What: We are so glad that Neil Gaiman, of the incredible The Graveyard Book, and other graphic novels, decided to relook at the traditional fairy tale of The Sleeping Beauty. The result — The Sleeper and the Spindle is typical of Gaiman’s works where fantasy meets folklore and is assisted by eerily beautiful illustrations by Chris Riddell.
In The Sleeper and the Spindle, it’s not just a princess who is cursed with sleep but the entire kingdom is put to sleep, with the evil sleep spreading across the borders
The queen is hinted to be Snow White who travels with dwarves for company and there is also a mention of her suffering from a curse in the past.
How: You know it’s not your prince meets princess fairy tale at the start, when a queen leaves for a quest on her wedding day to save her kingdom. This questioning of stereotypical gender roles played in typical lore is reiterated again when the sleeping (apparent) beauty is kissed by the queen instead of a prince. While hints of the queen being Snow White are dropped throughout the book (the dwarves worship her still), the princes are left out of the drawing board: one abandoned on his wedding day, and many killed on their quest to reach the sleeping princess.
Though beautiful with flowing locks and innocent eyes, Riddell and Gaiman portray the leading women with a powerful edge (not just through the text) — be it the queen’s love for adventure and her chain mail (paired with flower in the hair) or the dark secret behind the sleeping princess who lies on a bed of skulls.
The story gets readers to relook at the tale of The Sleeping Beauty especially by not trusting what is set before the eyes and diverting from stereotypical descriptions of witches and evil women in tales.
Where: The Sleeper and the Spindle, Neil Gaiman, illustrated by Chris Riddell, Bloomsbury, Rs 450, available at leading bookstores.
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