Household Tales Index
Previous: The Six Swans
A Long time ago there were a King and Queen who said every day, "Ah, if
only we had a child!" but they never had one. But it happened that once when
the Queen was bathing, a frog crept out of the water on to the land, and said
to her, "Your wish shall be fulfilled; before a year had gone by you shall
have a daughter."
What the frog had said came true, and the Queen had a little girl who was
so pretty that the King could not contain himself for joy, and ordered a great
feast. He invited not only his kindred, friends and acquaintance, but also the
Wise Women, in order that they might be kind and well-disposed towards the
child. There were thirteen of them in his Kingdom, but as he had only twelve
golden plates for them to eat out of, one of them had to be left at home.
The feast was held with all manner of splendour, and when it came to an
end the Wise Women bestowed their magic gifts upon the baby: one gave virtue,
another beauty, a third riches, and so on with everything in the world that
one can wish for.
When eleven of them had made their promises, suddenly the thirteenth came
in. She wished to avenge herself for not having been invited, and without
greeting, or even looking at any one, she cried with a loud voice, "The King's
daughter shall in her fifteenth year prick herself with a spindle, and fall
down dead." And, without saying a word more, she turned round and left the
They were all shocked but the twelfth, whose good wish still remained
unspoken, came forward, and as she could not undo the evil sentence, but only
soften it, she said, "It shall not be death, but a deep sleep of a hundred
years, into which the princess shall fall."
The King, who would fain keep his dear child from the misfortune, gave
orders that every spindle in the whole kingdom should be burnt. Meanwhile the
gifts of the Wise Women were plenteously fulfilled on the young girl, for she
was so beautiful, modest, good-natured, and wise, that every one who saw her
was bound to love her.
It happened that on the very day when she was fifteen years old the King
and Queen were not at home, and the maiden was left in the palace quite alone.
So she went round into all sorts of places, looked into rooms and bedchambers
just as she liked, and at last came to an old tower. She climbed up the narrow
winding-staircase, and reached a little door. A rusty key was in the lock,
and when she turned it the door sprang open, and there in a little room sat an
old woman with a spindle, busily spinning her flax.
"Good day, old dame," said the King's daughter; "what are you doing
there?" "I am spinning," said the old woman, and nodded her head. "What sort
of thing is that, that rattles round so merrily?" said the girl, and she took
the spindle and wanted to spin too. But scarcely had she touched the spindle
when the magic decree was fulfilled, and she pricked her finger with it.
And, in the very moment when she felt the prick, she fell down upon the
bed that stood there, and lay in a deep sleep. And this sleep extended over
the whole palace; the King and Queen who had just come home, and had entered
the great hall, began to go to sleep, and the whole court with them. The
horses, too, went to sleep in the stable, the dogs in the yard, the pigeons
upon the roof, the flies on the wall; even the fire that was flaming on the
hearth became quiet and slept, the roast meat left off frizzling, and the
cook, who was just going to pull the hair of the scullery boy, because he had
forgotten something, let him go, and went to sleep. And the wind fell, and on
the trees before the castle not a leaf moved again.
But round about the castle there began to grow a hedge of thorns, which
every year became higher, and at last grew close up around the castle and all
over it, so that there was nothing of it to be seen, not even the flag upon
the roof. But the story of the beautiful sleeping. "Briar-rose", for so the
princess was named, went about the country, so that from time to time kings'
sons came and tried to get through the thorny hedge into the castle.
But they found it impossible, for the thorns held fast together, as if
they had hands, and the youths were caught in them, could not get loose again,
and died a miserable death.
After long, long years a King's son came again to that country, and heard
an old man talking about the thorn-hedge, and that a castle was said to
stand behind it in which a wonderfully beautiful princess, named Briar-rose,
had been asleep for a hundred years; and that the King and Queen and the whole
court were asleep likewise. He had hear, too, from his grandfather, that many
kings' sons had already come, and had tried to get through the thorny hedge,
but they had remained sticking fast in it, and had died a pitiful death. Then
the youth said, "I am not afraid, I will go and see the beautiful Briar -
rose." The good old man might dissuade him as he would, he did not listen to
But by this time the hundred years had just passed, and the day had come
when Briar-rose was to awake again. When the King's son came near to the
thorn-hedge, it was nothing but large and beautiful flowers, which parted
from each other of their own accord, and let him pass unhurt, then they closed
again behind him like a hedge. In the castle-yard he saw the horses and the
spotted hounds lying asleep; on the roof sat the pigeons with their heads
under their wings. And when he entered the house, the flies were asleep upon
the wall, the cook in the kitchen was still holding out his hand to seize the
boy, and the maid was sitting by the black hen which she was going to pluck.
He went on farther, and in the great hall he saw the whole of the court
lying asleep, and up by the throne lay the King and Queen.
Then he went on still farther, and all was so quiet that a breath could
be heard, and at last he came to the tower, and opened the door into the
little room where Briar-rose was sleeping. There she lay, so beautiful that
he could not turn his eyes away; and he stooped down and gave her a kiss. But
as soon as he kissed her, Briar-rose opened her eyes and awoke, and looked
at him quite sweetly.
Then they went down together, and the King awoke, and the Queen, and the
whole court, and looked at each other in great astonishment. And the horses in
the courtyard stood up and shook themselves; the hounds jumped up and wagged
their tails; the pigeons upon the roof pulled out their heads from under their
wings, looked round, and flew into the open country; the flies on the wall
crept again; the fire in the kitchen burned up and flickered and cooked the
meat; the joint began to turn and frizzle again, and the cook gave the boy
such a box on the ear that he screamed, and the maid plucked the fowl ready
for the spit.
And then the marriage of the King's son with Briar-rose was celebrated
with all splendour, and they lived contented to the end of their days.