Originally titled “The Sleeping Beauty in the Wood”, it first appeared in Italy in 1636 by Giambattista Basile in his collection Pentamerone.
In this Neapolitan “Sleeping Beauty,” a great king is forewarned by wise men that his newborn daughter, Talia, is in peril from a poison splinter in flax. Although the king bans flax from the palace, Talia, as a young girl, happens upon a flax-spinning wheel and immediately catches a splinter beneath her fingernail, falling dead. Grief-stricken, the king lays his daughter’s body on a velvet cloth, locks the palace gates, and leaves the forest forever. At this point, our modern version and the original diverge. A nobleman, hunting in the woods, discovers the abandoned palace and the sleeping body of the princess. Instead of merely kissing her, he rapes her and departs.
Nine months later, the sleeping Talia gives birth to twins, a boy and a girl. Named Sun and Moon, they are looked after by fairies. One day, the male infant sucks on his mother’s finger and the poisonous splinter is dislodged, restoring Talia to consciousness. Months pass, and the nobleman, recollecting his pleasurable encounter with the fair-haired sleeping beauty, revisits the palace and finds her awake. He confesses to being the father of Talia’s children, and they enjoy a week-long affair before he leaves her again—for his wife, whom he conveniently never mentions.
The original story at this point gets increasingly, if not gratuitously, bizarre. The nobleman’s wife learns of her husband’s bastard children. She has them captured and assigns them to her cook, with orders that their young throats be slashed and their flesh prepared in a stew. Only when her husband has half-finished the dish does she gleefully announce, “You are eating what is your own!” For a time, the nobleman believes he has eaten his children, but it turns out that the tenderhearted cook spared the twins and substituted goat meat. The enraged wife orders that the captured Talia be
burned alive at the stake. But in true fairy tale tradition Sleeping Beauty is saved at the last moment by the father of her children and they lived happily ever after !