Sun, Moon, and Talia (The Original Sleeping Beauty) by Giambattista Basile
There once lived a great lord, who was blessed with the birth of a daughter, whom he named Talia. He sent for the wise men and astrologers in his lands, to predict her future. They met, counseled together, and cast her horoscope, and at length they came to the conclusion that she would incur great danger from a splinter of flax. Her father therefore forbade that any flax, hemp, or any other material of that sort be brought into his house, so that she should escape the predestined danger.
One day, when Talia had grown into a young and beautiful lady, she was looking out of a window, when she beheld passing that way an old woman, who was spinning. Talia, never having seen a distaff or a spindle, was pleased to see the twirling spindle, and she was so curious as to what thing it was, that she asked the old woman to come to her. Taking the distaff from her hand, she began to stretch the flax. Unfortunately, Talia ran a splinter of flax under her nail, and she fell dead upon the ground. When the old woman saw this, she became frightened and ran down the stairs, and is running still.
As soon as the wretched father heard of the disaster which had taken place, he had them, after having paid for this tub of sour wine with casks of tears, lay her out in one of his country mansions. There they seated her on a velvet throne under a canopy of brocade. Wanting to forget all and to drive from his memory his great misfortune, he closed the doors and abandoned forever the house where he had suffered this great loss.
After a time, it happened by chance that a king was out hunting and passed that way. One of his falcons escaped from his hand and flew into the house by way of one of the windows. It did not come when called, so the king had one of his party knock at the door, believing the palace to be inhabited. Although he knocked for a length of time, nobody answered, so the king had them bring a vintner’s ladder, for he himself would climb up and search the house, to discover what was inside. Thus he climbed up and entered, and looked in all the rooms, and nooks, and corners, and was amazed to find no living person there. At last he came to the salon, and when the king beheld Talia, who seemed to be enchanted, he believed that she was asleep, and he called her, but she remained unconscious. Crying aloud, he beheld her charms and felt his blood course hotly through his veins. He lifted her in his arms, and carried her to a bed, where he gathered the first fruits of love. Leaving her on the bed, he returned to his own kingdom, where, in the pressing business of his realm, he for a time thought no more about this incident.
Now after nine months Talia delivered two beautiful children, one a boy and the other a girl. In them could be seen two rare jewels, and they were attended by two fairies, who came to that palace, and put them at their mother’s breasts. Once, however, they sought the nipple, and not finding it, began to suck on Talia’s fingers, and they sucked so much that the splinter of flax came out. Talia awoke as if from a long sleep, and seeing beside her two priceless gems, she held them to her breast, and gave them the nipple to suck, and the babies were dearer to her than her own life. Finding herself alone in that palace with two children by her side, she did not know what had happened to her; but she did notice that the table was set, and food and drink were brought in to her, although she did not see any attendants.
In the meanwhile the king remembered Talia, and saying that he wanted to go hunting, he returned to the palace, and found her awake, and with two cupids of beauty. He was overjoyed, and he told Talia who he was, and how he had seen her, and what had taken place. When she heard this, their friendship was knitted with tighter bonds, and he remained with her for a few days. After that time he bade her farewell, and promised to return soon, and take her with him to his kingdom. And he went to his realm, but he could not find any rest, and at all hours he had in his mouth the names of Talia, and of Sun and Moon (those were the two children’s names), and when he took his rest, he called either one or other of them.
Now the king’s wife began to suspect that something was wrong from the delay of her husband while hunting, and hearing him name continually Talia, Sun, and Moon, she became hot with another kind of heat than the sun’s. Sending for the secretary, she said to him, “Listen to me, my son, you are living between two rocks, between the post and the door, between the poker and the grate. If you will tell me with whom the king your master, and my husband, is in love, I will give you treasures untold; and if you hide the truth from me, you will never be found again, dead or alive.” The man was terribly frightened. Greed and fear blinded his eyes to all honor and to all sense of justice, and he related to her all things, calling bread bread, and wine wine.
The queen, hearing how matters stood, sent the secretary to Talia, in the name of the king, asking her to send the children, for he wished to see them. Talia, with great joy, did as she was commanded. Then the queen, with a heart of Medea, told the cook to kill them, and to make them into several tasteful dishes for her wretched husband. But the cook was tender hearted and, seeing these two beautiful golden apples, felt pity and compassion for them, and he carried them home to his wife, and had her hide them. In their place he prepared two lambs into a hundred different dishes. When the king came, the queen, with great pleasure, had the food served.
The king ate with delight, saying, “By the life of Lanfusa, how tasteful this is”; or, “By the soul of my ancestors, this is good.”
Each time she replied, “Eat, eat, you are eating of your own.”
For two or three times the king paid no attention to this repetition, but at last seeing that the music continued, he answered, “I know perfectly well that I am eating of my own, because you have brought nothing into this house”; and growing angry, he got up and went to a villa at some distance from his palace, to solace his soul and alleviate his anger.
In the meanwhile the queen, not being satisfied of the evil already done, sent for the secretary and told him to go to the palace and to bring Talia back, saying that the king longed for her presence and was expecting her. Talia departed as soon as she heard these words, believing that she was following the commands of her lord, for she greatly longed to see her light and joy, knowing not what was preparing for her. She was met by the queen, whose face glowed from the fierce fire burning inside her, and looked like the face of Nero.
She addressed her thus, “Welcome, Madam Busybody! You are a fine piece of goods, you ill weed, who are enjoying my husband. So you are the lump of filth, the cruel bitch, that has caused my head to spin? Change your ways, for you are welcome in purgatory, where I will compensate you for all the damage you have done to me.”
Talia, hearing these words, began to excuse herself, saying that it was not her fault, because the king her husband had taken possession of her territory when she was drowned in sleep; but the queen would not listen to her excuses, and had a large fire lit in the courtyard of the palace, and commanded that Talia should be cast into it.
The lady, perceiving that matters had taken a bad turn, knelt before the queen, and begged her to allow her at least to take off the garments she wore. The queen, not for pity of the unhappy lady, but to gain also those robes, which were embroidered with gold and pearls, told her to undress, saying, “You can take off your clothes. I agree.” Talia began to take them off, and with every item that she removed she uttered a loud scream. Having taken off her robe, her skirt, the bodice, and her shift, she was on the point of removing her last garment, when she uttered a last scream louder than the rest. They dragged her towards the pile, to reduce her to lye ashes which would be used to wash Charon’s breeches.
The king suddenly appeared, and finding this spectacle, demanded to know what was happening. He asked for his children, and his wife — reproaching him for his treachery — told him that she had had them slaughtered and served to him as meat. When the wretched king heard this, he gave himself up to despair, saying, “Alas! Then I, myself, am the wolf of my own sweet lambs. Alas! And why did these my veins know not the fountains of their own blood? You renegade bitch, what evil deed is this which you have done? Begone, you shall get your desert as the stumps, and I will not send such a tyrant-faced one to the Colosseum to do her penance!”
So saying, he commanded that the queen should be cast into the fire which she had prepared for Talia, and the secretary with her, because he had been the handle for this bitter play, and weaver of this wicked plot. He was going to do the same with the cook, whom he believed to be the slaughterer of his children, when the man cast himself at his feet, saying, “In truth, my lord, for such a deed, there should be nothing else than a pile of living fire, and no other help than a spear from behind, and no other entertainment than twisting and turning within the blazing fire, and I should seek no other honor than to have my ashes, the ashes of a cook, mixed up with the queen’s. But this is not the reward that I expect for having saved the children, in spite of the gall of that bitch, who wanted to kill them and to return to your body that which was of your own body.”
Hearing these words, the king was beside himself. He thought he was dreaming, and he could not believe what his own ears had heard. Therefore, turning to the cook, he said, “If it is true that you have saved my children, be sure that I will take you away from turning the spit, and I will put you in the kitchen of this breast, to turn and twist as you like all my desires, giving you such a reward as shall enable you to call yourself a happy man in this world.”
While the king spoke these words, the cook’s wife, seeing her husband’s need, brought forth the two children, Sun and Moon, before their father. And he never tired at playing the game of three with his wife and children, making a mill wheel of kisses, now with one and then with the other. He gave a generous reward to the cook, he made him a chamberlain. He married Talia to wife; and she enjoyed a long life with her husband and her children, thus experiencing the truth of the proverb:
Those whom fortune favors
Find good luck even in their sleep.
- Source: The Pentameron of Giambattista Basile, translated by Richard F. Burton (Privately printed, 1893), day 5, tale 5. Translation revised by D. L. Ashliman.
- Giambattista Basile was born about 1575 in Naples and died 1632 in Giugliano, Campania. His Lo cunto de li cunti (The Story of Stories) was published in 1634, and named Il pentamerone because of its similarity to Boccaccio’s Decamerone. The framework of Lo cunto de li cunti provides a context for ten women to tell one story each every day for five days. The fifty resulting stories, all based on oral tradition, comprise one of the monumental folktale collections of all time.
- Return to the table of contents.
There were formerly a king and a queen, who were so sorry that they had no children; so sorry that it cannot be expressed. They went to all the waters in the world; vows, pilgrimages, all ways were tried, and all to no purpose.
At last, however, the queen had a daughter. There was a very fine christening; and the princess had for her godmothers all the fairies they could find in the whole kingdom (they found seven), that every one of them might give her a gift, as was the custom of fairies in those days. By this means the princess had all the perfections imaginable.
After the ceremonies of the christening were over, all the company returned to the king’s palace, where was prepared a great feast for the fairies. There was placed before every one of them a magnificent cover with a case of massive gold, wherein were a spoon, knife, and fork, all of pure gold set with diamonds and rubies. But as they were all sitting down at table they saw come into the hall a very old fairy, whom they had not invited, because it was above fifty years since she had been out of a certain tower, and she was believed to be either dead or enchanted.
The king ordered her a cover, but could not furnish her with a case of gold as the others, because they had only seven made for the seven fairies. The old fairy fancied she was slighted, and muttered some threats between her teeth. One of the young fairies who sat by her overheard how she grumbled; and, judging that she might give the little princess some unlucky gift, went, as soon as they rose from table, and hid herself behind the hangings, that she might speak last, and repair, as much as she could, the evil which the old fairy might intend.
In the meanwhile all the fairies began to give their gifts to the princess. The youngest gave her for gift that she should be the most beautiful person in the world; the next, that she should have the wit of an angel; the third, that she should have a wonderful grace in everything she did; the fourth, that she should dance perfectly well; the fifth, that she should sing like a nightingale; and the sixth, that she should play all kinds of music to the utmost perfection.
The old fairy’s turn coming next, with a head shaking more with spite than age, she said that the princess should have her hand pierced with a spindle and die of the wound. This terrible gift made the whole company tremble, and everybody fell a crying.
At this very instant the young fairy came out from behind the hangings, and spake these words aloud: “Assure yourselves, O King and Queen, that your daughter shall not die of this disaster. It is true, I have no power to undo entirely what my elder has done. The princess shall indeed pierce her hand with a spindle; but, instead of dying, she shall only fall into a profound sleep, which shall last a hundred years, at the expiration of which a king’s son shall come and awake her.”
The king, to avoid the misfortune foretold by the old fairy, caused immediately proclamation to be made, whereby everybody was forbidden, on pain of death, to spin with a distaff and spindle, or to have so much as any spindle in their houses. About fifteen or sixteen years after, the king and queen being gone to one of their houses of pleasure, the young princess happened one day to divert herself in running up and down the palace; when going up from one apartment to another, she came into a little room on the top of the tower, where a good old woman, alone, was spinning with her spindle. This good woman had never heard of the king’s proclamation against spindles.
“What are you doing there, goody?” said the princess.
“I am spinning, my pretty child,” said the old woman, who did not know who she was.
“Ha!” said the princess, “this is very pretty; how do you do it? Give it to me, that I may see if I can do so.”
She had no sooner taken it into her hand than, whether being very hasty at it, somewhat unhandy, or that the decree of the fairy had so ordained it, it ran into her hand, and she fell down in a swoon.
The good old woman, not knowing very well what to do in this affair, cried out for help. People came in from every quarter in great numbers; they threw water upon the princess’s face, unlaced her, struck her on the palms of her hands, and rubbed her temples with Hungary-water; but nothing would bring her to herself.
And now the king, who came up at the noise, bethought himself of the prediction of the fairies, and, judging very well that this must necessarily come to pass, since the fairies had said it, caused the princess to be carried into the finest apartment in his palace, and to be laid upon a bed all embroidered with gold and silver.
One would have taken her for a little angel, she was so very beautiful; for her swooning away had not diminished one bit of her complexion; her cheeks were carnation, and her lips were coral; indeed, her eyes were shut, but she was heard to breathe softly, which satisfied those about her that she was not dead. The king commanded that they should not disturb her, but let her sleep quietly till her hour of awaking was come.
The good fairy who had saved her life by condemning her to sleep a hundred years was in the kingdom of Matakin, twelve thousand leagues off, when this accident befell the princess; but she was instantly informed of it by a little dwarf, who had boots of seven leagues, that is, boots with which he could tread over seven leagues of ground in one stride. The fairy came away immediately, and she arrived, about an hour after, in a fiery chariot drawn by dragons.
The king handed her out of the chariot, and she approved everything he had done, but as she had very great foresight, she thought when the princess should awake she might not know what to do with herself, being all alone in this old palace; and this was what she did: she touched with her wand everything in the palace (except the king and queen) — governesses, maids of honor, ladies of the bedchamber, gentlemen, officers, stewards, cooks, undercooks, scullions, guards, with their beefeaters, pages, footmen; she likewise touched all the horses which were in the stables, pads as well as others, the great dogs in the outward court and pretty little Mopsey too, the princess’s little spaniel, which lay by her on the bed.
Immediately upon her touching them they all fell asleep, that they might not awake before their mistress and that they might be ready to wait upon her when she wanted them. The very spits at the fire, as full as they could hold of partridges and pheasants, did fall asleep also. All this was done in a moment. Fairies are not long in doing their business.
And now the king and the queen, having kissed their dear child without waking her, went out of the palace and put forth a proclamation that nobody should dare to come near it.
This, however, was not necessary, for in a quarter of an hour’s time there grew up all round about the park such a vast number of trees, great and small, bushes and brambles, twining one within another, that neither man nor beast could pass through; so that nothing could be seen but the very top of the towers of the palace; and that, too, not unless it was a good way off. Nobody; doubted but the fairy gave herein a very extraordinary sample of her art, that the princess, while she continued sleeping, might have nothing to fear from any curious people.
When a hundred years were gone and passed the son of the king then reigning, and who was of another family from that of the sleeping princess, being gone a hunting on that side of the country, asked:
What those towers were which he saw in the middle of a great thick wood?
Everyone answered according as they had heard. Some said that it was a ruinous old castle, haunted by spirits.
Others, that all the sorcerers and witches of the country kept there their sabbath or night’s meeting.
The common opinion was that an ogre lived there, and that he carried thither all the little children he could catch, that he might eat them up at his leisure, without anybody being able to follow him, as having himself only the power to pass through the wood.
The prince was at a stand, not knowing what to believe, when a very good countryman spake to him thus: “May it please your royal highness, it is now about fifty years since I heard from my father, who heard my grandfather say, that there was then in this castle a princess, the most beautiful was ever seen; that she must sleep there a hundred years, and should be waked by a king’s son, for whom she was reserved.”
The young prince was all on fire at these words, believing, without weighing the matter, that he could put an end to this rare adventure; and, pushed on by love and honor, resolved that moment to look into it.
Scarce had he advanced toward the wood when all the great trees, the bushes, and brambles gave way of themselves to let him pass through; he walked up to the castle which he saw at the end of a large avenue which he went into; and what a little surprised him was that he saw none of his people could follow him, because the trees closed again as soon as he had passed through them. However, he did not cease from continuing his way; a young and amorous prince is always valiant.
He came into a spacious outward court, where everything he saw might have frozen the most fearless person with horror. There reigned all over a most frightful silence; the image of death everywhere showed itself, and there was nothing to be seen but stretched-out bodies of men and animals, all seeming to be dead. He, however, very well knew, by the ruby faces and pimpled noses of the beefeaters, that they were only asleep; and their goblets, wherein still remained some drops of wine, showed plainly that they fell asleep in their cups.
He then crossed a court paved with marble, went up the stairs and came into the guard chamber, where guards were standing in their ranks, with their muskets upon their shoulders, and snoring as loud as they could. After that he went through several rooms full of gentlemen and ladies, all asleep, some standing, others sitting. At last he came into a chamber all gilded with gold, where he saw upon a bed, the curtains of which were all open, the finest sight was ever beheld — a princess, who appeared to be about fifteen or sixteen years of age, and whose bright and, in a manner, resplendent beauty, had somewhat in it divine. He approached with trembling and admiration, and fell down before her upon his knees.
And now, as the enchantment was at an end, the princess awaked, and looking on him with eyes more tender than the first view might seem to admit of. “Is it you, my prince?” said she to him. “You have waited a long while.”
The prince, charmed with these words, and much more with the manner in which they were spoken, knew not how to show his joy and gratitude; he assured her that he loved her better than he did himself; their discourse was not well connected, they did weep more than talk — little eloquence, a great deal of love. He was more at a loss than she, and we need not wonder at it; she had time to think on what to say to him; for it is very probable (though history mentions nothing of it) that the good fairy, during so long a sleep, had given her very agreeable dreams. In short, they talked four hours together, and yet they said not half what they had to say.
In the meanwhile all the palace awaked; everyone thought upon their particular business, and as all of them were not in love they were ready to die for hunger. The chief lady of honor, being as sharp set as other folks, grew very impatient, and told the princess aloud that supper was served up. The prince helped the princess to rise; she was entirely dressed, and very magnificently, but his royal highness took care not to tell her that she was dressed like his great-grandmother, and had a point band peeping over a high collar; she looked not a bit less charming and beautiful for all that.
They went into the great hall of looking-glasses, where they supped, and were served by the princess’s officers, the violins and hautboys played old tunes, but very excellent, though it was now above a hundred years since they had played; and after supper, without losing any time, the lord almoner married them in the chapel of the castle, and the chief lady of honor drew the curtains. They had but very little sleep — the princess had no occasion; and the prince left her next morning to return to the city, where his father must needs have been in pain for him. The prince told him that he lost his way in the forest as he was hunting, and that he had lain in the cottage of a charcoal burner, who gave him cheese and brown bread.
The king, his father, who was a good man, believed him; but his mother could not be persuaded it was true; and seeing that he went almost every day a hunting, and that he always had some excuse ready for so doing, though he had lain out three or four nights together, she began to suspect that he was married, for he lived with the princess above two whole years, and had by her two children, the eldest of which, who was a daughter, was named Morning, and the youngest, who was a son, they called Day, because he was a great deal handsomer and more beautiful than his sister.
The queen spoke several times to her son, to inform herself after what manner he did pass his time, and that in this he ought in duty to satisfy her. But he never dared to trust her with his secret; he feared her, though he loved her, for she was of the race of the ogres, and the king would never have married her had it not been for her vast riches; it was even whispered about the court that she had ogreish inclinations, and that, whenever she saw little children passing by, she had all the difficulty in the world to avoid falling upon them. And so the prince would never tell her one word.
But when the king was dead, which happened about two years afterward, and he saw himself lord and master, he openly declared his marriage; and he went in great ceremony to conduct his queen to the palace. They made a magnificent entry into the capital city, she riding between her two children.
Soon after, the king went to make war with the Emperor Contalabutte, his neighbor. He left the government of the kingdom to the queen his mother, and earnestly recommended to her care his wife and children. He was obliged to continue his expedition all the summer, and as soon as he departed the queen mother sent her daughter-in-law to a country house among the woods, that she might with the more ease gratify her horrible longing.
Some few days afterward she went thither herself, and said to her clerk of the kitchen:
“I have a mind to eat little Morning for my dinner tomorrow.”
“Ah! madam,” cried the clerk of the kitchen.
“I will have it so,” replied the queen (and this she spoke in the tone of an ogress who had a strong desire to eat fresh meat), “and will eat her with a sauce Robert.”
The poor man, knowing very well that he must not play tricks with ogresses, took his great knife and went up into little Morning’s chamber. She was then four years old, and came up to him jumping and laughing, to take him about the neck, and ask him for some sugar candy. Upon which he began to weep, the great knife fell out of his hand, and he went into the back yard, and killed a little lamb, and dressed it with such good sauce that his mistress assured him that she had never eaten anything so good in her life. He had at the same time taken up little Morning, and carried her to his wife, to conceal her in the lodging he had at the bottom of the courtyard.
About eight days afterward the wicked queen said to the clerk of the kitchen, “I will sup on little Day.”
He answered not a word, being resolved to cheat her as he had done before. He went to find out little Day, and saw him with a little foil in his hand, with which he was fencing with a great monkey, the child being then only three years of age. He took him up in his arms and carried him to his wife, that she might conceal him in her chamber along with his sister, and in the room of little Day cooked up a young kid, very tender, which the ogress found to be wonderfully good.
This was hitherto all mighty well; but one evening this wicked queen said to her clerk of the kitchen, “I will eat the queen with the same sauce I had with her children.”
It was now that the poor clerk of the kitchen despaired of being able to deceive her. The young queen was turned of twenty, not reckoning the hundred years she had been asleep; and how to find in the yard a beast so firm was what puzzled him. He took then a resolution, that he might save his own life, to cut the queen’s throat; and going up into her chamber, with intent to do it at once, he put himself into as great fury as he could possibly, and came into the young queen’s room with his dagger in his hand. He would not, however, surprise her, but told her, with a great deal of respect, the orders he had received from the queen mother.
“Do it; do it” (said she, stretching out her neck). “Execute your orders, and then I shall go and see my children, my poor children, whom I so much and so tenderly loved,” for she thought them dead ever since they had been taken away without her knowledge.
“No, no, madam” (cried the poor clerk of the kitchen, all in tears); “you shall not die, and yet you shall see your children again; but then you must go home with me to my lodgings, where I have concealed them, and I shall deceive the queen once more, by giving her in your stead a young hind.”
Upon this he forthwith conducted her to his chamber, where, leaving her to embrace her children, and cry along with them, he went and dressed a young hind, which the queen had for her supper, and devoured it with the same appetite as if it had been the young queen. Exceedingly was she delighted with her cruelty, and she had invented a story to tell the king, at his return, how the mad wolves had eaten up the queen his wife and her two children.
One evening, as she was, according to her custom, rambling round about the courts and yards of the palace to see if she could smell any fresh meat, she heard, in a ground room, little Day crying, for his mamma was going to whip him, because he had been naughty; and she heard, at the same time, little Morning begging pardon for her brother.
The ogress presently knew the voice of the queen and her children, and being quite mad that she had been thus deceived, she commanded next morning, by break of day (with a most horrible voice, which made everybody tremble), that they should bring into the middle of the great court a large tub, which she caused to be filled with toads, vipers, snakes, and all sorts of serpents, in order to have thrown into it the queen and her children, the clerk of the kitchen, his wife and maid; all whom she had given orders should be brought thither with their hands tied behind them.
They were brought out accordingly, and the executioners were just going to throw them into the tub, when the king (who was not so soon expected) entered the court on horseback (for he came post) and asked, with the utmost astonishment, what was the meaning of that horrible spectacle.
No one dared to tell him, when the ogress, all enraged to see what had happened, threw herself head foremost into the tub, and was instantly devoured by the ugly creatures she had ordered to be thrown into it for others. The king could not but be very sorry, for she was his mother; but he soon comforted himself with his beautiful wife and his pretty children.
MoralMany a girl has waited long
For a husband brave or strong;
But I’m sure I never met
Any sort of woman yet
Who could wait a hundred years,
Free from fretting, free from fears.
Now, our story seems to show
That a century or so,
Late or early, matters not;
True love comes by fairy-lot.
Some old folk will even say
It grows better by delay.
Yet this good advice, I fear,
Helps us neither there nor here.
Though philosophers may prate
How much wiser ’tis to wait,
Maids will be a sighing still —
Young blood must when young blood will!