One snowy winter day a princess sat at her window sewing a quilt, when suddenly she pricked her finger. A drop of blood fell onto the window ledge.
The sight of red blood in the sunlight against that startling white snow entranced the princess. It also caught the attention of a little brown bird.
"Gold, white and red/the prince sleeps in a bed," the bird sang. "White, gold and red/he sleeps as if dead."
The princess was surprised to hear a bird singing a song, so she said, "Please, tell me more."
"Red, gold and white/he must wake by St. John's Night," the bird sang.
The princess was enchanted and begged him to say more. So the bird sang her the tale of the prince, noble and faraway, cast into a deep sleep from which he woke just once each year, on Midsummer's Eve. If he was to be freed of the spell, he must wake to the sight of a princess.
The princess knew at once that she must find the sleeping prince to free him, but the king would never allow her to travel far away. So she silently stole away from the castle in the middle of a frigid night, dressed in her warmest clothes.
When the king and queen discovered she was gone, they sent guards to bring her home, but the princess traveled fast, hiding in the forest and covering her tracks. The king mourned, certain his daughter was lost forever.
Meanwhile the princess knocked upon the door of a forest hut. When an old woman answered, the princess asked, "Where can I find the palace of the Sleeping Prince?"
"Oh, it is too far," she said. "Come in and I shall feed you, and then you must return home."
But the princess was determined: "I must go on."
The old woman sighed, "Very well. I shall ask my son, the West Wind, if he knows the way. But be careful, for if he hears you he'll whisk you away."
The princess ate a bowl of soup, and then the old woman hid her inside a closet just as West Wind swept in with a rush of wind and rain.
"I smell a mortal," he whistled.
"So you do," the old woman said. "A poor girl was looking for the Sleeping Prince, but I sent her away."
"The Sleeping Prince," the West Wind sighed. "No one knows where he lives!" And he whirled away.
The princess came out of her hiding place, thanked the old woman, and went on her way through the pouring rain.
Again she came to a hut and knocked, asking the old woman who answered if she knew where she could find the Sleeping Prince.
"It's too far," said the woman. "Go home."
"I'm going to find him!" the princess insisted, and so the old woman invited her inside, but she warned her of her son, the East Wind. "He may know how to find the prince, but if he sees you he'll whisk you away."
The princess hid inside a cupboard, and the East Wind hurled inside and shrieked, "I smell a mortal!"
"It was only a girl seeking the Sleeping Prince, but I sent her away."
"My cousin the North Wind knows where the Sleeping Prince lies!" he howled. When he was gone, the princess came out of her hiding place and hurried on through ice and wind. She walked on until she came to a third hut. There she knocked and told the old woman who answered, "I am seeking the Sleeping Prince."
"Quick, inside," said the old woman. "My son the North Wind may find you, and if he does he'll carry you away."
The princess hid beneath a rickety bed, and the North Wind billowed inside. "I smell a mortal," he huffed.
"It's only a princess," said his mother. "She was looking for the Sleeping Prince, but I sent her away."
"She'll never reach the Sleeping Prince!" the North Wind screamed. "He's guarded by lions that will eat anyone who tries to pass. They can only be tamed by my white roses!" and then he was gone.
The princess quickly picked three beautiful white roses from the bush that grew outside the door, and then she walked on.
Her clothes were tattered and her boots were worn to nothing when she finally spied two looming towers and a gate guarded by lions.
When the lions smelled her, they growled. She tossed the roses at them, and they turned tame and purred, opening the gates.
Inside she discovered everyone was asleep -- the scullery maids and butlers, the cooks and gardeners, the groomsmen, the dogs and cats, and outside in the barns, the chickens and pigs and horses slept, too.
At last she reached a chamber where the handsome prince lay fast asleep upon his bed. His skin was white as snow, his lips red as blood. She sat down beside him.
Just as the sun was setting, a delicious supper appeared, and she ate every crumb. Then the table and the plates vanished, but exhausted as she was, the princess stayed awake.
Days passed in the manor, when one day the clock in the tower that had been silent all this time began to chime -- one, two, three, finally 12 times -- and on the stroke of 12, the prince opened his eyes.
It was Midsummer's Eve.
"The spell is broken!" he said, looking at the woman in rags beside him. The chickens clucked, horses neighed, dogs barked, and people cheered.
"I owe you my life," the prince said. "Marry me."
The princess looked into his eyes and knew he was a loving man. She said yes. The celebration lasted three long days, and then the princess said, "Follow me to my home." They mounted horses and rode to the princess's castle.
The king and queen were overjoyed to see their daughter, and the prince was amazed to discover his beloved wife was a princess.