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A Sleeping Beauty Question - Who outranks whom?

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#1 Leigh Witchel

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Posted 29 June 2002 - 10:13 PM

I was rereading an old essay of mine on Sleeping Beauty, and in it I stated rather confidently that the Lilac Fairy "outranks" both Carabosse and the King. I'd like to check on that assertion. The hierarchy of humans in Beauty is obvious, but what about Fairies? Is the supernatural world in fealty to the mortal world, the other way around, or are they simply independent?

Anyone care to venture an opinion, or show some textual evidence?

#2 Jane Simpson

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Posted 30 June 2002 - 02:15 AM

One of my favourite things in the Kirov's new/old Beauty is the shock and dismay the King registers when his wife kneels to Carabosse in the Prologue - implying that in his view at least, human royalty definitely outranks a Fairy, however grand.

#3 Mel Johnson

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Posted 30 June 2002 - 03:35 AM

Antony Tudor used to, on what documentation I know not, assert that the Lilac Fairy was the eldest of the fairies, but I believe that she's only the eldest of the Six. Carabosse is older, as in the mime which was supposed to say, "Where is the Old Fairy?" To which Catalabutte replies, "She is so old, and nobody has heard from her in years. She must be dead." (paraphrasing the libretto)

Assuming that Fairy Prerogative is a lot like Royal Prerogative in Russia, as it existed then, the fact that Carabosse's original curse cannot be undone by a junior member of the Fairy Family, but a stay or modification may be worked on it is significant. There was no court system that would take on the right of an Autocrat in Russia, but another member of the Imperial Family might stay or modify a ruling by the Tsar, leaving them to fight it out over the supper table, I guess.

As to Fairy/Royal rank, there are two schools of thought, one being that immortals always outrank mortals, but an objection may be made to that point on the piece of mime quoted above. The other is, that whatever the Fairies' qualifications, the Royals have been chosen by God himself, so outranking everybody!:D

#4 Alexandra


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Posted 30 June 2002 - 07:34 AM

Ah, but fairies predate God :)

Thanks for that, Mel. I'd forgotten that mime speech of Catalabutte's. We must quote it every time someone suggests that this or that choregrapher is good for the company because it drives the old people out of the Theater.

#5 Mel Johnson

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Posted 30 June 2002 - 08:49 AM

Sounds like a C.S. Lewis question: "How did the Judeo-Christian God fulfill/supplant the Pagan?":)

In these days of mime-challenged full-lengths, it's always wise to check with what was originally intended. Often, in productions today, that speech is cut out, and the King's reaction is delayed until the elements announce the arrival of Carabosse! He then merely scans the guest list, and throws the scroll down in a fury. It often gets lost in the scramble at Carabosse's entrance.:)

#6 John-Michael



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Posted 13 July 2002 - 03:42 PM

According to Mme. d'Aulnoy's fairy tales fairies can never act in direct opposition against each other. Supposedly they must all be equal. You'll note, as well, that the Lilac Fairy doesn't counteract Carabosse's court but simply softens it.

#7 Mel Johnson

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Posted 14 July 2002 - 04:33 AM

Yes, but Mme. d'Aulnoy was Mme. d'Aulnoy, and this is Perrault, and more, Perrault modified to fit the court etiquette of the Romanovs, which had grown nearly as bizarre as the Bourbon variety. The whole purpose of Beauty is to celebrate the rightness and perfection of autocracy and absolutism, so a command from a superior cannot be undone by a subordinate, but it can be modified!;)

#8 Nanatchka


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Posted 14 July 2002 - 05:26 AM

If the fairies can die ("The old fairy's dead") then they are not, like the Greek gods, or the Tsar's God, immortal. They are simply living in a different time frame. This would explain age taking precedence, just as it does in Royal families. (The Duke is dead, long live the Duke.) The most beautiful Lilac scene I know was made for Kyra Nichols by Peter Martins. (Yes, yes, it is ravishing.) Lilac travels though mist on a boat, and her port de bras casts a spell. Thus Lilac mitigates the nasty curse of Carabosse in the same way that watching Kyra dance always mitigated the nastiness of real life. The whole deal is emblematic, isn't it?

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