Sleeping Beauty’s Forest Cottage

A deep forest woodcutter’s cottage (minus the woodcutter) embedded inside a millenia-old tree, complete with working watermill, wall storage and period roomba and thermomix.

Flora, Fauna and Merryweather sure knew how to pick the perfect pad for a 16 year long quarantine: nestled between centenary trees and steep mineral cliffs, watered and powered by a crystalline underground source and surrounded by wild berries and friendly critters, Briar Rose’s cottage was the stuff of childhood dreams and could not compare to the cold Gothic grandiosity of the Royal Castle.

No wonder that Aurora blew a fuse when the three fairies revealed her destiny — she had to leave her cozy forest home, which was in perfect sync with nature, to join a distant court of strangers, where she would have to marry a random prince and cut ties with her land. Food for thought: the Forest loved Aurora so much that it even provided the prince so that she wouldn’t have to leave.

I could write a hundred million words about Sleeping Beauty’s origins, meanings, rites of passage, patriarchal culture, etc. but let’s instead take an in-depth look at the cottage itself.

Briar Rose’s Woodcutter’s cottage is structured around a massive tree trunk and under its roots. The tree is so tall that it doesn’t even fit the screen, towering above the surrounding groves. This could be a really cool reference to Yggdrassil, a hint at the shapeshifting, fey nature of the three fairies (who can say that they didn’t shrink themselves), a taste of the tree house of Peter Pan’s Lost Boys, a callback to dryads (tree spirits), a gentle version of Baba Yaga… and a wink at every kid’s dream fortress: a tree house.

The front door is a Dutch door, perfect to keep small children in and animals out and allowing air and light inside the thick-walled house. During Aurora’s childhood, she probably spent a lot of time reaching up on her tippy toes, looking out into the forest. Now it’s the fairies that are too short for the lowest half of the Dutch door; their baby has outgrown them.

The ground floor has a lovely entrance, decorated with rugs and wallpaper with forest plant motifs: wildflowers, ferns, and the like. Maybe these are wildflowers and ferns glamoured into cozy wallpaper, as fairies do in folk stories. Or, even more likely, maybe they tricked the woodcutter out of their home, and the forest is starting to heal in its walls.

There’s a kitchen to the left, with a large wooden table that serves as a cooking surface and sewing station. Every wall has at least two functions: support, storage, and decoration — there are many nooks and crannies to keep all the trinkets that secretly royal kids and fairies need to be happy, from precious Delft porcelain dishes to tasty recipe books and gorgeous fabric to play dress-up.

Each of the fairies seems to be more attuned to one of the classic “womanly” arts: weaving, cooking and home economics, representing the different facets of the perfect mother and also the basic skills to keep a human child alive and thriving. (This was the ’50s we’re talking about). Interestingly enough, none of them succeed in those tasks until they let out their true magical natures, which could be a proto-feminist read or the magical version of advocating for those 1950s novelties: ready-made wear, vacuum-cleaner, and kitchen gadgets.

The fairies are swiftly punished for their “laziness” — the chimney puffs of magic smoke reveal their location and plans to Maleficent’s crow, perching on that Dutch door. Not sure about what message Disney is peddling here, but if I move into the cottage I would be expecting it to come with an automated broom and magic cakes.

There’s a short flight of tree trunk stairs leading up to the bedrooms; we see a peek of a white canopy bed when Aurora comes downstairs, and then we get a fantastic shot of Aurora’s bedroom: a cozy (and also canopied) nook carved into the tree trunk with a deep blue bed that has almost fluorescent violet vines. I’m going to go ahead and guess that the violet vines shone in the dark and kept her fears away when she was growing up.

Bathwater and drinking water comes from the cold mountain source, which also powers the watermill that Flora probably uses to make flour. This is the medieval equivalent of living inside an intelligent house.

But no-one should buy a house, not even a dreamy forest cottage, without checking it at night. Thankfully, that’s what horny princes are for. Prince Philip pays a visit to the now-empty cottage at twilight, parking his horse with ease, and facing off against a very tall Maleficent and a dozen little goblins. This cottage is also perfect for parties and bondage!

Unfortunately, the live-action version of Sleeping Beauty did away with the whole cottage-in-a-tree vibe, but there are a couple of movies featuring other properties that might scratch your cottagecore itch.

First off, there’s Sarah’s suburban house in Labyrinth. Although the hosue is classic Americana, with its wrap-around porche, outside it looks like ivy is taking over it and inside it has the same forest motifs and wooden details.

Even better, instead of being expelled from her safe haven because of **checks trope book** “becoming a woman”, she finds the power to bring the magic inside her woodsy, folky, witchy bedroom for as long as she wants, without having to marry anyone or join any boring adult politicking.

Sarah also saves Toby, who like Philip was also dressed in red — the tiny prince captured by the goblins, a smart subversion of Disney’s version of the tale.

BTW, the whole sequence where the goblins kidnap Toby and Jareth makes his grand entrance are also ripped from Disney’s Sleeping Beauty, ropey snakes, crystal ball, smug smile and cape stylist included.

Then we have an inversion in Ex-Machina, where Domnhall Gleeson (the prince) wonders through a thick forest and reaches an actual smart house carved inside a mountain, the rich woodcutter’s cottage actively invading nature. Sleeping Beauty is a very thorny Briar Rose, and the ending is… well, also inverted in the most interesting science-fiction way.

Anyway, give it up for Sleeping Beauty’s Woodcutter’s Cottage!

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