Tuesday October 16, 2012
Idiomania: The story of Sleeping Beauty
By OH TEIK THEAM
AT the christening of a princess in a far-off kingdom, a troop of good fairies bestowed beauty, modesty and kindness on the newborn.
A wicked fairy who had not been invited to the event felt offended, so that she was fit to be tied. She flew into the royal hall and, giving the little child a malevolent look, bellowed, “On her sixteenth birthday, the princess will prick her finger on a knitting needle and turn up her toes!” And she disappeared in a cloud of white smoke.
The royal couple and the guests were horror-stricken by the intruder’s malignant fury, which put a damper on the day’s celebration. When the dust had settled, a good fairy did her best to set the king’s and queen’s minds at rest by saying, “Trying to undo the curse is like trying to square the circle. However, I can soften it. The princess will not die. Instead, she will sleep for one hundred years, and then she will be awakened by the kiss of a prince.”
Despite the good fairy’s assurances, the king and queen felt that the wicked fairy’s imprecation would always prey on their minds, and he immediately issued a decree prohibiting the possession of knitting needles in the kingdom.
Time marched on, and the princess grew to be a beautiful girl. On her sixteenth birthday, she tiptoed out of her room when a noise outside momentarily distracted her personal servants. Wandering all over the castle, she eventually found herself in a dilapidated tower. She walked quietly towards a room whose door was ajar. Upon entering the room, she found an old woman sitting on a rickety chair.
“Excuse me, Granny,” said the princess, “what are you doing?”
“I am knitting a pair of socks,” replied the old woman.
“You have so many needles in your knitting bag,” said the princess. “I have never seen such needles before. May I take one of them in my hands to have a feel of it?”
“Certainly,” said the old woman, who was actually the wicked fairy, and she added sotto voce, “You are taking your life in your hands!”
The inevitable happened, and the princess fell asleep instantly. Roaring with laughter, the wicked fairy flew out of the tower.
The good fairy returned and, with a gentle wave of her wand, sent every creature in the castle to the land of Nod. And then a briar hedge sprang up to encircle the castle.
A hundred years later, a prince who had heard about the enchantment decided to travel to the princess’s kingdom. When he reached his destination, he was wonderstruck to see so many sleeping people and animals. He eventually found the princess, spread-eagled on the floor. Admiring her beauty, he kissed her.
Sleeping Beauty opened her eyes and smiled warmly at her gallant saviour. “You are just what the doctor ordered!” she said.
Returning her smile, he replied, “Likewise!”
(Adapted from a fairy tale by the Brothers Grimm)
Fit to be tied: Furious.
Turn up one’s toes: To die.
Put a damper on: To stifle, dishearten or deter.
When the dust has settled: When the confusion or disorder is over.
Do one’s best: To do the utmost possible.
Set/put someone’s mind/heart at rest: To make a person stop worrying.
Square the circle: To do something that is impossible.
Prey/weigh on someone’s mind: To cause distress to someone.
Take one’s life in one’s hands: To risk death.
The land of Nod: Sleep.
Just what the doctor ordered: Just what is needed or desired.
The writer believes that an engrossing book is just what the doctor ordered. He likes this quote by Spanish playwright and novelist Enrique Jardial Poncela: When something can be read without effort, great effort has gone into its writing.