Disney’s new version of Sleeping Beauty, written for the screen by Linda Woolverton, is told from the view of the protagonist, Maleficent. Maleficent is a winged, woodland fairy that lives in an enchanted forest not spoiled by humans.
The movie begins with the orphan Maleficent flying through her enchanted realm, talking to all the creatures that inhabit the land. Humans are considered beasts that spoiled the land, as evidenced by the kingdom adjacent; that is ruled by a selfish king. Those fairy folks are anarchists and don’t believe in being “ruled over”. Maleficent is a ‘protector’ of the Moors, not a ruler.
The word ‘maleficent’ literally means “working or productive of harm or evil”: Disney writers were clever in 1959. In neither tale, La Belle au bois dormant or Little Briar Rose, from which both Disney productions are based, was there ever an evil fairy named Maleficent.
As Linda Woolverton weaves the story of how sweet, fairy Maleficent transforms into her namesake; the movie-goer is dazzled with imagery. Least of which, it seems to me as a pagan, is the eerie similarity between Maleficent and the goddess Hecate. Hecate is often portrayed as a horned goddess of the wood with wings.
Child Maleficent makes friends with another orphan, a human child thief named Stefan. Their friendship blossoms into young love, and they experience ‘true love’s first kiss’. Eventually, Stefan’s ambition gets the better of him and this takes him away from Maleficent. While Stefan is away persuing these ambitions; the greedy king decides to invade the Moors. The anarchist fairies are having none of that; and the humans are defeated utterly.
On his death bed, the greedy king asks for any in the kingdom that can kill Maleficent; they will rule after his death. Also, the king throws his daughter’s hand in marriage as added incentive. Stefan, the ambitious git, heads off to the Moors to kill his childhood love. Maleficent forgives Stefan for being away for so long; and she thinks their friendship is renewed. Little does she know, Stefan has drugged her in hopes of killing her: For he knows the secret to hurting fairies. IRON. However, at the moment he wishes to strike the killing blow; he finds he cannot. So, he ‘de-wings’ her instead. Not only are her wings a powerful trophy, they were the one thing that Maleficent treasured above all. Stefan presents the king with his trophy; and his succession to the throne is assured.
Maleficent suffers the loss of the two things she held most dear; Stefan and her wings. Through her grief, and Stefan’s betrayal; she becomes her name sake. She declares herself Queen of the Moors; and those anarchist fairies don’t know what to think. Shortly after, she hears the news that King Stefan is about to be blessed with a child. Maleficent arrives from the Moors to King Stefan’s castle; and the curse is set.
This is the point in the story that also deviates not only from the original tales; but from the 1959 Sleeping Beauty as well. Maleficent becomes ‘enchanted’ with baby Aurora, and becomes her fairy godmother. No one could have seen that coming. She becomes such a mother figure to Aurora, she tries to remove her own curse; to no avail. In the curse, she placed two very stringent stipulations. The first, that no power on earth could remove the curse; that would include her own power. The second, that only true love’s kiss could break the spell.
Enter the dashing and handsome Prince Phillip! However, neither Stefan nor Maleficent believe in true love; but it is Maleficent who is willing to risk all to get the Prince to Aurora after her unfortunate finger-pricking incident; in the basement on a spinning wheel.
Prince Phillip, feeling uneasy about kissing an unconscious Aurora, is goaded by the bumbling trio of fairies, Flora, Fauna, and Merryweather. He kisses her, and NOTHING HAPPENS. Again, another deviation from the original tale and the 1959 classic. Phillip and the trio of fairies leave the room; while Maleficent and her trusty henchman, Diaval, stay to grieve. It is through her grief for Aurora that Maleficent’s heart is mended; and it is her kiss that frees Aurora from the curse.
It’s not over yet! The battle between Stefan and Maleficent now begins. Ambitious Stefan has had the iron workers slaving over their smiths for days and nights to create all kinds of weapons in which to kill Maleficent. At this point, a person cannot help but to cheer on Maleficent; as its just her and Diaval battling a battalion of men. She changes Diaval into a dragon and the battle begins.
Since Aurora is free from the curse, she finds Maleficent’s wings hidden in the castle. She frees them, and they ‘magically re-attach’. Then, Maleficent tries to not kill Stefan, and show him mercy. At this point, he’s gone fully insane and its a kindness she puts him out of his misery.
Maleficent realizes it is Aurora that is to heal not only the human kingdom, but her land of the Moors as well. So, she is crowned queen of the two kingdoms. A villain can, indeed, sometimes be the hero; or in this case heroine. Not all in life is simply black and white; not all in life is simple, period. But by the end of the movie, everyone lives happily ever after!
Except for the rabid, foaming at the mouth feminists who say this movie promotes rape. Those beasties, if I may quote Maleficent, embody the old adage “Misery loves company”. Feminists HATE when a victim refuses to identify with said victimhood and regains their power. Which is precisely what Maleficient does. OH DEAR!
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