FINDING BEAUTY

usse_tower 20161002_122600ussepalace2 20160125_110821delfshavenbLast year, I visited Delfshaven, the quaint town on the edge of Rotterdam that had formed the backdrop for a parallel story that I wrote to accompany my retelling of The Sleeping Beauty. Sleep in Heavenly Peace remains my favourite story that I have written.

While I had researched the story, including taking a look at photographs of the canal-lined terraces, in my writing, much inevitably needed to be imagined. When I strolled around the streets of the pretty neighbourhood last year, I was amazed to discover how close to reality my imagined scenes had been.

The same came true last week when I visited the supposed setting for the original story, Chateau Ussé, close to Tours in Pays de Loire. The author of The Sleeping Beauty, Charles Perault, supposedly stayed and found inspiration for his story here, arriving through the surrounding dark forest at night, when the whole chateau was sleeping.

Today, a display of recreated scenes from the story occupy various rooms in one of the chateau’s towers. These are far removed from what I’d imagined, but the castle’s external appearance, its stables and drawbridge-protected approach, are almost exactly what I had in mind when I last read Perault’s great story.

#SleepingBeauty #Delfshaven

THE PRINCESS AND THE PEA

20161007_155604bedAs a lover of fairy stories, I was thrilled to come across a room that recalled the famous scene from The Princess and the Pea – the one where she’s invited to sleep on top of a large pile of mattresses! This ‘princess’s room’ was a surprise find in a corner of the Abbey of Fontevraud, the resting place of Henri II, Eleanor of Aquitaine, Richard the Lion Heart, and others of the Plantagenet dynasty.

The contemporary story that I wrote in the vein of the popular classic in Fairy Stories & Fairy Stories paid homage to the idea that only someone who was genuine (or, in the case of a princess, of pure blood) could be sensitive enough to tell that a tiny pea had been placed underneath a great heap of bed-wear. For me, this was not a story about some diva complaining about the slightest discomfort, but of someone who had the sharpened quality to discern the finest detail of their environment.

Seeing this great pile caused me to wonder how the princess actually managed to climb on top of what looked like a precariously stacked mountain. This is one little detail that the original storyteller seems to have neglected to mention!

#FairyStory #PrincessAndThePea