Many are familiar with the tale of Sleeping Beauty from the classic Disney movie: a beautiful princess is cursed by a jealous enchantress, then pricks her finger on a spinning wheel and falls into a coma. A handsome prince comes to rescue her by kissing her awake, and they all live happily ever after. While the Disney version is problematic to many modern feminists, the tale of Sleeping Beauty gets even more disturbing as the stories get older.
Three main versions of the story have been published: “Little Briar Rose” by the Brothers Grimm in 1812, “The Sleeping Beauty” by Charles Perrault in 1697, and “Sun, Moon, and Talia” by Giambattista Basile in 1634. The first published version by Basile is the most grotesque of the tales. In “Sun, Moon, and Talia,” the princess faces a similar fate to the Disney film: when she is born, the astrologists of the land prophesize that she will face danger from a splinter of flax, so her father bans all flax from the kingdom. One day once she’s grown up, Talia’s curiosity for an old woman’s spindle leads to her death from a flax splinter to the nail. The father mourns Talia’s death by locking her corpse away in an abandoned castle. Where the story diverges most from our popular understanding of Sleeping Beauty is when the handsome prince gets involved. In Basile’s tale, a king hunting in the woods stumbles upon the castle and finds the princess, who he believes to be asleep. Overcome by her beauty but unable to wake her, the king rapes Talia, then leaves the castle and forgets it ever happened. As if this wasn’t disturbing enough, the princess gives birth to twins nine months later. The children, Sun and Moon, suck the flax from her finger, thereby waking her from her slumber. The king suddenly remembers Talia, returns to the castle, and falls in love with his newfound family, as does Talia. Basile’s story continues with the grotesque actions of the jealous queen, but the core tale is one of rape and pregnancy.
Last year, a news story broke that was particularly horrifying and hauntingly familiar to this original tale. In early 2019, a severely disabled young woman at Hacienda Healthcare in Arizona gave birth unexpectedly, after being raped and impregnated by her nurse. The patient had been nonverbal and bedridden since she was 3; the abuse had been consistent, and she’d likely been pregnant before; and the nurse had provided her care more than a thousand times. While this news story bares thematic similarities to Basile’s “Sun, Moon and Talia,” it is important to note that the patient at Hacienda Healthcare was conscious of her abuse.
In this one act for Olympians, Eteya Trinidad fictionalizes the modern Hacienda Healthcare story and explores the deep cultural wound of forced pregnancy that’s still relevant four hundred years later. The play examines the impact of the violence on secondary characters within the community, through monologues and scenes between parents, friends, coworkers, and spiritual leaders of the victim and the victimizer. Trinidad’s version of Sleeping Beauty is a magic realist, community focused retelling about the abuse of the vulnerable.
SLEEPING BEAUTY by Eteya Trinidad
Staged Reading on November 13, 2020 at the EXIT Theatre
Eteya Trinidad (she/her/hers) is a stage manager, theatrical designer and playwright. This is her second year with Olympians – last year, she wrote a short play about encountering sexual trauma flashbacks in the bedroom, inspired by Sirona, the Celtic goddess of healing. Her full-length play, La Sirena, was a finalist for the 2019 Bay Area Playwrights Festival and recently received a staged reading at Ross Valley Players. Upcoming projects include Inheritance, a postcolonial ghost story set in an old lumber town, and Men Ain’t Shit: the Pussy Party Extravaganza, a farce. Local companies she’s worked with include Magic Theatre, San Francisco Playhouse, 3Girls Theatre, the Playwrights Foundation, Cutting Ball Theater, Theatre of Yugen, Brava Theater Center, and BATS Improv, among others. Eteya considers San Francisco her second home, her first being in Humboldt County of Northern California. She dreams of living in a cottage-by-the-sea, drinking tea, and adopting a black cat named Nyx.