The Sleeper and the Spindle by Neil Gaiman
Digital Audiobook narrated by Julian Rhind-Tutt, Lara Pulver, Niamh Walsh
Published by Bloomsbury on October 23, 2014
Genres: Fairy Tales, Fantasy, Graphic Novels, Sequential Art, Short Stories, Young Adult
Length: 72 pages or 1 hour, 6 minutes
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On the eve of her wedding, a young queen sets out to rescue a princess from an enchantment. She casts aside her fine wedding clothes, takes her chain mail and her sword and follows her brave dwarf retainers into the tunnels under the mountain towards the sleeping kingdom. This queen will decide her own future – and the princess who needs rescuing is not quite what she seems.
In the kingdom across the mountains, a spell is spreading. It started sixty or eighty years ago, when a wicked witch cast a spell on a princess for her name day. It would not be such a problem, except that the sleep is spreading beyond the castle and closer and closer to the neighboring kingdom. At a mile or two a day, the plague will soon capture them all.
The queen has no intention of allowing her kingdom to fall asleep, and so she delays her wedding and sets off with three dwarves to find the source of the curse and put an end to it.
All in all, The Sleeper and the Spindle is a very familiar story.
In his retelling, Neil Gaiman has not made any drastic changes to the tale of Sleeping Beauty – or at least, no changes we haven’t seen before, in other retellings. Having a queen rescue the princess was a different twist, but at this stage, gender-swapping characters is pretty common, so while I appreciated it, I was not overly surprised. Gaiman’s writing is simple and just on the edge of magical, but The Sleeper and the Spindle is far from his best work.
Furthermore, Neil Gaiman doesn’t narrate this story. Instead, we have a full cast audio. The cast was just okay – it definitely felt like a bunch of people reading a story book, and the musical breaks were a little too frequent for my tastes. It comes off probably just the way it was intended – as a children’s story. It lacks Gaiman’s usual spooky charm and character depth, and is a simple short story. The characters don’t even have names (though excuses are made for this).
All in all, The Sleeper and the Spindle is quaint. It is brief and mildly interesting, but certainly not representative of Gaiman’s skill, and not really worth going out of your way for. I believe people who enjoy short stories of fairytale retellings will enjoy it.