Deerskin: Chapters 1-12

I wasn’t expecting to like reading Deerskin – we knew prior to reading it that there would be incest and sexual assault, so I was admittedly wary. After all, while these are important topics to be aware of, they are also generally sad in nature, and when given the choice I tend to prefer happy reading material as a way to forget about all of the sadness in the world around us. I will admit that I did not have high hopes for Deerskin; I figured it would be a book I would get through, but probably not one I would enjoy.

And I was wrong. Yes, Deerskin is sad, and yes there’s incest and rape and it is probably the most disturbing story we have read so far – not simply for its content, but for the manner in which the content is presented. For example, rape also occurred in Sun, Moon, and Talia, but it was much easier to set that story aside and put it out of my mind – it was a short story, and while its events were alarming they were only temporarily so.

Not so with Deerskin, which lets the reader grow attached to Lissar before horrors befall her. I was already rooting for her by the time the rape occurred, which made it genuinely distressing to read. Even though there was ample foreshadowing, I still hoped that there was some way Lissar would be able to escape, so it all came as quite the shock. I can’t help but feel terrible for Lissar at this point in the story – nobody deserves to go through what she has gone through.

But even through all that, I’m still rooting for her. Her escape from the palace even while injured shows that Lissar is strong and that she’s got some fight in her personality, which I hope will make the rest of the story interesting. I will be curious to see how she continues to cope with her new situation. I’m even enjoying reading about her tale in the meantime – it’s so well-written that even the sad scenes have beauty in the way they’re told. The story is captivating and I’m intrigued to read more.

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Compare & Contrast: Sun, Moon, and Talia, Briar Rose, and Sleeping Beauty in the Wood

Again, this is a case where the three tales share some story elements, but have many differences in how the stories are executed. All of the stories have a princess (or lord’s daughter) who is destined to sleep after pricking her finger. In all of the stories, she is rescued by a prince (or a king) and wakes up. All stories also involve fairies of some sort.

Sun, Moon, and Talia also shares more similarities with Sleeping Beauty in the Wood in that both tales involve Sleeping Beauty having children. Further, both tales also involve an evil female figure in the family of the prince/king, who tries to eat or serve Sleeping Beauty’s children, and who also tries to kill Sleeping Beauty – only for the prince/king to return at the last moment to save her and cause the demise of the evil woman instead. However, in Sun, Moon, and Talia this evil woman is the king’s current wife, whereas in Sleeping Beauty in the Wood, she is his ogress mother. In addition to an evil woman, these tales also have a heroic cook who saves Sleeping Beauty’s children.

Further, Grimm’s tale shares some similarities with the Perrault version, as both stories involve a feast and a scorned fairy causing a curse that intends to kill Sleeping Beauty with a spindle – only for another fairy to reduce this curse to a mere hundred years’ sleep. Both of these stories also share the sleeping of the castle figures around Sleeping Beauty, as well as a wall around the castle – in Perrault it is a wall of trees, bushes, and brambles, but in Grimm it is a wall of thorns.

Perhaps the largest difference in any of the stories is the rape in Sun, Moon, and Talia, where the already-married king finds Talia unresponsive and “takes her to bed”. Even more alarming is his “friendship” with Talia when she wakes and has had children in her sleep. This all seems very sketchy to me. In this tale, Talia only wakes when her children dislodge the splinter in her finger, whereas in Perrault she awakens to her prince’s arrival, and in Grimm to his kiss.

Beyond that, smaller differences can be found scattered throughout the stories. In Sun, Moon, and Talia, the fatal splinter is of flax. In Sleeping Beauty in the Wood, the Ogress accepts her demise in a pit of vipers, whereas in Sun, Moon, and Talia the evil Queen is cast into a fire along with her accomplice (who does not appear in the other stories).  In Grimm, there is no evil figure in the prince’s family, which makes the ending rather gentler. Amusingly, Grimms’ Briar Rose also notes that Sleeping Beauty is dressed like the prince’s great-grandmother. This is also the only tale of the three in which Sleeping Beauty does not have children – instead, the tale ends with a wedding and a happily ever after.

Overall, it seems that Sleeping Beauty in the Wood is a middle ground – it has some similarities with Sun, Moon, and Talia, and some similarities with Briar Rose. In terms of evolution, I would speculate that its origins occurred between those of the other two.