Once upon a time there was a King and a Queen, who were so vexed at not having any children — so vexed, that one cannot express it. They visited all the baths in the world. Vows, pilgrimages, everything was tried, and nothing succeeded. At length, however, the Queen was brought to bed of a daughter. There was a splendid christening. For godmothers they gave the young Princess all the Fairies they could find in the country (they found seven), in order that each making her a gift, according to the custom of Fairies in those days, the Princess would, by these means, become possessed of all imaginable perfections.
After the baptismal ceremonies all the company returned to the King’s palace, where a great banquet was set out for the Fairies. Covers were laid for each, consisting of a magnificent plate, with a massive gold case, containing a spoon, a fork, and a knife of fine gold, enriched with diamonds and rubies. But as they were all taking their places at the table, there was seen to enter an old Fairy, who had not been invited, because for upwards of fifty years she had never quitted the tower she resided in, and it was supposed she was either dead or enchanted.
The King ordered a cover to be laid for her; but there was no possibility of giving her a massive gold case such as the others had, because there had been only seven made expressly for the seven Fairies. The old lady thought she was treated with contempt, and muttered some threats between her teeth. One of the young Fairies, who chanced to be near her, overheard her, and imagining she might cast some misfortune on the little Princess, went, as soon as they rose from table, and hid herself behind the hangings, in order to have the last word, and be able to repair, as fast as possible, any mischief the old woman might do.
In the meanwhile, the Fairies began to endow the Princess. The youngest, as her gift, decreed that she should be the most beautiful person in the world; the next Fairy, that she should have the mind of an angel; the third, that she should evince the most admirable grace in all she did; the fourth, that she should dance to perfection; the fifth, that she should sing like a nightingale; and the sixth, that she should play on every instrument in the most exquisite manner possible.
The turn of the old Fairy having arrived, she declared, while her head shook more with malice than with age, that the Princess should pierce her hand with a spindle, and die of the wound. This terrible fate made all the company tremble, and there was not one of them who could refrain from tears.
At this moment the young Fairy issued from behind the tapestry, and uttered aloud these words: “Comfort yourselves, King and Queen — your daughter shall not die of it. It is true that I have not sufficient power to undo entirely what my elder has done. The Princess will pierce her hand with a spindle; but, instead of dying, she will only fall into a deep slumber, which will last one hundred years, at the end of which a King’s son will come to wake her.”
The King, in hope of avoiding the misfortune predicted by the old Fairy, immediately caused an edict to be published, by which he forbade any one to spin with a spindle, or to have spindles in their possession, under pain of death.
At the end of fifteen or sixteen years, the King and Queen, being absent at one of their country residences, it happened that the Princess, while running one day about the castle, and from one chamber up to another, arrived at the top of a tower, and entered a little garret, where an honest old woman was sitting by herself, spinning with her distaff and spindle.
This good woman had never heard of the King’s prohibition with respect to spinning with a spindle. “What are you doing there?” asked the Princess. “I am spinning, my fair child,” answered the old woman, who did not know her. “Oh, how pretty it is!” rejoined the Princess. “How do you do it? Give it to me, that I may see if I can do it as well.” She had no sooner taken hold of the spindle, than, being very hasty, a little thoughtless, and, moreover, the sentence of the Fairies so ordaining it, she pierced her hand with the point of it, and fainted away.
The good old woman, greatly embarrassed, called for help. People came from all quarters; they threw water in the Princess’s face; they unlaced her stays; they slapped her hands; they rubbed her temples with Queen of Hungary’s water, but nothing could bring her to. The King, who had run upstairs at the noise, then remembered the prediction of the Fairies, and, wisely concluding that this must have occurred as the Fairies said it would, had the Princess conveyed into the finest apartment in the palace, and placed on a bed of gold and silver embroidery.
One would have said she was an angel, so lovely did she appear — for her swoon had not deprived her of her rich complexion: her cheeks preserved their crimson, and her lips were like coral. Her eyes were closed, but they could hear her breathe softly, which showed that she was not dead. The King commanded them to let her repose in peace until the hour arrived for her waking.
The good Fairy who had saved her life, by decreeing that she should sleep for an hundred years, was in the Kingdom of Mataquin, twelve thousand leagues off, when the Princess met with her accident; but she was informed of it instantly by a little dwarf, who had a pair of seven-league boots (that is, boots which enabled the wearer to take seven leagues at a stride). The Fairy set out immediately and an hour afterwards they saw her arrive in a fiery chariot, drawn by dragons.
The King advanced, to hand her out of the chariot. She approved of all he had done; but, as she had great foresight, she considered that, when the Princess awoke, she would feel considerably embarrassed at finding herself all alone in that old castle; so this is what the Fairy did. She touched with her wand everybody that was in the castle (except the King and Queen): governesses, maids of honour, women of the bed-chamber, gentlemen, officers, stewards, cooks, scullions, boys, guards, porters, pages, footmen; she also touched the horses that were in the stables, with their grooms, the great mastiffs in the court-yard, and little Pouste, the tiny dog of the Princess, that was on the bed, beside her.
As soon as she had touched them, they all fell asleep, not to wake again until the time arrived for their mistress to do so, in order that they might be all ready to attend upon her when she should want them. Even the spits that had been put down to the fire, laden with partridges and pheasants, went to sleep, and the fire itself also.