Wednesday, July 16, 2014

The Uninvited Fairy

People are still intrigued by the history of Maleficent, (which is wonderful!) and I myself was curious after reading more reviews about where the whole idea of an offended, uninvited fairy from Sleeping Beauty came from. It's frankly one of the reasons that Sleeping Beauty seems, to me, to be less powerful than the similar Snow White; the struggle for women who are told by culture and/or by specific people in their lives that their worth is due mainly to their beauty and sexual allure is something very prevalent for women today as well, and why I think it's important to ponder the witch's question to the mirror on the wall and the implications it carries for us today. In comparison, the evil fairy in Sleeping Beauty seems petty, and the only conflict seems boiled down to etiquette.
Edward Frederick Brewtnall

Most older Sleeping Beauty tales did not have a slighted fairy who was not invited to a party; the Princess' fate was foretold but she was not spitefully cursed. It wasn't until Perrault's tale that the motif became associated with the tale. Perrault came from a world of class distinctions and court manners. In many cases he poked fun at the aristocracy in his tales. Given his propensity for satire, I wouldn't be surprised if he didn't mean for the fairy's motivation to be taken so seriously.
Harry Clarke

Yet, the slighted fairy is not completely without precedent. From Kate Forsyth:
"The uninvited fairy motif goes back to Greek mythology when he goddess Eris is not invited to a wedding, but arrives anyway, and throws the Golden Apple of Discord amongst the other goddesses with the inscription ‘For the Fairest’ which causes an argument over whom should claim it, and leads to the Trojan War."

From Wikipedia:

in "chanson de geste Les Prouesses et faitz du noble Huon de Bordeaux: the elf-king Oberon appears only dwarfish in height, and explains to Huon that an angry fairy cursed him to that size at his christening."
Walter Crane

Yet these instances aren't from Sleeping Beauty tales. In one variant, The Glass Coffin, the curse was given by a traveler who was offended when the beautiful girl wouldn't marry him.

And despite its likely tongue-in-cheek flavor from Perrault, the idea of being rejected by society or left out by your friends is still not something to take lightly. What comes to your mind when you read the episode of the uninvited fairy?


  1. Great post! The uninvited guest motif is indeed interesting, and what comes to my mind is Snow White - the uninvited guest of the dwarves - and, of course, Goldilocks. In Sleeping Beauty, the fact that the fairy was uninvited never seemed to be the focus to me. The focus was the struggle for power between the old forces of nature and the new society - the resulting stasis seemed almost natural (esp. in the 1987 live-action movie). That's why I love the new movie so much, because it taps into my own interpretation of the story.

  2. Huh-I had never thought to connect Snow White and Goldilocks to the evil fairy of Sleeping Beauty. And I agree with you that the lack of invitation isn't the main focus of the story, which is why it's interesting/ironic that a little detail thrown in by Perrault became such a staple of the tale.