Off the Shelf: The Sleeping Beauty

I came across this little gem a few weeks ago. Even though spring is upon us, this frosty piece of candy is on the wintery side. It’s The Sleeping Beauty: A Journey to the Ballet of the Mariinsky Theatre written by Ima Ebong and illustrated by Nikita Polyansky.


It’s the story of a little girl named Lena-Gabrielle who receives a ballerina doll on Christmas Eve. She decides she wants to go see the ballet, but her parents cannot get tickets. So, she sets off on her own. (Which of the servants let her outside alone — seriously?)


On the streets of St. Petersburg, she meets a nice old fellow named Mr. Tchaikovsky (wink) who says he’ll take her to see the opera and even give her a backstage tour.


She gets to explore the opera house before the show. He even gifts her a pair of ballet slippers. I love the wild and squiggly lines here. Lena-Gabrielle is almost lost in it all at the bottom.



Then she’s given a prime seat, and the curtain opens…



The rest of the book is devoted to telling the Sleeping Beauty tale. The copyright page says that it’s adapted from the Mariinsky Theatre’s libretto.

The story starts out with the familiar opener: childless royal couple, a baby (finally!), the christening party, and fairy godmothers. Here are the fairies. The Lilac fairy (lower left-hand corner) is the lead godmother.



Then, of course, there is the slighted fairy. The “strange” fairy. Sadly, the ugly-looking fairy. Her name is Fairy Carabosse.



The king and queen try to do damage control, but Carabosse won’t be placated. (Don’t those kind of people drive you crazy? The ones who won’t accept sincere apologies?) So, the fairies line up to give the princess gifts. The image here really doesn’t do the original justice. There are thousands of tiny painted dots that make it look like the whole scene is shimmering. Can you spot the princess in her crib on the far left?



I love this image of the Lilac fairy and Carabosse with the baby princess between them. Lady Lilac was all, “Nuh-uh. Not my goddaughter!” Does anyone know what the bird represents?



Then, the king does the unforgivable. He bans spindles. How are people supposed to make yarn??

Anyway, Princess Aurora grows up into the perfect young lady. She’s drop-dead gorgeous, witty, and the best singer and dancer in the kingdom.



She has a coming out ball, and she dances like an angel, making the manly men swoon. She spies an old woman with a spindle, and she — for some strange reason — starts to dance with it. Of course, the dumbo pricks her finger.



I love this one of Carabosse disappearing in a puff of smoke, after revealing that she was the old woman with the spindle. Then, the king has Aurora ensconced in a gorgeous bed, where she can sleep off the curse.



The Lilac fairy puts everyone and everything in the castle to sleep, and a huge thorny mass grows around the castle so nobody can see it or get through.

Fast forward 100 years, and Prince Desire (yes, that’s his name! Love his stache), son of the current king and queen, decides to go hunting near a river, where he encounters a pearl-encrusted boat.



It’s the Lilac fairy to the rescue again. She shows Desire a picture of Aurora, and — in true fairy tale fashion — he’s smitten and begs the fairy to lead him to her. The fairy sails him to the palace in the boat, where he finds Aurora sleeping, looking just as gorgeous as ever.



They share true love’s kiss, and the spell is broken.



Then, they get hitched and have a huge ol’ wedding.


Can you imagine their premarital counseling sessions? Desire: “Wait, how old are you? I’m 20.” Aurora: “Um, I’m 120.”


Do you believe in true love’s kiss? Or do you believe in the opposite, that a kiss actually disenchants? We see both ideas so often in movies and books.


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