The Prince finally made it to the sleeping Princess, and gazed down at her beauty before bending to kiss her red lips. She awoke at once, and looked up into the eyes of the young man that she had fallen in love with in the forest. He smiled down at her, and as he did so, she noticed that his face was changing.
The eyebrows were growing black, bushy and closer together. Astonished, she looked down to his eyes, which were now hard and grey. His fine nose had filled out to become large and red, his face had sprouted coarse black whiskers, and his hair was now long and shaggy. Horrified, the Princess backed away from him, half sitting on up on the bed, scrabbling backwards with her hands.
His smile broadened, showing a set of filthy yellow broken teeth. It was the face of her worst nightmares.
“Who … who are you?” she asked in a tiny little voice.
“I am the true ruler of this land,” he boomed, “trapped for twenty-six long years in the body of a wimpy prince by the wicked Queen who feared my power. Only true love’s kiss could restore me to my true form. And now, my pretty, it is done! I can be powerful again! And you … you shall be my slave!”
The princess sobbed as the monster laughed cruelly, reaching out for her. She leapt from the bed, edging around the room away from him.
“What’s wrong, my pretty? Don’t you love me any more?” He laughed again, and made another lunge. She side-stepped and he lurched into the wall.
Noticing the spinning wheel out of the corner of her eye, the Princess had an idea. Keeping her terrified eyes on the monster, she edged towards it. He followed, still laughing, his yellow teeth glinting foully in the candlelight. Stopping in front of the spinning wheel, she took a deep breath and faced him.
“You will never own me!” she cried.
“Oh, won’t I?” roared the monster and lunged again. Swiftly, she side-stepped and the monster stumbled into the spinning wheel. He flung his hairy arms out to stop himself and as he did so, one finger landed on the spindle and a drop of blood oozed out. His mouth opened in a wide ‘o’ and his shocked grey eyes briefly met the princess’s before they closed. He fell back onto the bed with a mighty thump and began to snore.
The princess ran to the door and opened it. Candles guttered on the walls showing an empty corridor. She ran down it, through the castle and out of the main gate. The thicket of grey thorns protecting the castle faced her and for a moment she despaired. A white dove flew in front of her, and following its flight she spotted the path that had been roughly hewn by the ‘prince’ as he made his way to her.
She raced towards it and started to push her way through, the thorns catching on her dress as she ran. Stopping to disentangle herself, she noticed that the thorns behind her had grown back over the path. Gasping, she turned and picked up speed, racing as fast as the grasping thorns would allow her, all the time the thorns closing across the gap behind her. Finally, she raced out of the thicket of thorns and stopped, blinking in the sunshine.
There came the sound of a great crowd cheering, and as she saw her Mother and Father smiling at her. Her Father opened his arms, and she ran into them. Hearing laughter behind her, she turned to see the three fairies, and hugged each in turn.
“Where’s the wicked Queen?” she asked.
“She heard that the monster had returned, and she was last seen rowing out to sea with her Raven,” laughed the nearest fairy. Everyone joined in the laughter.
The monster slept on while thorns grew over the whole castle. No true love returned to wake him, and he was never seen again.
But the Princess never trusted men after that. She went back to live with the three fairies in the forest, and they taught her all they knew about magic. She wandered around the forest and came to think of it as her own.
One day, her Mother and Father died and a new King and Queen came to their castle, but they let the Princess continue to live in the wood and they did not disturb her. However, they wished for the three fairies to live with them in the castle, and so with much sorrow, the Princess and the fairies were parted. Months past, and the Princess had little to do but tend to her forest. She became quite possessive, chasing away any poor traveller who accidentally strayed into her wood.
Then the new King and Queen had a baby daughter. Curious to see this new child, the Princess left her woods and went to the christening. The King met her and gently told her that now he had a daughter, he would want her to be able to play freely in the forest, just as the Princess had done.
Suddenly incensed with rage, the Princess cried out,
“If your daughter strays into the forest, she will prick her finger on a thorn and fall into a deep sleep until true love’s kiss awakes her!”
Looking down at the ugly baby, she thought that this was rather unlikely.