A Wicked Thing
Release Date: February 24th 2015
Read an excerpt
“I never thought what happens after Sleeping Beauty wakes up would keep me at the edge of my seat, breathlessly turning pages. But Rhiannon Thomas has taken the familiar and the cliched and turned it into a tense, fast-paced read full of plot twists and revelations, set in a world at once intriguing and perilous.” - Sherry Thomas, author of The Burning Sky
“The book is welcome twist on the classic helpless-princess-saved-by-dashing-prince one expects from a fairy tale…. Fairy tale and fantasy fans alike will breeze through this retelling and eagerly await her next chapter.” - School Library Journal
“One of the best fairytale retellings I’ve ever read. Thomas uses the well-known back story of Sleeping Beauty to craft an entirely new future for Aurora that is anything but happily-ever-after. Starting the story after the moment that usually signals the end of the fairytale gave this book an original spin and makes it stand out among of sea of simple retellings. Don’t miss this great debut!” - Boswell Book Company, Milwaukee, WI
The “True” Story of Sleeping Beauty
When people think of “original” fairy tales, most think of the Brothers Grimm and their creepy German stories. But the Brothers Grimm were just collectors, not writers, and they didn’t simply record the story as everyone knew it: they picked and chose how to tell them, based on their own (kinda sexist, kinda gross) agenda.
Sleeping Beauty was no exception. There are at least four versions of the story written down before the Brothers Grimm came along, and all of them are dark and creepy in their own way. Shield maidens! Murder! Ogres! Babies cooked into pies!
And, like in A Wicked Thing, almost all of them are concerned with what happens after Sleeping Beauty awakens from her sleep. The curse and the kiss are only half of the story.
Brynhildr (Viking mythology) aka “Sleeping Beauty is a Murderer”
Brynhildr was a shield maiden/Valkyrie who really pissed off Odin. To punish her, Odin imprisoned her in a castle behind a wall of shields, and made her sleep in a ring of flame until a man could rescue and marry her.
A dragon-slaying hero called Siguror Sigmundson fought his way into the castle and awoke her by removing her enchanted helmet. The two of them fell in love, but a sorceress called Grimhild wanted Siguror to marry her own daughter, so she fed Siguror a potion that made him forget all about Brynhildr. Things got kind of messy after that. Brynhildr convinced Grimhild’s son Gunnan to kill Siguror, and then killed Siguror’s three year old son herself, before throwing herself on Siguror’s funeral pyre so they could be together in death. I’m sure he was happy to see her.
Perceforest (14th century France) aka “Your True Love is a Creeper”
This one was kind of an Arthurian saga about a bold king named Perceforest, with one of the earliest Sleeping Beauty stories. Perceforest’s gorgeous daughter Zellandine fell in love with a dude named Troylus, but her father was not convinced, so he sent Troylus off to perform a bunch of heroic tasks. While he was gone, Zellandine fell into an enchanted sleep.
Troylus returned triumphant, found her asleep, raped her, and she got pregnant. Dude then left a ring as a token of his affection and took off again. When the baby was born, it sucked on her finger, removing the flax that made her sleep, and she woke up and found1) a baby, and 2) a random ring.
She recognized that the ring belongs to Troylus, and of course swooned with joy, waited for him to return, and married him.
Sun, Moon and Talia (17th century Italy) or “The One with the Baby Eating”
Instead of evil witches here, we had wise men. When a girl named Talia was born, these wise men said that she would be in danger from a splinter of flax. So when she got flax stuck in her finger and fell asleep, her father thought she was dead.
In a moment of total morbidity, her father propped her up on a velvet throne, closed the door, and abandoned the house where they lived forever.
One day, a totally noble king stopped at the house. When no one answered the door, he came inside to find Talia unconscious. After trying to wake her, he decided “oh well,” carried her to bed, and raped her. Then he left her there and went home.
The princess had twins this time, and one of them sucked the flax out of her finger. She woke up, and thought “what the hell happened???”
Luckily, our noble king missed his unconscious love, so he came back. When he found Talia awake, he told her who he was and what happened, and promised to take her back to his kingdom. She was like, “Oh, ok, cool.”
Unfortunately, the king kind of had a wife, and she found out what was going on. She wrote to Talia, pretending to be the king, asking her to send the babies to him. She did, because apparently babies can travel solo in fairy tale land, and the queen told the cook to kill them and feed them to the king.
The cook was like “WTF” and hid the babies, feeding the king some nice lamb instead. Then when Talia came to the kingdom, the queen plotted to burn her alive, but the king found out and burned her instead.
Talia married the king and they lived happily ever after.
Sleeping Beauty (17th century France) aka “The One With the Ogre Mother”
Seven fairies were invited to the christening of the new princess and given golden caskets as gifts. The eighth fairy in the kingdom was not invited, because no one had seen her for years and they thought she was dead. Since she was overlooked, she gave a “gift” to the princess – she would prick her finger on a spindle and die. One of the other fairies partially reversed the curse – she would fall into a deep sleep for 100 years and be awakened by the kiss of a prince.
Spinning was banned in the kingdom, and sixteen years passed safely, until one day the king and queen were away from the castle, and the Princess wandered about. She found an old woman spinning, and asked if she could try it. She pricked her finger, she fell asleep, and was placed in a beautiful bed to sleep.
The good fairy came along and put everyone in the castle to sleep, so Sleeping Beauty wouldn’t be alone when she woke up. She created a forest of brambles around the castle that would last a hundred years.
A hundred years later, a prince stumbled across the castle and learned about the sleeping princess. As he approached, the brambles fell away. He found the princess, was overcome by her beauty, and kissed her. She woke up, and they got married. Yay!
Then things got weird. The prince kept the marriage a secret, because his mom was an ogre, and she wouldn’t approve. But then his dad died, he ascended to the throne, and he brought Sleeping Beauty and their two kids home with him.
The Ogre Queen was not happy. She sent Sleeping Beauty and her kids to a far away house in the woods, and told a cook to serve up the kids for dinner. He served lamb instead, but neglected to tell Sleeping Beauty that he hadn’t actually killed her kids. So when the Ogre Queen demanded that Sleeping Beauty be cooked next, she offered to slit her own throat to join her children. The cook then set things straight, mother and not-dead-kids were reunited, and the Ogre Queen, when she discovered what had happened, prepared a tub of vipers to kill the cook.
The King returned, his mother panicked and threw herself into the tub, and died.
Everyone lived happily ever after.
Huh..Well those four versions is surely not what I remember Sleeping Beauty story is in my childhood. Thank God for the people who change the story from dark and creepy to something that kids love this day!--Mary Ann
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Rhiannon Thomas is a recent graduate from Princeton University, where she studied English and Japanese, and smuggled bubble tea into the library on a regular basis. She now lives in York, England.
As well as reading and writing YA fiction, she runs the blog FeministFiction.com, where she discusses TV, books, and all kinds of fannish things from a feminist perspective.
I don't hang out on Goodreads much, so if you want to contact me, please swing by my personal website or message me on Twitter.
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