How is children’s classic Sleeping Beauty represented in the digital age?

In the digital age the story of the princess charmed into a sleep lasting from a hundred years, or until a prince kisses her has changed greatly. She has gone from being the passive girl waiting in sleep for someone to rescue her to being either a villainess or an asset in battle to those around her. She has gone from being mere words in a printed book to being part of a game, or even possibly an e-book and a printed novel together.

The grim past of the sleeping princess

The story of the princess, maiden, or girl charmed into a long lasting sleep is an old one and it wasn’t always as sweet as it is now. It is a notion that has been seen in some early books as theorised by Goldthwaite in his book The Natural History of Make-Believe who believed that Sleeping Beauty could be a corruption of a popular Christian miracle story about Jesus restoring Jairus’s daughter to life. More particularly Goldthwaite said, ‘And “Sleeping Beauty,” even granting pagan influences, may only mark a return to a more ancient Christian source. The Gospels include what certainly looks to be an early type of her story…’ However, this is only a possible origin for Sleeping Beauty. The first known published version of a story that might be called an early influence for Sleeping Beauty is a French romance called Perceforest from the year 1528. The next known version of the tale was Giambattista Basile’s Sun, Moon, and Talia which was part of a collection of stories known as Il Pentamerone (1636). The first person to actually use Sleeping Beauty in the story title was Perrault in 1697 who was said to have taken inspiration for his story from Sun, Moon, and Talia in which the sleeping princess is put to sleep through flax getting under her nails, and wakes up with twin children. The Grimm Brother’s version of the tale known as Briar Rose didn’t show up until after the Perrault version of the tale, and is said to be inspired by it.


New types of representation

With this modern day of digital technology there are several different possibilities other than the printed story in a book to tell a story.


There are also several games that use Sleeping Beauty as some of their source material. One such game is a spot the difference game for preteens on the internet that tells the story of Sleeping Beauty, and has you looking for differences between two pictures of different scenes from the story of the Sleeping Beauty. Another game is the popular video game Kingdom Hearts in which the Disney version of the sleeping princess is shown in one of the Dive to the Heart cut scenes of the game which function as a tutorial in how to play the game with one out of three of Kingdom Heart’s main characters experiencing the scenes as a dream while falling into the ocean. There is also the location called Enchanted Dominion which shows up in the Kingdom Hearts sub-games called Kingdom Hearts Birth By Sleep, and Kingdom Hearts Birth By Sleep Final Mix in which you end up in a mixture of Maleficent and King Stefan’s castles.


dive to heart cutscene image. taken from





Finally, there are also several new print publications that use Sleeping Beauty as a basis for their story, or just as a part of the story. The first of these publications is a comic series named Fables in which our favourite fairy tale characters come from different alternate worlds called Homelands, and ended up in modern day New York while fleeing from an invading tyrant called The Adversary. In the series the sleeping beauty still has her christening day magic gifts with her, and is not a blonde-haired blue-eyed girl. She is red haired, and still ends up falling asleep after pricking her finger. Apparently a kiss of true love only resets the curse back to the beginning by which I mean that the sleeping princess only has to prick her finger again to fall asleep and have everyone in whatever building she is in sleeping with her. I haven’t really found an e-book edition of the series yet but there are plenty of images from it on the internet, as well as a book called Peter, and Max: a Fables Story which involves the story of the pied piper told from the point of view of the piper himself as well as his brother. This book is available in e-book format though I’m not sure whether they were able to get the illustrations to format as well. There was also a video game made briefly for one of the characters of the series.


The second and final of these modern publications is called Ever After High and features the sons, and daughters of different fairy tale characters learning how to fill the roles of their parents so the stories will continue on down through the ages. In this publication the sleeping beauty’s daughter is called Briar Beauty and tends to fall asleep all the time. In exchange she can gather information from the people around her who speak around her while she sleeps. She is also not your typical sleeping beauty in that she has brunette hair with pink streaks. This trilogy of books is also a webisode series that went for two to three seasons of two to three minute episodes and had a small animated movie made for it as well.


Briar Beauty from Ever After High. taken from





The New Sleeping Beauty

The character of the sleeping beauty in the tales of Sleeping Beauty has definitely change between what it was back when it was originally written and what is now. That is to say that in the original story written in the 1600s princesses were expected to be obedient daughters who obeyed their parents, husbands, or other authority figures. In the case of the original or old version of Sleeping Beauty it could be said that the 16 year old princess doesn’t really know what she is doing since she wanders into danger merely due to curiosity about an object she has never seen before, and then waits in a magic sleep for 100 years to be rescued by ‘true love’s kiss’. Women back then would also tell tales to other people as a way to protest the societal constraints of the time by which I mean you could be persecuted for saying you didn’t like how you were expected to act but people couldn’t really persecute you for telling a fairy tale for fun.


However in the modern days how the sleeping beauty acts has definitely changed. That is to say the expectations of a women’s behaviour are much different, and some modern day stories reflect that. An example being the modern day book called Briar Rose in which sleeping beauty is a modern day girl actually called Briar Rose who is growing up in the North American South and has been cursed with the Sleeping Beauty’s sleep spell through a hoodoo spell rebounding to her from a casual touch from a local boy who had the spell cast on him by her grandmother. Briar Rose ends up saving herself and helping the prince to find true love with the sleeping princess in the dream caused by the curse. The dream also involves this incredibly weird mix of technology and magic. That is to say that the actual sleeping princess in Briar’s dream has guards made entirely of metal, and the townspeople

who live around her are being consumed alive by metal that grows. This book is also available as an e-book.


Another example that shows we have definitely changed our ideas about how Sleeping Beauty is represented is the book Beauty by Sarah Pinborough which mixes the tales of Sleeping Beauty, Red Riding Hood, Rumpelstiltskin, and Rapunzel together with interesting results. In this tale the princess is both heroine and villainess because she has a dual personality. With one of them being a good, kind princess who is beloved by the people she rules over, and the other being a shallow, evil, and murderous sorceress feared by everyone who was tricked by her father’s closest advisor called Rumpelstiltskin into pricking her finger on a rose thorn and fell asleep while her blood dripped out of her one drop at a time over the course of a hundred years.


In this modern day where we are all essentially connected to each other through phones, emails, and social networking sites there’s no way we could keep just one single story about a sleeping princess in our heads. Modern technology means everyone can communicate effectively, and that we have the freedom to do so without having to physically travel all over the world. It also means that we are exposed to the culture of other countries without having to leave our homes or our countries.



We live in a modern digital age connected through technology and our ideas about the world at large and gender in particular have changed. We are no longer stuck in that same old mould of the princess having to be rescued by the prince. In some cases the princess can rescue herself as seen in the book called Briar Rose, or the sleeping curse can be used to help a plan to come to fruition as seen in the Fables comic series. Hopefully even more change in how we see gender will become a reality as more new technology comes to light, and the world at large begins to communicate more, and shares its ideas on the subject of how gender is interpreted. One thing to keep in mind however is that as stated in the article on about the history of fairytales “fairytales are often revised and retold-each time being given a new slant by a new writer…” Meaning that with each new tale based on a fairytale we see a new angle to the tale, and with modern technology this new tale becomes more widespread than it would have been back in the day of only word of mouth, and letters. Also in this modern day of digital technology we see that most modern day versions of Sleeping Beauty are of the happily ever after variety rather than having every other event in the story being an injury or a moral disaster for the princess. Hopefully in the future I can read a story where the Sleeping Beauty and her royal court are a computer simulation, or all cyborgs with some sort of virus in their systems.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s