I was reading an interesting thread on Ravelry today, which really struck me given my recent infatuation with spinning yarn. We're all pretty familiar with the tale of Sleeping Beauty, who pricked her finger on a spindle and fell into her infamous slumber. The question was posed - what part of the spinning wheel did Sleeping Beauty actually prick herself on? I don't have a spinning wheel myself (although my husband seems to be warming to the concept in the future) so I was quite intrigued by the answers people had. It would seem that this has been intriguing quite a few people for a while, including someone who has been making a concerted effort to prick her finger on a variety spinning wheels...for historical purposes of course!
It would seem that there are various possible answers, given that fairy tales form new meanings through time and with translation between languages.
Some say that in the original written versions of the story, Sleeping Beauty was cursed by a spindle (as in a drop spindle), because spinning wheels weren't yet invented at that time. It has also been said that she originally pricked her finger while sewing and the spinning wheel was brought into the story during Victorian times. There has also been some question as to whether it was the spindle itself that was cursed and the simple act of her touching it was what caused her to fall into her sleep, rather than the act of pricking her finger. Foreign versions of the story from the 1500's say that the prick to her finger actually came from a splinter in the flax being spun.
While the best known version of this story is most likely the tale that Disney has told, the accuracy of the spinning wheel causing Beauty to prick her finger can be questioned, as more modern spinning wheels do not really have anything particularly sharp on them that could cause that type of injury. However, wheels that are not quite so modern have quills that apparently can be quite sharp.
Granted, we will most likely never really know what exactly happened to poor Princess Aurora, but knowing that the king and queen burned all the spinning wheels in the land is enough to make any spinner cringe.
If any of you have insight into this fairy tale, I would be intrigued to hear what you know so please feel free to comment! Next I think I'll be doing some reading on Rumpelstiltskin.