Walt Disney's Sleeping Beauty

Disney's Sleeping Beauty (1959). Walt Disney, producer.

Click here for background information on the film.

In this well known animated film set in Medieval Times, the princess (Aurora) is promised to a prince at her christening. Two good fairies present her with the gifts of beauty and song, but then the uninvited Maleficent arrives with the curse (she is clearly evil and even has horns). The last good fairy softens the curse by declaring that she will not die, but fall asleep, and will be awakened by true love’s kiss. There is conveniently no mention of a hundred year time frame for the spell, and it is also convenient that there are only three good fairies and all the princess needs are to be beautiful and have a good singing voice. They take her away into the forest to protect her from the spell, and she lives unaware that she is a princess, having been given the new name of Briar Rose. The animals of the forest love her (this seems a Disney requirement). When the fairies do tell her she is a princess and that she is betrothed to a prince, she is disappointed because she has just met a man in the woods she has fallen in love with (unaware that he is in fact the same prince to whom she was promised). The prince has fallen in love with her as well, even though he thinks she is a mere country girl. He is determined to marry her despite the difference in status. I think this element is there to show that the love is true.

When she returns to the kingdom unharmed, it seems that Aurora has escaped her fate, until Maleficent comes to the castle and puts her under some sort of spell. When the fairies are not around, the princess is led to prick her finger on the spindle in what appears to be a trance. When they discover her asleep, they put everyone else to sleep as well. In the meantime, Maleficent has captured the prince and is torturing him in a dungeon. The fairies assist him by setting him free and providing him with a sword of truth and shield of virtue (obviously showing how good triumphs over evil). Maleficent summons all the powers of hell, turning herself into a dragon in an attempt to defeat the prince, but he kills her with his sword. The thorns she has surrounded the castle with are gone. The prince awakens the prince and arm in arm they descend the stairs. The sleep conveniently only lasts one day!

I probably wouldn’t like this retelling so much if I was just seeing it for the first time. Fortunately or unfortunately, it was one of my favorites as a child and I still love the music, fairies, and animals. While there were many changes made that folklorists are probably not happy about, I have to admit I still love it.

Click here for character analysis.

No comments: