Thorn symbolism in Sleeping Beauty

My series, Enchanted Shadows, is not a fairytale retelling, but Sleeping Beauty inspires it. For some, this is one of their least favorite stories, and if they only know the Disney versions . . . I have to agree with their sentiment. The movie is sloooow, and Aurora is asleep for most of it. We should consider it Philip’s story.

But one reason I love the tale is because it has so much symbolism. It seems so simple on the outside, but when you dig deeper, you find meaning behind the spinning wheel, the stairs, deep sleep, and the thorns. There are also the measures a parent might go to protect (or prevent) their child from growing into adulthood . . . but that’s not my topic for today.  

I’m going to focus on the thorns. This was an element that inspired me. No one goes through life without gathering a few scars from the thorns of life. They can serve as positive reminders, too, like a scar gained from a surgery that removed a lump or to teach us to keep from making foolish choices (again) like believing we can really jump to the other side of that creek.

In Sleeping Beauty, the thorns represent both protection and danger. Early in the story, the thorn appears as a harmless, unassuming element in the enchanted forest. However, it foreshadows the troubles to come. The spindle (also a thorn in this moment) pricks Aurora, and her life takes a drastic turn. It is a representation of the struggles that we face in life and the need to persevere to reach our goals.

This is the core idea behind Rune of Secrets. Troubles can be uncomfortable and cause pain. Like a thorn, they create obstacles, hinder progress, disrupt one’s peace of mind, and can give us a prickly nature.

Later in the fairytale, the thorn’s significance is amplified when we discover it is part of the evil fairy’s curse. In Disney’s version, Maleficent calls up a thorn hedge to keep Philip from reaching Aurora during their battle, so it would seem to act as an isolating, restricting barrier. However, in earlier versions of the story, it is the last good fairy who places a thorn hedge around the castle where Aurora sleeps as protection, until only the one to administer “true love’s kiss” can approach her. (This doesn’t work so well in many of the versions, but again . . . not today’s topic)

Versions by Basile and Perrault recount what happens after Sleeping Beauty wakes, and her true love goes back home. She must deal with the repercussions of her loneliness and disconnection with the outside world. As a symbol of transformation, the thorn represents the pain that is necessary for personal growth and the power of adversity to shape us into stronger, more resilient individuals.

Rune of Thorns explores the troubles that can hide beneath the surface, not immediately apparent to others. Problems still lurk within Rowena’s life, relationships, and circumstances, waiting to cause harm or difficulty. She must find her own way through many of them in order to grow. This book also dives deeper into the dark fairy—aka evil sorceress or Maleficent. There are deeper reasons behind her curse. This allows Bram to come forward onto the page more to explore his role as the Seeker.

The thorn is a powerful symbol in Sleeping Beauty. As Rowena navigates through her own thorn-filled forests, we too, can remember that even the darkest of curses can be overcome with perseverance and determination.