Let’s talk about Sleeping Beauty. No, let’s talk about Talia. “Sun, Moon, and Talia,” published in Giovanni Batiste Basile’s Il Pentamerone. Let’s talk about consent. Let’s talk about all the little girls who never had the chance to say no.
I could write an analytic paper about all the themes and elements in this story. I could get cute and ranty and give you a snarky list of reasons why it pisses me off. But I’m too upset, right now, for that kind of rant, so let’s skip straight to the part where the story gets interesting.
It doesn’t say how old Talia was when her story begins. Let’s assume that she’s a child. An unmarried Italian princess from a story recorded in the 1600s? Let’s go ahead and assume she’s a little girl. Let’s say fourteen. That’s how old I was, the first time I read this story. I was innocent at fourteen. Naïve. Clueless. More innocent than most fourteen year olds ever get the chance to be. I read this story three times before I realized it was about rape.
She falls asleep. Talia falls asleep, like Sleeping Beauty does, and she wakes up a mother.
Let’s talk about the kind of despicable person who does this kind of despicable thing to some defenseless girl.
He was a king. He was married. He found a comatose child in the woods and had his way with her.
He went home and forgot about her, and she woke to find herself utterly alone with two infants. It was several months before he thought to stop by and check in on his human blow up doll again, and when he found her awake, he took her home.
I could talk a lot about how this scumbag’s poor wife is the villain of the piece, but let’s save that for another day. All you need to know is that she dies in the end, and Talia marries the king and, of course, lives happily ever after.
Let’s talk about young women being manipulated by older men. Let’s talk about the number of girls who were raped while unconscious last year. Let’s talk about the number of girls who were raped, period.
Let’s talk about the number of viral videos the rapists have made about it.
Let’s talk about how children, who have been hurt in one of the worst ways imaginable, who have been violated in the cruelest possible way, are afraid to tell people what happened. Let’s talk about how many real life Talias have been blamed for waking up with two children, and let’s talk about how many of them would go home with the king because they’re afraid to do anything else.
Let’s talk about how this story, in which the rapist gets to live happily ever after with his victim, is four hundred years old. Four. Hundred. Years. Kingdoms have risen and fallen. We’ve gone through slavery, and suffrage, and we’ve done all these things that are supposed to make the world better—we have made the world better, in some ways, but something that was acceptable in fiction four hundred years ago still happens in real life, like it’s no big deal, every single day.
Lives are destroyed. People are hurt in so many ways, people lose their agency, people get pregnant and get STDs, and no one cares enough to stop it.
Newsflash: when the newspaper reads like seventeenth century Italy, you’re doing something wrong.
I will defend fairy tales to the death, but I won’t pretend they don’t have issues. So let’s take this opportunity to learn something. Forget about the monsters. Kill Prince Charming.
This isn’t a fairy tale. This is real life. And the rapist lives happily ever after in both.