Created: 14th August, 2015

The Sleeper and the Spindle

Author: Neil Gaiman
Illustrator: Chris Riddell
Publisher: Bloomsbury

A queen with raven-black hair abandons her wedding day in favour of going on a quest accompanied by three dwarfs. A princess with hair ‘the golden yellow of meadow flowers’ and lips ‘the pink of the roses that climbed the palace walls’ has been sleeping for nigh on a hundred years. What will happen when the two converge? Who is the sleeping girl? Who is the old woman who remains awake in the palace while all others sleep? And what is the history of the queen? The story gives a new slant on two well known fairy tales but leaves the reader to work out what is going on and who the protagonists are. ‘Names are in short supply in this telling.’

The story is not only seductively told but gorgeously enhanced by the black and white illustrations, framed and adorned in fairy gold, which bring out the humour and the horror in the tale. Illuminated letters entwined with rose briars head each section of the story and there are wonderful details to discover such as the skulls – symbols of mortality - on both women’s bedcovers.

See also: Sleeping Beauty. A mid-century fairy tale by David Roberts and Lynn Roberts-Maloney (9781843653394), Pavilion £6.99