Well, here’s a nice turn of things. The bed’s gold and silver and ivory, the coverlets are glass. They may as well be ice. This wasn’t my idea: beds should be welcoming. There’s a piece of flax under my nail, a piece of apple in my mouth, a poisoned comb in my hair; the spindle lies next to the bed, bloodied. I am very beautiful, but this is not sleep, and I hate to think what I’ll dream about.

I am not safe in this bed. The briar hedge, the crystal coffin, the locked room, won’t protect me. I can feel the eyes out there. My lord will dig down through the fairy hill and demand my silent body. My prince will come. The falcon will find me, the old women betray me at every turn.  The stranger will bed me, kiss me, carry me away, lie with me for forty days and nights. Insensible, I’ll bear him children. This is not sleep. You can keep it.

How’s this? I will consent to wake up when the prince has wrapped himself in seven winding sheets and sleeps in his grave in the garden. When he bites the apple. See how he likes the spindle. It’s a test. Princes should be tested.

But I’m only pretending. While he lies here, pale and silent, I’ll be elsewhere, safe as nut-meat in a softer bed. Cotton sheets and a fire in the grate, or maybe tender grass and the moon through trees. Alone. Unwatched. Sleeping.

7 thoughts on “Bedtime”

  1. I really love this! I had Angela Carter’s twisted fairy tales in my head when I started this theme, and this reminds me of her in the best possible way. Its so full of connotations and connections that it makes me want to go and read all those fairy stories again.

    I love the angry feminist tone, and the cleverness of the additional twist of her pretended sleep at the end. It feels a little vicious and made me smile a lot. Thanks very much.

  2. Ah, this is a beautiful and sparkling thing, full of mystery and with little hooks in every myth. I really liked it.

    The references are lovely, and even though I only get a fraction, there is no doubt in my mind that they all link to something rich and real.

    The princess sounds insane to me, like she has been driven wild by all the magic and dangers and suggested rape and more.

    I love some of the turns of phrase – safe as nut-meat, and dig down through the fairy hill.

    The only sentence that does not sit well with me is the one that starts with “I am beautiful” – it seems slightly out of place.

    Thank you, lovely writing!

  3. Our Hero bemoans her fate at being a princess, and at being trapped into the only role allowed to princesses. She imagines the uses that her rescuer will put her to, and thinks of ways to test him if she could. Finally, she decides that it’s better not to be involved with this at all.

    This is a great guide to princess-related fairy tales. I didn’t recognise all of the references (like the flax under the nail) — but it’s been great googling them up. They lend a richness to the story that’s quite captivating.

    > I am very beautiful, but this is not sleep, and I hate to think what
    > I’ll dream about.
    I was unsure how being very beautiful relates to the rest of this sentence, especially with the next portion being beginning with “but”.

    1. Right, interesting that a couple of people have had problems with this bit. I suspect it’s not working because I’m being perfectly obvious, for once, and you’re all digging for layering and stuff :>. I was attacking the idea of the Sleeping Beauty: the speaker might be beautiful, but this isn’t sleep, it’s objectification and lack of agency. In fact, it would probably make more sense to say “I’m not even that beautiful, and this is not sleep.” Or something. I’ll rethink the idea, it needs either complicating or simplifying, not sure which ;>.

      1. For clarification: I totally did not get “Sleeping” and “Beauty” from “I may be beautiful but this is not sleep.”

        I note this because Gah! How could I miss that!?

        I feel very very daft now….

  4. I really enjoyed the idea of discussing the Fairy tale princesses in general.
    Like the evolution of the piece: she starts off trapped inside the arch-type and unhappy; then angry and vengeful; then the yearning for a non-fairytale life.

    Seemed very natural and relevant and in so few words.

  5. Amazing, beautifully written piece (as usual!).
    More references than you can shake a stuffed hamster at, and great progression.
    I particularly liked the ‘Princes should be tested’ bit.

    It is very hard to con crit your stories (because they are awesome).

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