As discussed in last week’s post, Pamela L. Travers did not see Sleeping Beauty as “simply a pretty girl waiting for a lover”. Yet, she affirmed that all fairy tales about princesses and princes are stories “speaking to us of love, laying down patterns and examples for all our human loving”. What is then Sleeping Beauty’s pattern? And how did Pamela L. Travers relate to that pattern?
Isn’t it significant that an old woman (Pamela was in her mid-seventies when she wrote “About the Sleeping Beauty” and that, after some ten years or so of research and “brooding”) was so fascinated by a story about a little girl stuck at the threshold of maidenhood? Isn’t Sleeping Beauty just that, a girl who must, according to the laws of time, leave the protective walls of her childhood to embrace her new identity as a maiden. This is somewhat of an obvious interpretation of the story and yet it remained in Pamela L. Travers’s blind spot. Instead, she pondered about the nature of a mysterious something that falls asleep after childhood, echoing the teachings of her spiritual teacher Gurdjieff (see last week’s post). It just never occurred to her that Sleeping Beauty’s sleep could also represent the inability of the princess to move on to the next stage of her life. The princess needed some convincing, some reassurance that it was safe and worth the effort to awaken to life as a woman. The princess needed a prince. And so did Pamela (or more accurately Lyndon), she needed and hoped for help to come from the outside and guide her from the inner maze of her subconscious mind back into the light of life.
♥ We discussed in a previous post Pamela’s peculiar relationship to names and how she said she trembled inside when people used her real name. Can we see then Pamela L. Travers as Lyndon’s castle walls and the unresolved issues from her childhood as the ingredients of the spell of sleep? Could it be that little Lyndon was waiting for someone to come and help her cross over to the other side of her infantile ego and free her from the grip of her survival fears?
Can we go even further and extract from Pamela’s retelling her ideal of romantic love? That is a legitimate question, to which my answer is: We can most certainly try. For that purpose, we need to examine the character of the prince in Pamela’s retelling and the details around Sleeping Beauty’s awakening.
The prince in the original fairy tale is an atypical hero because he is pretty much the only hero in the land of fairy tales to have no special deed to perform nor any danger to face. All he has to do is to show up at the right place at the right time.
Of course, Pamela, versed in fairy-tale and myth, noticed this peculiarity and labored to find a meaning to this strange state of fairy tale affairs. Her interpretation though is quite disappointing: “to chose the moment when the time is ripe is essentially a hero deed.” But how can a hero choose the right time for the awakening of someone else? How can he know what goes on in Sleeping Beauty’s unconscious mind? That cannot be the right interpretation!
Apparently unsatisfied by the prince’s lack of courage display, Pamela decided to elaborate on the nature of his quest to justify his role in the story. Her prince tells the woodcutter, who warns him of the deadly nature of the endeavour of crossing the hedge of thorns: “I am indeed, all unarmed. But all my life, without ceasing, I have bent my thought to this quest.”
And can you blame him? The princess has all the virtues one can wish for and thus embodies the prototype of the perfect woman, except that her sleep makes her unavailable. And what man would not want to posses the perfect woman? According to Pamela the prince’s quest is not only to awaken the princess to life and make her his wife but also to serve her. These are, as ascribed by Pamela, the prince’s thoughts at the sight of Sleeping Beauty:
“He knew himself to be at the center of the world, and that, in him, all men stood there, gazing at their heart’s desire-or perhaps their inmost selves.”
“Silently, he vowed to serve the accomplishment as he had served the quest.”
And what did Pamela’s Sleeping Beauty do as soon as she received the prince’s kiss? She opened her eyes and said: “I have been dreaming about you…now my dream has come true.”
Now, this is of course Pamela talking, the same Pamela that affirmed in the Afterword that Sleeping Beauty was not waiting for her lover….
♥Could it be that, unconsciously, the couple of Sleeping Beauty and her prince represented for Pamela the prototype of perfect love? A prince that would devote his entire life to his princess, from finding her and awakening her to life to serving her into the happily ever after. Is it possible that little Lyndon hoped for somebody who would come and save her from her survival fears? Someone who will see himself in her and in return would worship her. Isn’t her retelling of the story suggesting of a co-dependant pattern? I wish I could talk about this with Pamela herself, alas…
Before we conclude this post it is worth mentioning that to underline the erotic symbolism in the story Pamela L. Travers gave the princess a name, Rose, reminiscent of the five-petaled flower sacred to the Celtic White Goddess, the erotic briar rose. She also gave princess Rose pet companions:
a dove which in myth was sacred to Aphrodite, the Greek Goddess of love; and a cat which was sacred to Freya, Aphrodite Nordic counterpart. To these a lizard is added, not merely to provide the necessary fairy tale third but to be assimilated to the symbol of the spindle which is nothing if not erotic.
But that was about all she had to say on this subject. For those who are interested in the erotic symbolism in this fairy, here is a link to an interesting blog post by Hunter Jones: Unravelling the Sexual Mystique of Sleeping Beauty.
In next week’s post we will discuss the possible causes of the princess’s inability to consciously walk into her new identity as a maiden and the reasons for her need for the prince’s help. Hope you stay tuned and come back to meet with the characters of the Sultan, Sultana and the wicked Thirteenth Wise Woman.