Fairy Tales 2010

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Gunter Kunert's Sleeping Beauty

Kunert's "Sleeping Beauty" is interesting not only because of how short it is but also because it is not told really as a story but rather as a summary of the themes usually associated with Sleeping Beauty stories. Furthermore, there is nothing beautiful about the girl in his edition. He describes the princess as follows: "her toothless mouth half opened, slavering, her eyelids sunken, her hairless forehead crimpled with blue, wormlike veins, spotted, dirty, a snoring trollop". Clearly not the portrayal of purity and beauty usually associated with this maiden in fairytales. The only elements that actually remind me of a fairytale in this story are the indications of a universality and a place far away. The characters and setting are unnamed. However, in every other respect I would argue this is not a fairytale. Kunert analyzes the genre from the beginning, twists the elements against the typical purpose of the story. I am not staying the story is without merit, on the contrary, I find it extremely interesting, particularly his last sentence, "Blessed be all those who, dreaming of Sleeping Beauty, died in the hedge and in the belief that beyond it there was a moment in which time for once and all stood still and certain" , it is as though he is condemning anyone who does believe in fairytales. Granted in the back of Zipes' book it was indicated that Kunert was a poet more than a storyteller but I still find his analysis fascinating even though I can't fully grasp it.


  1. I agree that this is really strange. I've certainly never heard of a story where Sleeping Beauty is not actually beautiful at all; I too don't really know how to react immediately. The discussion of the main themes surely point out all of the fairy tale-like aspects of the story, and I think it's pertinent that the settings all remain nameless, even if we have become so accustomed to that concept.

  2. The fact that this author names the story Sleeping Beauty and makes references to it in the end, clearly show that he was trying to make a connection to the fairy tale. I think you are probably right in that he is analyzing the genre in that he completely reverses the story. This was really interesting. Your argument makes me want to go read the story!

  3. I'm not so sure that he's analyzing the Sleeping Beauty story type so much as using it to describe (and lament) an all-too-familiar component of the human condition: disappointment (or at least some specific version of it). We're all laboring, or would like to labor, for this ideal situation we have in our heads to come to fruition. Many of us fail along the way, of course, but what can be even more devastating than that is to reach your goal and discover that your dream is a far less splendid thing in real life. The prince's victory over all the brambles and obstacles that killed the others becomes tragic when Sleeping Beauty's a toothless trollop--perhaps it's best if we all clamber toward a dream so perfect it can never be reached, and thus always stays beautiful.
    Come to think of it, that's a pretty fairy tale sort of lesson.

  4. What do you mean Sleeping Beauty is not beautiful?! That's outrageous and quite frankly, disappointing. On another note, it seems like all of these literary fairy tales keep consistent with no specific place or names and something fantastic. So Sleeping Beauty certainly qualifies from what you've mentioned but I also liked Nathan's comment about Sleeping Beauty as a commentary on the human emotion of disappointment. I also feel like I would understand why you didn't consider this a fairy tale if I read the story myself.