Sleeping Curses in Fairytales

Sleeping curses are a popular topic in fairytales.    Obviously the important examples are my favorite fairytale Sleeping Beauty and Snow White.   Both of these tales have an evil female character cursing a young beautiful woman.

The sleeping curse in Snow White was enacted by Snow taking a bite of a poisoned apple.     In the Grimm’s version it takes multiple tries to get the curse right.    The Evil Queen tries a poisoned comb and to suffocate her in a corset (to take her breath away putting her into sleep), but both of these attempts are thwarted by the seven dwarfs!    The poisoned apple is the thing that gets her cursed successfully.   The Grimm’s version does not have a true love’s kiss, instead a piece of poisoned apple was lodged in her throat.    When Prince Charming becomes enamored with her and convinced the dwarfs to move her coffin his men rattled the coffin around.   The rattling dislodged the piece of apple and she awoke from her curse!

The sleeping curse in Sleeping Beauty was enacted by pricking her finger on the spindle of a spinning wheel.   Princess Aurora is cursed by a wicked faerie, to fall dead at the hands of a spinning wheel.    The curse is slightly mitigated to just falling into sleep until true love’s kiss can wake her.    There are of course versions where she does not awaken from a kiss, but instead from having the piece of spindle (or flax) that is lodged underneath her fingernail removed.     Being a hopeless romantic I prefer the true love’s kiss version!   In the Disney animated version we get to see Prince Phillip battle Maleficent in the form of a dragon, and this makes reference to earlier lore (such as Arthurian legends)!    I also prefer that Aurora and Phillip get to meet and fall in love before the fateful kiss.   This is a change from the original tales (all versions, as the curse traditionally lasted for 100 years before the prince arrived).    At the end of the story Aurora is awakened by true love’s kiss, and gets to marry the man she loves!

Sleeping curses are utilized very well in the television series Once Upon A Time.   Given that both tales I have discussed here are used in the world of this show that provides a great basis for sleeping curses.   They also included several other character undergoing sleeping curses.    This made for interesting tie-ins, and they even went into some of the side effects of having been cursed.    The characters who were previously cursed had to go through nightmares of burning rooms (other people who had been likely cursed could also be in these rooms at the same time).    I love the very interesting take that Once Upon A Time used with sleeping curses!

I hope you have liked my thoughts on sleeping curses.    Let me know your thoughts in the comments below!

Note on Image: The image at the top of the post is Phillip about to kiss Aurora.   I found the image on

Further Reading/Watching

  • Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs by The Brothers Grimm
  • The Sleeping Beauty in the Wood from The Blue Fairy Book edited by Andrew Lang
  • Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1939)
  • Sleeping Beauty (1959)
  • Once Upon A Time (2011-2018)