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BakstCarabosse

Carabosse as envisaged by Léon Bakst

The wicked fairy godmother, a rare figure in fairy tales, is nevertheless among the best-known figures from such tales because of her appearance in one of the most widely known tales, Sleeping Beauty, and in the ballet derived from it. Anonymous in her first appearance, she was later named in some variants Carabosse.

OriginsEdit

The oldest version of Sleeping Beauty that has been preserved is Sun, Moon, and Talia from Giambattista Basile's Pentamerone. This version does not feature any fairy godmothers; Talia's fate is prophesied, but Talia's fate is not caused by witchcraft.

Charles Perrault added the witch to his variant the story of Sleeping Beauty, "The Beauty in the Sleeping Wood" ("La Belle au bois dormant"), published in Histoires ou contes du temps passé 1697; he did not give her a name. The Brothers Grimm included a version, "Little Briar Rose", in their collected tales; similarly without a name. In Perrault's version, seven fairies were invited, and she is the eighth, and in the Grimms', twelve were invited and she is the thirteenth.

The figure of the witch appeared before Perrault's tale. The first known appearance was in the 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. Madame d'Aulnoy had them appear in her fairy tales The Hind in the Wood and The Princess Mayblossom; although their roles in her tales had significant differences from Sleeping Beauty, in The Princess Mayblossom, she receives the name of "Carabosse". At some point, this name was attached to the wicked fairy godmother in Sleeping Beauty; she appears as such in Marius Petipa's ballet Sleeping Beauty with music by Tchaikovsky.

Role in the taleEdit

In Sleeping Beauty, the wicked fairy godmother comes uninvited to the princess's christening and declares that "because you did not invite me, I tell you that in her fifteenth year, your daughter will prick herself with a spindle and fall over dead." A good fairy mitigates the curse so that the princess will only fall into a deep sleep, and the king attempts to protect her by removing all spindles.

On the princess's fifteenth birthday, the princess meets a spinning woman, pricks her finger on the bodkin and falls into a deep sleep. In the oldest variants, the old woman is merely unaware and means no harm, but in some variants, such as Tchaikovsky's, the spinning woman is Carabosse, the wicked fairy godmother, herself, ensuring her curse.

VariantsEdit

In The Young Slave, Cilia, the baron's sister, gives her daughter Lisa to the fairies to raise. All of the fairies give gifts to Lisa, but the witch twists her ankle, and curses Lisa to die when she was seven, because her mother, combing her hair, forgot the comb in her hair. In another variant, The Glass Coffin, the role of the witch is taken by a male traveler who curses the daughter of a rich count to be imprisoned in a glass coffin after she refuses to marry him.

AnalysisEdit

Some folklorists have analyzed Sleeping Beauty as indicating the replacement of the lunar year (with its thirteen months, symbolically depicted by the full thirteen fairies) by the solar year (which has twelve, symbolically the invited fairies). This, however, founders on the issue that only in the Grimms' tale is the wicked fairy godmother or the wicked witch the thirteenth fairy; in Perrault's, she is the eighth fairy.

See alsoEdit

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