Usage of Roses in Fairytales

Today I want to talk about why the rose is used so often in fairytales and fairytale films.   Most iconically the rose is used in my favorite Sleeping Beauty and in Beauty and the Beast!   I love analyzing why certain aspects of fairytales can be seen across many different tales!

In both Sleeping Beauty and Beauty and the Beast the rose appeared in the older tales, as well as in film adaptations.    The Grimm’s version of Sleeping Beauty is actually titled Briar Rose, and this was also utilized by Disney for the name of Aurora when she was in hiding!     In the old versions of Beauty and the Beast the reason that Belle’s father was imprisoned in the Beast’s castle is that he was trying to steal a rose from the garden for Belle.

The Disney versions of these tales also utilize roses as important parts of the tales.    Sleeping Beauty not only took Briar Rose as an alternate name for Aurora, but also had the castle surrounded by huge bushes of thorns, which of course would be rose bushes!    Beauty and the Beast took the rose as a symbol for the Beast’s curse.   When the enchanted rose lost all of its petals then the curse would end, and the Beast would die, unless he found someone to love him despite his horrific appearance!

On stage roses are still used in both of these tales.   The Disney Beauty and the Beast got adapted as a Broadway musical, and still utilized the enchanted rose.    Likewise many adaptations of the Sleeping Beauty ballet (like my favorite version by Matthew Bourne) use roses during the performance!

Other film versions of the tales also have roses as a plot device.    Beastly had the female lead loving roses, and tending a rose garden.   The Curse of Sleeping Beauty had the titular fairytale character named Briar Rose!

Throughout tellings and adaptations, there have been roses featured in countless versions of these two tales!   The roses are symbols of beauty and delicacy.   They also have a bite to them, with thorns that protect the fragile blooms.    Female characters associated with roses share their delicacy, but also have inner strength not always readily apparent at the beginning of the tale!   Roses do not only symbolize outer beauty but inner as well, with these characters being loving and kind.   Different color roses symbolize different things, and can even be used for transformation.   For instance the innocence of white, turning to the young love of pink, and then the passion of red!

In these two tales we meet intelligent, beautiful, and kind women who learn maturity through the tough events of the stories.   I hope you have enjoyed my analysis of roses in fairytales.   Let me know your thoughts in the comments below!

Note on Image: The image at the top of the post is an illustration from Sleeping Beauty.   I found the image on

Further Reading/Watching

  • The Sleeping Beauty in the Wood edited by Andrew Lang
  • Beauty and the Beast edited by Andrew Lang
  • Briar Rose by The Brothers Grimm
  • Sleeping Beauty (1959)
  • Matthew Bourne’s Sleeping Beauty: A Gothic Tale (2013)
  • The Curse of Sleeping Beauty (2016)
  • La Belle et la Bete (1947)
  • Beauty and the Beast (1991)
  • Beauty and the Beast (2017)
  • Beastly (2011)