Sleeping Beauty on Exhibition
by Jacqueline Lew (Winter 2000-2001)

According to Jack Zipes, The Grimm Brothers

wanted to preserve, contain, and present to the German public what they felt were profound truths about the origins of civilization” (“Two Brothers Named Grimm” 72)

That being said, The Brothers perpetuated the insignificant role of women in their patriarchal society.

They did so by reducing the princess to a prop in their tale since she is asleep for most of the story,

Briar Rose becomes a symbol of ultimate feminine passivity, a beautiful object with no emotion, desire or intellect. In Briar Rose’s comatose state, beauty becomes her main-and, in fact, only-asset

  • Brothers Grimm attempted to uphold the idea that beauty, rather than character, was a woman’s most valuable asset.
  • Briar Rose only speaks two lines in this version, once again reducing the Princess
    • Her lines only reinforced her polite demeanor
      By ending their version of “Sleeping Beauty” with Briar Rose’s awakening and immediate marriage, the Grimms both suggest to their audience that women are helpless without men and also construct a sexist model of female fulfillment
    • Thus, a woman’s source of happiness is solely contingent upon, not what she does in her lifetime, but in obtaining the desire and affection of a man.
      • Additionally, the Grimms reward female passivity with male love and approval.
      • Furthermore, the only females characters with power were the fairies, especially the wicked fairy; associating female power with superhuman status, suggesting that female authority does not belong in the everyday life of a woman.
      • Thus, the Grimms’ tale teaches women to valuephysical beauty over personal character, to view women as helpless without men, to associate feminine passivity with acceptance, assertiveness with rejection, and happiness and fulfillment with being the object of masculine desire