Off the Shelf: Sleeping Beauty

I’ve already mentioned that, as a young girl, I was a total priss. I loved anything remotely connected to princesses and ball gowns and pink.

I know. I know.

So, naturally, the idea of sleeping beauty totally caught my imagination. I mean, how romantic is it to get awakened from an enchanted sleep by the kiss of a handsome prince? It’s a story that’s practically made for prisses.

So, I have a copy of an interesting book called “About the Sleeping Beauty” by P. L. Travers, illustrated by Charles Keeping. (Yes, that’s the same P. L. Travers who wrote Mary Poppins.) In this book, she relates her own telling of the sleeping beauty tale, setting it in the far east, which means no ball gowns and very little pink and hardly any prissiness. So, while I probably wouldn’t have liked these stories as a girl, I’m totally taken by them now. The illustrations are wiry and alive, and I want to share them today.

Here’s the queen from Travers’ story, a sultana, clutching her barren belly. I think this one is my favorite.


Here’s the sleeping beauty out cold. Don’t we all wish we could look so pretty sleeping?


After Travers tells her story, she writes an afterward explaining her take. Then, she follows it up by including several traditional “sleeping girl” tales from around the world. The first is Dornroschen (Briar Rose) from the Brothers Grimm. Here’s the illustration that goes along with that one — it’s pointed the correct direction.


Next up, La Belle au Bois Dormant (The Beauty Sleeping in the Wood) from Charles Perrault.


The next story is Sole, Luna, E Talia (Sun, Moon, and Talia), an Italian folk tale.


The next story, called The Queen of Tubber Tintye, is a myth from Ireland.


Finally, the last dark image goes along with The Petrified Mansion, from “Bengal Fairy Tales.”


I think it’s fascinating that the sleeper turns up so often in myth, folklore, and fairy tale. I also think these illustrations are knock-outs. I’ve been posting a lot of kiddie stuff for Off the Shelf lately, but I thought these were really interesting and, refreshingly, on the adult side. There’s so much I could say about the book and the sleeper trope, but, for now, why don’t we just admire the art?

Have a great day!


One thought on “Off the Shelf: Sleeping Beauty

  1. Lovely tribute to this beatifull little book. I am lucky to have a cherished copy. Charles Keepings illustrations are so amazing and make the book a real gem. As an artist, I find this book very inspiring.
    Thank you for sharing it.

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