It is difficult to place Briar Rose in the category of typical fantasy because the plot contains very little concerning magic or the supernatural. The fairy tale around which the novel revolves serves as a metaphor and can be used as a framework for a story in any setting. The basis of this twentieth century novel is a traditional fairy tale full of magic, so Briar Rose can be categorized as fantasy. In addition, one of the main criteria for a fantasy or fairy tale is a protagonist who defeats incredible odds and wins; both the metaphor and plot of Briar Rose contain this ingredient.

Historically, fairy tales were intended for adult audiences and were much more brutal than the versions one might now hear as a child. For example, Walt Disney’s G-rated film Sleeping Beauty (1959) bears almost no resemblance to a sixteenth century Venetian telling, wherein the ensorcelled princess is made pregnant during her sleep and wakes to discover herself a mother. That version probably stems from an even older version with several variations.

The trends leading to Jane Yolen’s Briar Rose had been developing for more than a century. Victorian writers were instrumental in altering stories such as “Sleeping Beauty” to make them fit for young readers. The resulting collections of tales were favored by adults as well because of the fine illustrations.

The early twentieth century saw an outpouring...

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