S. Worthen (owlfish) wrote,
S. Worthen
owlfish

The Yarn of Sleeping Beauty

Yesterday's SHMTS talk by Alan Raistruck on Medieval Spinning Wheels was both very good and very underattended. One consolation of a small audience is, however, how easy it is for everyone to ask questions afterwards.

As the talk progressed, I became more and more confused as to how on earth Sleeping Beauty could have pricked her finger on a spinning wheel. Everything is blunt! So I asked.

Our speaker said there were two options he could think of. The less compelling one involves flax. Insufficiently retted flax can have splinters in it, from its pre-retted woody state. So that's a source of splinters, and any complications which might arrive from one, but that's it.

The better option involves wool, whose natural roughness can act as a kind of sandpaper on the wood of a spindle, sharpening it to a point over a long period of use. Unwashed wool, to my complete surprise, can also transmit tentanus. So a wool-sharpened spindle on a Great Wheel (like this one), infected by tetanus-bearing wool could indeed cause a pricking of a finger followed by stiffness and death. I find it both an elegant and satisfying solution!

Sleeping Beauty: She lived before tetanus shots were developed in 1924.*

* Or, of course, much later than that. Invention does not equal widespread availability.
Tags: fairy tales, history of medicine
Subscribe
  • Post a new comment

    Error

    default userpic

    Your IP address will be recorded 

    When you submit the form an invisible reCAPTCHA check will be performed.
    You must follow the Privacy Policy and Google Terms of use.
  • 10 comments