeing, all-knowing as concerns human development, birth and death, destiny and fate.
Hardest hearts of you ever let go/Will come together on the renegade road
Lead you back to the wreckage of change/Build your bridges and learn your name
Cross the river in three good strides/Left the company wild with pride
River, ribbon all around your legs/ Grip the surface and you turned your head
Jump the line and turn the key/ Lose your guard believe in me
I can love you best of all/ I am the wrecking ball
Hallelujah changed your tune/ The sky was open for you all too soon
Left the cradle in the rocking wind/ Ran for nothing like it’s everything
Night can turn the mirror on/ Saw your face and it looked all wrong
Where are the eyes that you looked out from/ Two young coins and the rising sun
And so you curb and mend the tragedies/ You put your faith in a reverie
All good soldiers stand for thee/ Losing battles in a front row seat
As your shoulders bend and curl with time/ Then love and hatred must combine
You turn the page to reconcile/ You see I’ve loved you all the while
Until the next post, when the frog becomes a prince!