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  • Writer's pictureProject Voices

Karla Sahin

I’m Karla Sahin from Needham, MA, and I wrote this revisionist fairy tale to evolve the narrative around our ‘classic’ children's stories. Many fairy tales, such as “Sleeping Beauty” by the Brothers Grimm, are quite gruesome, objectifying, and patronizing if looked at critically in detail. So, in response, I wrote my own version of Sleeping Beauty with a more realistic yet satirical lens.

The Consequence of Fate

As I peer out my castle tower’s window and search the horizon, I see these beautiful sandstone towers peaking out of the forest canopy. Even from afar, the overgrown vine is apparent. Still, the mystery of the palace deep within the forest intrigues me. I’m not quite sure how I could have missed this spectacle before. Perhaps the recent storm caused some surrounding trees to wither and fall, clearing the view.

If only to appease my curiosity, I dig up a map of the forest; although, the laid paper is torn along the edges, and the fading ink is barely legible. I want to learn what type of person lives there. Clearly, they have secrets within the very structure of the stone and a life story plucked from a fairy tale. I desperately want to know more.

The following day, I venture to the only town named on the map. As I laugh at the baker’s joke and admire the swordsmith’s new invention, my curiosity gets the better of me. Her meticulously engraved longswords can’t slice through the mysteries of the overgrown fortress. I can’t help but interrupt and interrogate. One man overhears my question regarding the owner of the castle, and he is desperate to share this long, convoluted history with the world. His voice must not have been used in the past few years as it squeaks out the story. His cane can barely keep up with the twists and turns of his balance and his storytelling.

The man sets the scene with a king and queen gathering around a golden-encrusted banquet to celebrate the miracle of their young newborn girl. Seven fairies joined the feast to grant the girl gifts. Supposedly, they changed her personality into that of an angel, nightingale, or flower. She’s a girl! Why on earth would these random women from across the kingdom come to mold this baby into a passive, idealized present? The swordsmith shares my thoughts with a questioning gaze towards the storyteller, all the while sharpening her new newest blade to perfection.

The young princess was placed within the boundaries of seven wishes, one per fairy. Peculiarly, these fairies only mentioned her beauty, grace, and musical abilities. As a clumsy, average-looking man myself, I hardly consider those to be the supreme principles of life.

The frail man pauses, stares into the distance, and shakes his head before whispering the next plot twist. An old, forgotten fairy breached the castle’s walls. Seeing no golden tableware set for her, she grew tense and glared heatedly at the famed child. The fairy fabricated the girl into her villain, the reason the fairy was not initially recognized. In an effort to punish the girl’s high regard, the fairy mandated, “When the princess is seventeen years old, she shall prick her finger with a spindle, and-she-shall-die!” All because of a damn plate. I understand the desire for luxurious dining. Golden plates remind me of the long conversation between my mother and neighboring royalty. I recall the reflection of my favorite shepherd's pie in the basin of the plate. The golden finish reminds me of the dedication and support our family received from the extraordinary personalities and communities in the nearby towns. At the same time, golden or otherwise, these plates still hold delicious food to sustain and indulge oneself. I vehemently object to the fairy cursing a girl to death because her parents couldn’t procure the same golden tableware as the rest of the guests in the blink of an eye.

Immediately following the fatal wish, the last of the seven original fairies wished for the princess to, instead, fall asleep for a hundred years as she waits for a king’s son to find and awaken her. As soon as the man uttered the final forecast, my eyebrows knit, my nose scrunches, and my jaw hangs low. To force a child to pause her life for a century and passively wait to be saved by a stranger, all to counter an old woman’s pettiness, is absurd and outlandish. Both of the last two wishes subject the young girl to a predetermined fate of death or subjugation due to the elder fairy’s uncalled-for jealousy. Eyes burning with hatred meet mine as the sound of metal scraping metal grew louder and more frequent.

As predicted, the seventeen-year-old princess stumbled upon an elderly woman spinning in a secluded corner of a tower. The wooden door squeaked open when the princess attempted to knock. Inside, candlelight illuminated the dust draping over the table and the spiderwebs creeping from the ceiling beams. After hearing the door’s melody, the spinner paused her humming and looked up from her thread. Enticed by the shine of the spindle, the princess stepped forwards, reaching towards the ominous point.

Blood dripped down her index finger, staining the floor below her. Prickling pain washed over her, causing her whole body to shiver. Her vision blurred and then vanished completely. Still, crumpled on the floor, she remains.

The narrating man sighs and abruptly turns to walk down the uneven road. Even from behind, I can discern that his shoulders droop forwards; although, he walks ever so slightly looser than before his narration.

After overcoming my initial shock, my mind races to create viable solutions to undo the wrongdoings of the past. Between me and the unconscious princess, there is a thick forest known to swallow unsuspecting travelers and harbor creatures born from the nightmares of children. That’s absolutely terrifying! Only one person I know has the experience, knowledge, and bravery that this adventure calls for.

As I bring my mind back to the cobblestone streets, I notice the swordsmith inspecting and collecting her most-prized inventions into a weaponry bag. Recognizing our shared ambition, we made an unspoken agreement to save this woman from a torturous destiny.

Three depleting days and two frighting nights later, rusted gates tower over our heads. The swordsmith offers her hand to me and helps me over the gate. After I stumble down to safety, she scales the fence with ease. Every instance of her skill that I observe heightens my admiration for her.

Overgrown rose bushes prick our calves as we advance to the front door. Once inside the castle, we pause to assess our surroundings. Silence emanates from the broad, barren halls, once filled with the discussions of lawmakers and the laughter of children. Choosing a tower at random, we creep up carpeted stairs that creak at every shift in balance. Finally, approaching a half-open wooden door, I glance at the swordsmith. The determination and conviction her facial features portray alleviates the butterflies fluttering in my stomach.

Three more steps and I spot the hair fanning out across the floorboards. Within the strands of hair, spiders have woven mansions. The grayish skin flakes off as ants complete their daily journey over the body. The legs are bent at an unnatural angle due to the unsuspecting fall. A rotten-egg odor radiates off of the body and the creatures that call it home. The dried blood crusted onto the fingers and nearby surfaces pull a bloodcurdling scream from my throat. Only as I rest my hand on her cheek do I feel her warmth, a dwindling sign of life.


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