How was Sleeping Beauty replaced by Maleficent and what message is behind it?

News - Nov 26, 2019

While we were growing up with “Sleeping Beauty”, today’s children grew up with evil fairy Maleficent. Although this sentence sounds negative, it actually entails a positive message.

What does Maleficent teach us?

She teaches us that there is the other side of a medal, that we need to consider causes of others’ actions before making a judgment. But, I have to say that several times during the film (although I know it is for all ages) I wondered how many children and youth would actually understand it.

It seems that things have got a bit more complicated in fairytales as well.

The fairytale concept has changed, with a focus shifting from the sleeping Little Briar Rose to the dark, evil fairy. Even though we still have a “happy end”, the rule that “good always wins” doesn’t apply anymore. In fact, evil heroes are now becoming those who fight for good, whereas those seemingly good are actually bad. And while people in traditional fairytales represented something familiar and positive, fighting against monsters and imaginary characters, the roles are changing today. I don’t know if your parents scared you with the Nursery Bogie as well, but during my entire childhood I imagined her as Maleficent, only a bit older, more crooked and with an apple in a hand, probably coming from “Snow White”.

Another message communicated by the modern fairytale is the power of women. Unlike Sleeping Beauty, who’s awaked from a century-long sleep by a prince, or unprotected Cinderella saved from the evil stepmother by her Prince Charming, Beauty and the Beast, where a strong man hides within the Beast, the men in Maleficent have slept through the important part of the plot. The peace-loving king is cursed by his own wife, while the prince is enthusiastically preparing for the wedding, with a fight waging behind his chambers doors.

How to explain this to children?

Maleficent, the queen of evil, fights against the Humans. The Humans fight against nature, against other people, against their inner demons created in childhood.

Does Maleficent communicate a strong environmental message as well?

The “Dark Creatures” in the film want to protect their species, the Moor – an idyllic habitat of animals, fairies, flowers and trees, destroyed by the Humans in order to make weapons. By plucking out flowers and turning them into a poison, they leave devastation behind.

Perhaps it’s a moment for us, adults, to try to understand the modern fairytale, as well as the modern society. Put your 3D glasses and peek into your Moor, your home, backyard, park…

Every story has two sides. Remember that the next time you go to the cinema. Because the Stepmother perhaps only wanted to help Cinderella develop work habits or Snow White was allergic to apples…

Author: Nataša Grbović, teaching educator/Source:



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