Sleeping Beauty as Female Erotica

Female Erotica Trilogy about Sleeping Beauty by Anne Rice under pen name A.N. Roquelaure

In 1983, Anne Rice, writing as A.N. Roquelaure, began the first installment of the trilogy that is now considered a forerunner of erotic literature

  • According to fans, the novels are very graphic
  • The beginning of the story remains intact, Beauty is in a deep slumber but little background is provided because Rice assumes that readers have previous knowledge of the tale.
  • Books in Chronological Order
    • The Claiming of Sleeping Beauty: No Longer a Prisoner of Sleep, She is Locked in Sensual Love
    • Beauty’s Punishment: Banished From Love, She Learns the Erotica of Discipline
    • Beauty’s Release: Once Pleasure’s Play Thing, Now Love’s Willing SlaveRice 1

      Rice 2

      Rice 3

      Anne Rice explains why she chose to write the story of Sleeping Beauty as female erotica:

      I’ve always loved the fairy tale Sleeping Beauty, and found something erotic at its core. The Prince awakens Beauty with a kiss. And I thought, all right, what if he brought a kind of liberation, an induction into a world of bizarre yet irresistible delights? It has to be remembered that within the frame of a sadomasochistic fantasy like the Beauty trilogy, the readers are invited to identify with and enjoy the predicament of the slaves. The books aren’t about literal cruelty; they’re about surrender, the fun of imagining you have no choice but to enjoy sex. Beauty’s slavery is delicious, sensuous, abandoned, and ultimately liberating. This is all part of the framework. And it seemed to work exquisitely with the old fairy tale. And of course the fairy tale removes us from everyday life; it removes us from the intrusion of garish headlines, literal violence, and all the ugliness of crime. We go into a gilded dream here, luscious and engulfing, in which we’re free to imagine all sorts of things—a fairy-tale world indeed.

      As discussed in class, fairy tales often become the center of perversion due to its inherently dark and sexual underbellies.  Pornography and Erotica are not far cries from fairy tales, especially a tale such as Sleeping Beauty where a beautiful girl is taken advantage of in numerous ways.

      To Read Summaries of Each Book Check out:

Sleeping Beauty Through the Ages

Sleeping Beauty Through the Ages

Sarah S. Semsar

The Quarante Club Prize

“When considering the various versions of the tale of Sleeping Beauty, it becomes essential to search for feminist elements and gender roles illustrated in the texts throughout time”

According to Semsar,

  • Perrault’s version is viewed as the foundation of patriarchal view
  • However
    • Post Feminism Movement in U.S. led to the creation of feminist adaptations
      • 1st wave feminism: Anne Thackeray Ritchie’s Victorian-era version of Sleeping Beauty, found in Nina Auerbach’s collection of Victorian women’s fairy tales, represents an example of first-wave feminism in fairytale literature.
      • 2nd wave feminism: Additionally, Angela Carter’s version of Sleeping Beauty, “The Lady of the House of Love,” could easily be described as a second- wave feminist piece (as discussed by Breanne)
  • Ritchie’s piecewas published in the mid to late 1800s.
    • Although primarily traditional, some elements of a first-wave feminist perspective are present.
    • According to Dr. Susan Mann, the first wave of feminism

      “focused primarily on the surge of women’s rights activism beginning in the 1830s” (415).

  • Protagonist Cecelia’s sleeping curse represents her

    “confined civility and lack of socialization with the opposite sex or even the same sex”

  • Cecelia lives in isolation for 25 years where she engages in rigorous social training.
    • In fact, Ritchie depicts Cecelia’s average day as rather boring filled with rigidly structured events in which dinner bells are utilized and and passionless practicing of piano playing occurs.

Critic Manuela Mouroa argues that although,

“Ritchie never openly embraced a feminist identity,” she explores the social conditioning of Victoria-era women (57)

Gender-Specific Themes

 “Ritchie mocks the female passivity that so attracted Victorian males to the sleeping beauties they tried to awaken with a kiss” (Auerbach 15).

  • Throughout the piece, Cecelia seems relatively against marriage, suggests that,

“she may not ever marry.”

  • In the end though, she ultimately embraces traditional female roles via seeking a husband, settling down, and having children.

    According to Semsar, these revisions reflect the society and cultural norms of their era.  Moreover,

    In Perrault’s version, there are clear classical pre-revolutionary ideas of patriarchy and gender-specific ideals of female passivity. In Ritchie’s “Sleeping Beauty,” the heroine emits a stronger sense of self and speaks out to her elder’s about her wishes, yet she still submits to society’s demands. Ritchie’s piece is one of early feminist post-Victorian thinking.

  • Thus, depicting the beginning stages of the feminist drive to revise Sleeping Beauty.

Grimm Brothers Version Analyzed

Grimm Brothers’ Little Briar Rose

Briar Rose

  • Beauty offered by fairy 2nd to virtue so still important but slightly less so
  • Princes, who had heard about the beautiful Brier-Rose, came and tried to rescue her

Many princes had tried to penetrate the hedge to get to the wonderfully beautiful princess but that they had gotten stuck in the thorns and had been pricked to a miserable death

  • Prince who does succeed=brave and strong

    “I’m not afraid of that,” said the prince. “I shall penetrate the hedge and free the beautiful Brier-Rose.”

  • Manages to do so andis amazed by her beauty
    • So much so that her beauty compelled him to bend over and kiss her, which awoke her.
  • Kisses without consent–>Disney must have borrowed from this version in addition to the moral of the French version

“Then the prince and Brier-Rose got married, and they lived long and happily until they died”

  • No mention of sex or children and happenedto be an oddly short version for the brothers
    •  Must have been an early version because, as we learned, they often revised and added more gruesome details.

Perrault’s Version Deconstructed

Charles Perrault’s Sleeping Beauty in the Wood

  • First fairy bestows the gift of beautyonto the princess
    •  She will be the most beautiful person in the world;
      • Therefore instilling the notion that beauty is the most important ideal since it is the first thing given

        One would have taken her for a little angel, she was so very beautiful; for her swooning away had not diminished one bit of her complexion; her cheeks were carnation, and her lips were coral

        The youngest fairy gave the Princess her first gift

  • Male Rescuer, therefore the Princess is unknowingly still a damsel in distress
    • She is reserved for a King’s son
    • Woman=object reserved for man’s consumption

“Assure yourselves, O King and Queen, that your daughter shall not die of this disaster. It is true, I have no power to undo entirely what my elder has done. The princess shall indeed pierce her hand with a spindle; but, instead of dying, she shall only fall into a profound sleep, which shall last a hundred years, at the expiration of which a king’s son shall come and awake her'”


When a hundred years were gone and passed the son of the king then reigning, and who was of another family from that of the sleeping princess, being gone a hunting on that side of the country”


  • She is gift to be given for a man’s admirable wait

When the princess awaked, she looked at the prince with eyes more tender than the first view might seem to admit of.

“Is it you, my prince?” said she to him. “You have waited a long while.”

  • Wait as in a sexual reference
    • Preservation of virginity for it is the most beautiful gift to give to the right man
    • Again GIVING to a man
  • Again similar to snow white description wise and preserved; in this they know she will wake, in snow white they didn’t know and encased her due to her beauty.
  • Princess given much more of a voice when she wakes up then other revisions, they spend a great deal of time talking.


  • Kind

    “Indeed, her eyes were shut, but she was heard to breathe softly, which satisfied those about her that she was not dead. The king commanded that they should not disturb her, but let her sleep quietly till her hour of awaking was come”

Prince (later becomes King)

  • Brave/Adventurous

“a young and amorous prince is always valiant”

“a princess, who appeared to be about fifteen or sixteen years of age, and whose bright and, in a manner, resplendent beauty, had somewhat in it divine. He (Prince) approached with trembling and admiration, and fell down before her upon his knees

“he assured her that he loved her better than he did himself”

  • How do you love someone you don’t know?
    • Solely on physical appearance–>importance of beauty reinforced
    • Declaring his love resolves that they can become intimate?
      • Well of course it does, but at least its better than raping her I suppose since the Princess awakens simply upon him dropping to his knees beside her bed.

and after supper, without losing any time, the lord almoner married them in the chapel of the castle, and the chief lady of honor drew the curtains. They had but very little sleep — the princess had no occasion; and the prince left her next morning to return to the city”

Therefore, Recipe for Sex:

  • Step 1: Love
  • Step 2: Marriage
  • Step 3: Consummate Marriage

Next logical step is to have children

  • Eldest-daughter inferior to brother
  • Youngest-son superior to sister

    daughter, was named Morning, and the youngest, who was a son, they called Day, because he was a great deal handsomer and more beautiful than his sister

  • The Queen is about to kill her Daughter-in-law and grandchildren as well as everyone who helped deceive her
  • King arrives on horseback and rescues his wife, children, and help
  • Queen kills herself and:

    “The king could not but be very sorry, for she was his mother; but he soon comforted himself with his beautiful wife and his pretty children”

    • Wife and Children as reward
  • Male is once again represented in a more positive manner than the female


  • Horrible, distrustful, cruel, cannibalisticnatureofanogress:
    • Wants to eat her grandchildren and daughter-in-law and chef spares them and tricks her again
      • Male chef once again as rescuer
  • Wolves mentioned as terribly mad creatures who eat all 3 of them
    • Or at least this is the devious lie the Queen plans to tell her son upon his homecoming to justify the death of this beloveds.

Sun, Moon, and Talia Analyzed

Sun, Moon, and Talia by Giambattista Basile

sun, moon, etc
An analysis of the characters’ portrayal:


  • Rapist
  • Adulterer
    • Not only does he rape a sleeping Talia aka somnophilia, but he also commits adultery against his wife and impregnates Talia.


  • Jealous/Enraged
    • “she became hot with another kind of heat than the sun’s”
  • Vengeful/Manipulative
    • She threatens to kill the secretary if he does not inform her what is going on with her husband who she suspects is cheating
    • She employs that the secretary retrieve the twins
  • Cannibal
    • She wishes they be retrieved in order to kill and eat them

Then the queen, with a heart of Medea, told the cook to kill them, and to make them into several tasteful dishes for her wretched husband. But the cook was tender hearted and, seeing these two beautiful golden apples, felt pity and compassion for them, and he carried them home to his wife, and had her hide them. In their place he prepared two lambs into a hundred different dishes

  • Cold-hearted, unreasonable
  • Greedy, Attempted murderer
    • Wants Talia’s belongings when attempting to kill her and of course the belongings are clothing which are material items of status, including pearls and an embroidered dress
  • Accusatory
    • Queen accuses Talia of being a promiscuous so she attempts to excuse herself of the accusation, claiming that it was not her fault, because the king, her (the Queen’s) husband had:

Taken possession of her territory when she was drowned in sleep; but the queen would not listen to her excuses, and had a large fire lit in the courtyard of the palace, and commanded that Talia should be cast into it.

Queen is similar to the Queen represented in Snow White

  • Jealous, seeking to murder, desires to eat the bodies in proof of their death.
    • However, in both cases someone pities the innocent and saves them then tricks the Queen into thinking they fulfilled the dirty deed–>almost always a MALE figure as rescuer.
      • Chef=male in this tale, huntsman male in Snow White.

Story Ending:

  • Talia survives, when the King arrives–>King as rescuer
  • Queen kills hersel

    He married Talia to wife; and she enjoyed a long life with her husband and her children, thus experiencing the truth of the proverb:

“Those whom fortune favors find good luck even in their sleep.”

Personally, I wouldn’t call being raped and forced to unknowingly give birth and become a mother, a mistress, and later a wife good luck.

All in all, Talia had NO agency of her body or life.


12 Facts About Walt Disney’s Film Sleeping Beauty

Sleeping Beauty
  1. Walt Disney’s Sleeping Beauty turns 55 this year 
  2. Perrault called his heroine Aurora, while  the Grimms’ “Little Briar Rose” referred to their princess as Briar Rose so Disney split the difference and used both names. 
  3. Prince Phillip is said to have been named after another royal that Americans would have been familiar with during that time period: Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, the husband of Queen Elizabeth II. They had only been married for 12 years at the time Sleeping Beauty was released, and she had been Queen for just seven. 
  4. The gifts the seven fairies bestowed in Perrault’s tale were beauty, wit, grace, dance, song, and music. In Disney’s Sleeping Beauty, this was reduced to beauty and song from 3 quirky fairies. 
  5. Mary Costa, the voice of Sleeping Beauty, is a professional opera singer and has performed in more than 40 operatic roles on stage but her southern accent almost prevented her from getting the job.Mary Costa
  6. Helene Stanley was the live action reference. She also served as the reference for Cinderella and Anita from 101 Dalmatians.  See her in the live action video below

  7. Audrey Hepburn’s features and body type also inspired Princess Aurora’s appearance.
    Audrey Hebburn
  8. Although it’s a classic now, Sleeping Beauty was not a darling at the time. Critics thought the movie moved slowly and lacked character development. 
  9. In fact, Sleeping Beauty was such a box office bomb (at least, compared to the cost of production) that the company decided that princess movies weren’t exactly the wave of the future. They didn’t make another princess movie until 30 years later, when The Little Mermaidwas released in 1989. 
  10. It took six years to bring Princess Aurora and friends to life was that Walt was kinda sidetracked with another project at the time: Disneyland. In fact, the castle there was originally supposed to be named after the original Disney princess, Snow White, but in order to promote the film, Imagineers changed it to Sleeping Beauty Castle.Disneyland
  11. The fairytale book that opens the movie was real and was entirely handpainted by Eyvind Earle, the man responsible for the entire look and feel of the movie. It was restored in 2008 and is now part of the Disney Archives, where it is sometimes put on display at events.Beauty Book
  12. Walt worried about the comparisons to Snow White and Cinderella, so he worked hard to create a stylized, angular Sleeping Beauty look which is it took 6 years and 6 million dollars to create the film.


Three Versions Compared

Quick and Dirty Guide to Similarities and Differences Between Perreault, Grimm, and Disney Revisions:

Element Charles Perrault (1696) Brothers Grimm (1812) Walt Disney  Film (1959)
King and Queen want a child Yes Yes Yes
Prophetic Frog predicts the birth of a daughter No Yes No
Daughter born and a celebration held, and the princess is betrothed to a prince Yes – celebration, no – not betrothed Yes – celebration, no – not betrothed Yes – daughter named Aurora and betrothed to Prince Phillip
Number of Fairies/ Wise Women 7 invited, 1 not invited

Fairies asked to be Godmothers 12 invited 1 not invited

Wise Women 3 invited, 1 not invited

Gifts bestowed Beauty, angelic temperament, grace, dancing, singing, music Virtue, beauty, wealth “and so on” Beauty, song
Fairies raise princess in the forest No No Yes. They call her Briar Rose, they don’t tell her of her true identity until she is 16
Who had the spinning wheel? An old woman An old woman The evil fairy, Maleficent
Age at which the princess pricks her finger on a spindle 15 or 16 15 16
Fairies responsible for putting the rest of the castle to sleep, King and Queen amongst those that fall asleep Yes, 1 fairyThe King and Queen are not amongst those that fall asleep. They leave the castle. No, fairies not responsibleYes, King and Queen fall asleep Yes, 3 fairiesYes, King and Queen fall asleep
Time  for which princess sleeps 100 years 100 years A short while
Hedge grows around the castle Yes Yes Yes, but only when Maleficent is trying to stop Prince Phillip from saving Aurora
Princes die in the hedge No Yes No
A prince comes to rescue princess and the hedge opens for him Yes and the hedge opens for him. Yes and the hedge opens for him. Yes, Prince Phillip.
He has to cut through the hedge with a sword.
Prince has to fight someone No No Yes, Price Phillip has to fight and kill Maleficent
Princess woken with a kiss No, she wakes up when the prince kneels down beside her Yes Yes – true love’s kiss
Second part to the story with the prince’s mother, the ogress Yes No No

Origins of Sleeping Beauty

Although there are numerous versions of Sleeping Beauty, the three original versions include:

  • Sun, Moon, and Talia by Giambattista Basile (1636)
  • La Belle au Bois Dormant by Charles Perrault (1696)
  • “Dornroschen” (Briar Rose) by Brothers Grimm (1812)
  • Earliest Recorded Version: is believed to be L’histoire de Troylus et de la belle Zellandine which appeared in the 14th Century French romance Perceforest by an anonymous author (Zipes 2001: 684).
    • Like most fairy tales, the earliest versions of Sleeping Beauty were written for adults, and were often unsuitable for children.
  • Biblical Influence: Sleeping Beauty may be the result of a corruption of a popular Christian miracle story found in the New Testament of the Bible (Luke 8:52-55 where Jesus restores Jairus’ daughter to life) (Goldthwaite 1996: 53).
  • Greek Mythology Influence: may have played a role in the development of the tale, in particular the gifts the fairies bestow on the princess such as beauty, sweetness, grace, dance, song, music which are gifts “traditionally dispensed by the Three Graces of Greek Mythology” (Goldthwaite 1996: 52-53).



Disney is Multicultural


For so long there have been critiques of Disney by having predominantly Caucasian lead characters in their animated films. Disney stands by their belief in equality and putting their somewhat questionable racial background behind them. They have created leads from multiple backgrounds such as Mulan, Jasmine, Pocahontas, Tiana, Mowgli and Esmeralda.

But this blogger took that to a new level. They transformed the Caucasian princesses into other ethnicities. Princesses Aurora (Sleeping Beauty) was transformed into an African American woman.

What I think is most captivating about these transformations is that had the characters looked that way the story would not have changed as they looked just as beautiful as the originals. Do you think the story would have changed if these were the faces of our Disney Princesses that adorn our backpacks, bed spreads and vitamin bottles?