Sleeping Beauty is one of the most well-known fairy tale characters of all time. However, after a huge surge in popularity over the past decade or two, the villain of the story, Maleficent, became so popular she likely rivals her nemesis, Aurora. Maleficent curses Aurora in the original story and in every adaptation, but the question is why and how it differs?
In the original Sleeping Beauty tale by Charles Perrault and in Disney’s 1959 animated film, Maleficent curses Aurora simply because she is evil and resentful for not being invited to her christening. In the 2014 live-action film, however, Maleficent does it due to being betrayed by King Stefan.
They were lovers before – or so she thought before he used iron to chop off his wings and ascend to the throne to become King. Of course, there’s more to the story – every version of it – so sit back, relax, and enjoy the article.
Why Did Maleficent Curse Aurora In The Original Fairy Tale?
The original story of Sleeping Beauty and Maleficent – or an evil, wicked fairy – goes all the way back to the 14th-century folktales. The first official version of Sleeping Beauty was written by Giambattista Basile in 1634.
Charles Perrault adapted Basile’s story, which was later revised by the Grimm Brothers, titled Little Briar Rose. Perrault’s version of the story was published in 1697.
While the villain didn’t really call herself Maleficent, the storyline didn’t change too dramatically in either version. In every version, an evil fairy came to the kingdom after a little girl was born to the King and Queen, and she cursed her to fall into a deep sleep after pricking her finger on a sharp object. For Basile, it was flax, while Perrault and the Grimms used a spindle.
The reason for Maleficent – or better said the evil fairy – cursing a baby like that was nothing but pure evil. She had no particular reason other than being the embodiment of all that is evil and wanting to cause chaos and harm as much as she could.
The first and most popular on-screen adaptation of the story came in Disney’s 1959 animated movie Sleeping Beauty, where the evil fairy didn’t really change much but at least had SOME motive – as ridiculous as it is.
Why Did Maleficent Curse Aurora In Sleeping Beauty (1959)?
Disney’s animated movie followed the fairy tale quite nicely, only adding some minor plot details to make the movie more intriguing and the characters a bit deeper. Now, Maleficent cursed baby Aurora to be pricked and fall asleep on her sixteenth birthday.
Again, the curse came only because Maleficent was purely evil. There was no good and no redemptive quality in her – she just wanted to see people suffer. She used a silly excuse for why to curse Aurora.
You see, the baby princess had a christening, and the King and Queen invited everybody to come and witness it. Well, not everybody – Maleficent wasn’t invited but came to the christening anyway, asking if the invitation, perhaps, was lost. Instead, she is openly told that she’s not welcome there, which is more than enough for Maleficent to cast her curse.
Even when giving the girl a “lifeline,” she showed her vileness – she said the only thing that could break the curse was the kiss of a true love – in which she didn’t believe one bit.
She was the Mistress of All Evil, after all, so cursing somebody kind of comes with the business. Now, I remember, even as a kid, feeling like the character was just too one-dimensional. They could develop Maleficent, her motives, psychology, and behavior so much better to fit the narrative and make sense.
However, they opted for the “she does it because she does it” option, so I was extremely happy to see the revised version in the 2014 movie, Maleficent, starring Angelina Jolie as the titular character.
Why Did Maleficent Curse Aurora In Maleficent (2014)?
Finally, Maleficent gets the treatment she deserves in the 2014 live-action adaptation, starring Angelina Jolie as the titular character. Instead of just being a purely evil, non-redemptive character, Maleficent is layered, and although she does curse Aurora, she regrets the decision and eventually makes it right. So, why, and how did she even curse Aurora, then?
We have to go back a bit further, back to when Maleficent was an ordinary fairy with beautiful feathered wings, barefoot and gorgeous. She fell in love with a peasant boy named Stefan, and the pair started seeing each other.
However, one night, Stefan secretly gives Maleficent a drop of a potion to make her fall asleep. His plan was to kill her, but he developed some sort of emotion towards Maleficent and just couldn’t do it. Instead, he uses iron – to which fairies are vulnerable – to slice off her wings and use them as evidence of killing the “evil witch.”
Maleficent woke up disoriented, hurt, and barely able to walk, realizing that Stefan had betrayed her and that everything they had was just a means to an end for him. In severe pain, Maleficent hides in an abandoned castle to heal her wounds and her heart.
From there, she sees a farmer tormenting a poor raven, and she turns the raven into a man, which scares the farmer dead, and he runs away. The raven, shocked but thankful, promises his undying fidelity to Maleficent and becomes her most loyal companion.
Maleficent sends Diaval to the kingdom to try and find Stefan, but when he does, he’s shocked to see Stefan – a peasant – being crowned King for “killing the evil witch.” That’s when Maleficent returns to Moors and proclaims herself to be the Evil Queen of Moors, becoming dark, violent, and oppressive.
After a while, she learns the King is having a baby with his new wife. In her pain, anger, and lust for revenge, Maleficent then plots to punish Stefan – by cursing his child. That child – you guessed it – was little Aurora.
After she was cursed, Aurora was sent away until her 16th birthday to be raised by three pixies. Maleficent watched from the shadows, wanting to ensure the girl lived until she was 16 and the curse could be completed.
But, instead of staying in the shadows, Maleficent sees the pixies are completely incompetent to raise a child, so she steps in, more and more, becoming sort of a fairy godmother to Aurora. After developing a sort of motherly bond with the girl, Maleficent is devastated – because she knows that cursing the innocent child in the act of vengeance was her biggest mistake ever.
And the worst part was that there was nothing she could do to protect Aurora from the curse. She couldn’t stop it, as the curse’s only “shutdown button” was a kiss of true love. Maleficent firmly believed there was no such thing as true love, and she phrased the curse in that way on purpose, as she knew that King Stefan believed so, too.
When Aurora fell victim to the curse, ending in a death-like sleep, it wasn’t a prince, her father, or the pixies who woke her up. It was Maleficent herself who held Aurora in her arms, with eyes full of tears and kissed her on the forehead. Indeed, it was a true love’s kiss, and Aurora was saved by the same person who cursed her in the first place.
Maleficent saw the errors of her actions and regretted them ever since. After Princess aurora ascended to the throne, Maleficent also named her the Queen of the Moors, uniting the kingdoms under the same crown – forever.
It was the most beautiful, complete Maleficent character arc that turned the famous Disney villain from a simple, vile entity into a reasonable, sympathetic, relatable character. Her sorrow and anger may have gotten the best of her for a while, but she corrected her mistakes and redeemed herself by saving Aurora.
Is Maleficent A Good Or Evil Character?
In the original story of Sleeping Beauty, as well as the 1959 Disney classic, there’s no doubt about it – Maleficent is nothing but pure evil, with no remorse or redemptive qualities.
However, in the live-action adaptation in 2014 and its sequel in 2019, I think Maleficent is more good than evil.
I mean, sure, she made a colossal mistake – cursing an innocent child is unforgivable. But, she did eventually help raise Aurora, regretted her actions, and saved the kid in the end. Plus, you can’t argue that at least she had a reason to do what she did. Is it a justifiable reason? I’m not that sure, but it’s better than doing it simply for kicks.
The guy chopped her wings off to go from peasant to a king and left her crippled to fend for herself. She shouldn’t have taken it out on a child – as she quickly realized – but her revenge is, in my view, completely justified – just misdirected.