We don’t let go of fairy tales. We prod and revisit and deconstruct and disguise them, because every writer was first a child, being told bedtime stories by loving and/or exasperated grown-ups.
Most fairy tales begin while you’re tucked in bed and sent off to sleep for what seems like forever, so it makes sense that “Sleeping Beauty” is one of the all-time hits. And she makes lots of guest apperances! The ungrateful, racist girl that Prince Bumpo falls for in Hugh Lofting’s “The Story of Doctor Dolittle” is none other than Sleeping Beauty. Alfred, Lord Tennyson gave the tale a try in a long poem called “The Day-Dream”:
“‘O eyes long laid in happy sleep!’
‘O happy sleep, that lightly fled!’
‘O happy kiss, that woke thy sleep!’
‘O love, thy kiss would wake the dead!’“
Sleeping Beauty and her castle of dreams are at the center of “The Curse of Brambly Hedge,” the graphic novel that preludes Linda Medley’s “Castle Waiting” series.
Medley has the rare, fairy-given gift of writing and drawing with equal confidence: the villagers in her charming town have as much character as her whimsical narration. But what’s amazing about her re-telling of Sleeping Beauty is how it manages to hit every single familiar beat while standing apart, particularly from the Disney adaptation, whose influence would seem inescapable. And yet there are no bizarre effects here; it’s the sweet fairy tale exactly as you remember, perhaps funnier but never sarcastic or parodic. She doesn’t lap on the pop jokes (like some desperate Dreamworks cartoon), or shrilly highlight all the icky subtext, (I’m thinking recent movies by Julia Leigh and Catherine Breillat, both provocative misfires.)
I wonder what’s waiting in the castle, and intend to find out.
In 1998 Linda Medley won the Eisner Award for Talent Deserving of More Recognition, but since then “Castle Waiting” has had such a haphazard publishing history that it might as well have been cursed by some malevolent force at its inception.