Talking Sleeping Beauty with Daniel David Moses

Aboriginal Canadian poet and playwright Daniel David Moses visited campus last week as the last featured writer in the St. Jerome’s Reading Series. Moses entertained the audience with excerpts from a variety of his poems and plays.

Before he read from each piece, he gave listeners a bit of its history, often mentioning the many themes present in his life that he used to construct it.

One major theme behind his works was his Iroquoian culture. Moses presented many works that were inspired by his culture, including a work that he created as a reinterpretation of the <em>Sleeping Beauty</em> fairy tale.

This work, titled <em>The Dreaming Beauty</em>, bears many similarities to the classic fairy tale, but also includes many exciting twists that reflect Iroquoian daily life and tradition.

One of the major changes to the tale is actually the character of Sleeping Beauty herself. In Moses&rsquo;s play, Beauty is independent &mdash; she goes off on her own adventure instead of waiting to be rescued, like the Beauty in the original version does.

Moses said that when he was first commissioned to write the play, he found it difficult because a major part of the original story has the heroine sleeping, which means that Beauty has an unfortunate lack of control over her actions from the very beginning. He said that that sort of woman would not exist in his culture.

&ldquo;I thought that was sort of a challenge. I decided, &lsquo;Okay, well, what can I save from the Sleeping Beauty to make a play that might make sense in an Iroquoian context?&rsquo;&rdquo;

He then created a new Beauty, one that was more independent like the women of Iroquoian culture. To get around the problem of her eternal sleep, Moses had the setting take place inside of Beauty&rsquo;s dreams.

It is inside of the dream where the conflict of the story occurs: Beauty realizes that she is trapped in the dream and must go on a journey to find a way out of it and wake herself up. Even more intriguing is that through the conflict Beauty becomes the heroine of the story, obtaining that control that Moses wanted the character to acquire.

&ldquo;A lot of the themes stayed the same,&rdquo; Moses said. &ldquo;The only thing I really had to get rid of was the social climbing aspect of the <em>Sleeping Beauty</em> where she marries up in the world, because Iroquoian tradition is much more horizontal. That sort of romance-hidden story is just not part of this one. It&rsquo;s about finding herself.&rdquo;