Once upon a time there lived a king and queen who were very unhappy because they had no children. But at last a little daughter was born, and their sorrow was turned to joy. All the bells in the land were rung to tell the glad tidings.
The king gave a christening feast so grand that the like of it had never been known. He invited all the fairies he could find in the kingdom—there were seven of them—to come to the christening as godmothers. He hoped that each would give the princess a good gift.
When the christening was over, the feast came. Before each of the fairies was placed a plate with a spoon, a knife, and a fork—all pure gold. But alas! As the fairies were about to seat themselves at the table, there came into the hall a very old fairy who had not been invited. She had left the kingdom fifty years before and had not been seen or heard of until this day.
A young fairy who sat near overheard her angry threats. This good godmother, fearing the old fairy might give the child an unlucky gift, hid herself behind a curtain. She did this because she wished to speak last and perhaps be able to change the old fairy's gift.
Just then the wise young fairy came from behind the curtain and said: “Do not grieve, O King and Queen. Your daughter shall not die. I cannot undo what my elder sister has done; the princess shall indeed prick her finger with the spindle, but she shall not die. She shall fall into sleep that will last a hundred years. At the end of that time, a king's son will find her and awaken her.”
One day when the princess was seventeen years of age, the king and queen left her alone in the castle. She wandered about the palace and at last came to a little room in the top of a tower. There an old woman—so old and deaf that she had never heard of the king's command—sat spinning.
She had just taken the spindle in her hand when, in some way, it pricked her finger. The princess dropped down on the floor. The old woman called for help, and people came from all sides, but nothing could be done.
When the good young fairy heard the news, she came quickly to the castle. She knew that the princess must sleep a hundred years and would be frightened if she found herself alone when she awoke. So the fairy touched with her magic wand all in the palace except the king and the queen. Ladies, gentlemen, pages, waiting maids, footmen, grooms in the stable, and even the horses—she touched them all. They all went to sleep just where they were when the wand touched them. Some of the gentlemen were bowing to the ladies, the ladies were embroidering, the grooms stood currying their horses, and the cook was slapping the kitchen boy.
The king and queen departed from the castle, giving orders that no one was to go near it. This command, however, was not needed. In a little while there sprang around the castle a wood so thick that neither man nor beast could pass through.
A great many changes take place in a hundred years. The king had no other child, and when he died, his throne passed to another royal family. Even the story of the sleeping princess was almost forgotten.
At last an old peasant was found who said, “Your highness, fifty years ago my father told me that there is a castle in the woods where a princess sleeps—the most beautiful princess that ever lived. It was said that she must sleep there a hundred years, when she would be awakened by a king's son.”
At this the young prince determined to find out the truth for himself. He leaped from his horse and began to force his way through the wood. To his astonishment, the stiff branches gave way, and then closed again, allowing none of his companions to follow.
A beautiful palace rose before him. In the courtyard the prince saw horses and men who looked as if they were dead. But he was not afraid and boldly entered the palace. There were guards motionless as stone, gentlemen and ladies, pages and footmen, some standing, some sitting, but all like statues.
At last the prince came to a chamber of gold, where he saw upon a bed the fairest sight one ever beheld—a princess of about seventeen years who looked as if she had just fallen asleep. Trembling, the prince knelt beside her, and awakened her with a kiss. And now the enchantment was broken.
So happy were the two that they talked hour after hour. In the meantime all in the palace awaked and each began to do what he was doing when he fell asleep. The gentlemen went on bowing to the ladies. The ladies went on with their embroidery. The grooms went on currying their horses, the cook went on slapping the kitchen boy, and the servants began to serve the supper. Then the chief lady in waiting, who was ready to die of hunger, told the princess aloud that supper was ready.
The prince gave the princess his hand, and they all went into the great hall for supper. That very evening the prince and princess were married. The next day the prince took his bride to his father's palace, and there they lived happily ever afterward.