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Maleficent: Not Your Typical Sleeping Beauty Story

Image of fairytale castle lighted at night. Photo © Katherine Broadway, Raleigh Psychotherapy, Counseling

The first known version of Sleeping Beauty was written in the 1300s. Walt Disney’s animated version brought the story to the general public in the 1950s, introducing us to the princess, Aurora, and the evil fairy, Maleficent.

The movie Maleficent reinvents the classic tale by giving Maleficent a history. She is not simply a slighted fairy but a woman betrayed, robbed, and brokenhearted. It is the story of what drives her to the dark side; a story of love turned to bitterness, hatred, and revenge.

Maleficent is an innocent fairy that is in charge of caring for her land and all who dwell there. Stephon, a human who wanders into her land, becomes her friend and finally her lover. As his ambition grows, he steals Maleficent’s wings, her beautiful, precious, powerful wings, to win the king’s favor and be named heir to the throne.

Stephon soon becomes the king, marries, and has a baby, Aurora. Maleficent curses the baby, saying she will prick her finger on a spindle on her sixteenth birthday and fall into a deep sleep. The spell, Maleficent says, can only be broken by true love’s kiss. Trying to protect his daughter, the king puts Aurora in the care of three incompetent caretakers deep in the forest, and burns all the spinning wheels in the land in the castle dungeons.

Throughout the years, Maleficent watches Aurora, having to save her on many occasions because her caretakers were incompetent. As Maleficent protects and cares for Aurora, she falls in love with her. When she realizes her love for Aurora, Maleficent tries to break the spell, but the force of her anger and hurt was so strong when she made it, she cannot break it.

Two important things happened on Aurora’s sixteenth birthday: She meets a prince lost in the woods and goes back to the castle. At the castle she falls into a trance and walks toward the dungeons, followed by a maid calling for her to stop. There is no breaking the spell. Aurora walks into the dungeon, finds an unbroken needle and pricks her finger. The spell (unconscious mind) is too powerful even for the conscious mind to stop.

This story illustrates the patterns that people have in life. It shows how betrayal, hurt, disappointment, and heartbreak can turn into bitterness, anger, hate, and revenge. In the grief process, it is necessary to feel these feelings to achieve healing and peace. Maleficent spent years feeling bitterness and hate while she watched Aurora; waiting for the day she could exact her revenge and find relief from her pain and loss.

Realizing that destroying Aurora would not take away her pain, but instead add to it, she did everything she could to find a new solution. Risking her life, she brought the prince to the castle so he could kiss the princess and break the curse. Although she did not believe in true love, she waited expectantly as the kiss was delivered.

That kiss did not work. Believing there was no hope for the curse to be lifted, vows to watch over Aurora for the rest of her life. Out of her regret, pain, and love, Maleficent kisses Aurora. This is that kiss which awakens her.

We all have pain, loss, and disappointment in our lives. We are taught that the way to happiness is through an “outside source/solution”: success, failure, drugs or alcohol, or love, just to name a few.

What brings true peace and happiness is to change from the inside. It is healing the wounds inside that cause our pain, anger, and depression, and learning to love ourselves that lifts the “curse.” It was not the kiss from the Prince that broke the curse; it was the kiss of love that came from the healing of Maleficent.

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