Merry meet my fairysouls! Here is my new video and it is all about magic in Sleeping Beauty. If you prefer to read scroll down to read the article. I filmed this on the New Year so you can see the sparkling Christmas tree behind me.
What it comes to the older classic Disney animations, Sleeping Beauty from 1959 is one of my personal favorites. Style of the animation is gorgeous and as an illustrator, I can only admire the delicate background art created by illustrator Eyvind Earle but my absolute favorite part in the film is the representation of magic.
Disney´s Sleeping Beauty is loosely based on Charles Perrault´s fairytale of the same name and Perrault´s fairytale (which you can read here) was based on a medieval ballad, which is the first literal version of Sleeping Beauty. Perrault was the first who included the magical elements to the story, like the spell in the spinning wheel. In the Disney animation fairies are the ones who hold the magical powers.
Aurora´s Fairy Godmothers
In the animation, Aurora´s three godmothers are called Flora, Fauna, and Merryweather. Flora gives the baby princess the gift of beauty, Fauna gives her the gift of song and when Merryweather is about to give her gift, that is when Maleficent appears, so it is left to Merryweather to change Maleficent curse from death to 100 years of sleep.
Three fairies wear different colors and the color code is based on ancient fairylore where fairies are often associated with different colors.
Flora wears red which represents; life, sun, mother goddess and flowers.
Fauna wears green which represents forest, plants, and animals.
Merryweather wears blue which represents thoughts, thinking, and ideas.
These three fairies are all connected to different elements. Flora is connected to fire, Fauna is connected to the earth and Merryweather is the fairy of the air.
Here are a few interesting facts about these three fairies.
Originally script writers planned to have seven fairies for the animation but that ended up being too much. Three fairies went through many transformations. Flora and Fauna first had different names. Flora was called Tranquility (fairy of dreams) and Fauna was Fernadell (fairy of the forest). Merryweather was always called Merryweather.
These three Disney fairies have some awesome powers and I dare to say it, I like them so much more than Tinker Bell (no offense J.M.Barrie).
Flora, Fauna, and Merryweather have the following magical powers:
Telekinesis - ability to move objects with their minds/wands
Color manipulation - best example of this is Flora´s and Merryweather´s constant fight whether Aurora´s dress should be pink or blue (I´m on #teamblue).
Conjuration - ability to materialize objects from thin air.
Ability to turn invisible.
Talent to manipulate and transform light.
Pyrokinesis - ability to create fire and manipulate it.
Ability to transform objects and change their size.
Ability to fly.
Ability to change appearance, size and looks.
Wonderful World of Fairylore
Three fairies in Disney´s Sleeping Beauty are three fairy sisters and throughout history, this group of three fairies or three fairy godmothers has appeared in one form or another. We can find them from many cultures and mythologies.
Often the fairy godmothers appear in groups of three or four and these fairies are always guardian spirits.
In Welsh fairylore, three fairies originate from Benedith y Mamau which means the blessing of the mothers. Roots of Benedith y Mamau are in ancient goddess cult. Benedith y Mamau represented the triple goddess and the name originates from Latin matres meaning mother. These three goddesses were worshipped as the protectors of people. The matrons were widely worshipped in the 5th century in Gaul, Germania and Northern Italy.
Fairies that are connected to faith (like fairies in Disney´s Sleeping Beauty) often appear in the groups of three. In Norse mythology, the three Norns who are the weavers of destiny, appear in the group of three and so does the Morai, who are the three goddesses of faith in Greek mythology.
In ancient Finland, it was believed that each person had an invisible spirit who guarded them. This spirit was called haltija. Word haltija has many different meanings. It can mean an elf, a fairy or a spirit/nature spirit.
In Arabic folklore jinnie/jenyah (genie) before they were solely connected to wish making and magic lamps were guardian spirits of people and places in nature.
In Baltic countries, Latvia and Lithuania fairies were known as Laumes and they were the servants of the goddess Laima, who was the goddess of faith and protector of humans. Laumes were the guardian of children and protectors of mothers and pregnant women. It was believed that a fairy was present in each birth and that fairy became the child´s godmother and she protected them throughout their life.
Very often people criticise Sleeping Beauty that it is not a very empowering film for women. If we think about Aurora I agree that she is not a very active princess but I don´t think that is really that much of a character flaw but it has more to do with the story. We can´t expect that many heroic deeds from her since she spends most of the film sleeping.
the magic in Sleeping Beauty is actually rooted in the group dynamics of the three fairy godmothers which makes the film empowering and quite feminist. These three ladies team up to raise a child together and in the beginning, they have no idea how to do that especially without magical powers that I assume they have been born with. They give up their really cool powers for 16 years to protect this girl who is one day going to be the queen of their home land. By doing this these fairies are the heroes of the film. They are the ones who save the kingdom by helping prince Phillip and by raising Aurora and protecting her from Maleficent. Magic of the three fairy godmothers is in their group dynamics and their faith for each others (faith for their "fairy coven"). Sometimes they do get on each others nerves like sisters do but in the end they all know what is at stake and they work together.
Maleficent, The Black Fairy
In the original Sleeping Beauty ballad, the fairies are missing. The story is quite horrifying for modern readers. It includes a prince who rapes an unconscious princess who gives birth to twins while being in a coma. When the prince wants to marry the girl he raped, his wife tries to kill them and the cheated wife is framed as the villain of the story. In Perrault´s version, the prince did not have a revengeful ex-wife, neither he was a rapist but he had a cannibalistic ogre stepmother who wanted to eat couple´s young children.
Obviously, neither one of these scenarios were fitting for a Disney film. The origins of Disney´s Maleficent is in deeper and older fairylore. More specifically, in the legend of the black fairy.
As I mentioned earlier it is common in fairylore that fairies are often associated with different colors.
Colors of Maleficent are black, purple and poison green.
Black represents a hidden identity and death.
Purple represents high magic, spirituality, and high priestess. Back in the days purple color was very difficult to make so it was only allowed for royal people to wear purple. In Sleeping Beauty Maleficent is a ruler of her land.
Poison/yellow-ish green represents jealousy and danger.
Fairy of Revenge
Story of the black fairy follows a very old narrative of the fallen one. We can date first stories back to 30 - 40 000 years to the time of shamanism. In some native American and Finno-Ugric cultures, the world was created by two water birds. In these myths one of the water birds was good and the other bird was an evil/trickster. The world was only water and these birds dived to the bottom and brought some dirt in their beaks to the surface and started to build the earth this way. The trickster hid some of the dirt and when the "good" bird found out about this, he forced the trickster to become his servant, so the trickster bird became the ruler of the underworld and receiver of souls.
A similar story can be found from the Bible where Lucifer is the fallen angel and is banished from heaven. In Koran, the Iblis is the fallen jinnie who is Carlotta by Allah because he refused to bow Adam, the first man.
There are many examples in myths where the "neglected" member in the family/pantheon of deities becomes the ruler of death and the underworld. In ancient Greece after killing their father Kronos, the three brothers Zeus, Poseidon and Hades divided the world. Zeus who was the oldest became the ruler of the skies, Poseidon who was the second oldest ruled over seas and Poseidon who was the youngest became the ruler of the underworld.
The original fairytale of Sleeping Beauty does not have straight connections to magic but it does show the cattiness in female relationships. This is something that can also be found in the story of the black fairy. In ancient Europe there was (and still is) many negative associations to the color black and black fairy wearing the color black automatically has made her an outcast among the other fairy. In the folktales about the black fairy she usually starts out like any other fairy but for one reason or another becomes rejected by the other fairies and this chain of actions causes the black fairy seeking revenge to the other fairies. Disney´s Maleficent has all the same powers than Flora, Fauna, and Merryweather and eventually, her plot does not work out because she lacks the support of others. Her only true friend is her crow. The ogres that work for her are just minions and can easily turn against her.
It seems to be some kind of a Hollywood trend to make fairytale villains seek forgiveness and go through redemption. I have seen this a lot in films and tv in recent years. I did not like the live-action movie Maleficent that much. I thought Angelina Jolie did a good job playing Maleficent but I did not like the plot. In the live-action movie, the three fairy godmothers were turned into caricatures and they didn´t really do anything in the movie. Maleficent was not evil. She was "victim of patriarchy" and she became Aurora´s godmother. I was glad that the film had the fairy godmother-aspect included since that is important part of the story.
In the animation, Stefan and the queen are very loving parents and it broke their hearts when they had to give their child away. I did not like the way Stefan was portrayed in the movie Maleficent since he was a great character in the animation. The live action draws from the original ballad where the princess was raped and abused by the prince. whereas the original animation got it´s inspiration from Perrault´s Sleeping Beauty which draws heavily from the black fairy trope. In the original animation, it is pretty clear that the fairies and Maleficent go way back but their relationship is not explained.
I am a big fan of ABC´s Once Upon A Time. It is another show where redemption among villains is an extremely common theme. Regina the evil queen starts out as a straight forward villain. Season by season she becomes a better person and by the end of the series, she is crowned again as a good queen. Redemption as a story arc can work in a movie or a series but there is no denying that Regina, the evil queen on the earlier seasons is more interesting to watch than the good Regina of the later seasons. Another villain in Once Upon A Time is Rumplestiltskin who also goes through redemption arc. It takes much longer time for Rumple to get his redemption because unlike Regina, Rumple´s support net is much smaller. Once Upon A Time had a very interesting take on the black fairy and to my pleasant surprise, it had its inspiration in the black fairy folk tales where fairies were protectors of children.
The Empowering Villain
Maleficent represents the villain archetype when the three fairy godmothers represent the nurturing mother. What I love about the original Disney´s Maleficent is that she is un-apologetically evil. She has very bold moves, unforgettable laughter (check the video 18:20 and my favourite Maleficent laughter) and she can turn into this amazing kick-ass dragon. Maleficent is the dragon queen. She embodies evil and she does not regret anything she does. My favourite Maleficent scene is the one where she confronts prince Phillip and tells him Now you will meet Maleficent the lover of all evil.
She is very dramatic and among the fairies my favorite character in the movie. Maleficent embraces her evilness, it is part of her. What if we turn the premise of Sleeping Beauty upside down and look Maleficent as a character who is proud of the fact that she is an outcast and she does things differently and that is her magical power. Same way as working collectively is the magical power of the fairy godmothers. Maleficent being this extremely powerful evil character can be seen as a metaphor or as an allegory to love yourself the way you are and embracing that. Maleficent loves herself as an evil creature. It does not come from some emptiness or trauma. It comes from her love for destruction (basically she is a total psychopath). She loves her evilness and that makes her such a great character. We are allowed to love the villains in their villain-ness. They can be empowering and powerful archetypes.
I love Sleeping Beauty, I think it is one of the most magical Disney animations ever made and all these layers in the story and in the different film versions just add more magic into that. Magic in Sleeping Beauty is both collective and individual and deeply rooted in the enchanting world of the fairies.
Ship Filled With Riches
When I was a child my grandma used to tell me fairy tales. My favorites were Cinderella, Hansel and Gretel but most of all Red Riding Hood. Ever since this story about a girl who meets a wolf captivated my imagination with its grim beauty. First literal mentions of Red Riding Hood are from the year 1000 from a manuscript called fecunda ratis, ship filled with riches. This was a collection of poems written by a French man called Hegbert Deliefe. His poems contained moral lessons and they were read in monasteries.
One poem especially stands out. It is a poem about a girl who receives a red dress as a baptizing gift from her godfather. When the girl is five years old she is walking in the woods and gets kidnapped by the wolf mother. The Wolf takes the girl into their cave where the little wolves start licking her face. The girl says to the wolves "I forbid you to tear my dress. It was a gift from my godfather". The poem is based around a Christian idea of god being the creator of predator animals and he is the only one who can tame their wild nature and so the girl is safe because she is baptized.
Charles Perrault´s Red Riding Hood
This poem was believed to be one of the inspirations for Charles Perrault when he wrote his own version of Little Red Riding Hood which first appeared Perrault´s famous fairy tale collection Tales from mother goose (1697). Perrault´s fairy tale has similarities to the French poem but he did not include Christian elements to the fairy tale.
In Perrault´s version a girl gets a beautiful red hood as a gift from her grandmother. In the beginning of the story the girl´s mother tells her to take piece of bread and jar of butter to her grandmother who is ill. Red Riding Hood meets a wolf on the road and tells him where she is going. The wolf says "I´ll go to see grandmother as well but I take the other road and I will meet you there".
Grandma opens the door and wolf gets in telling that he is Red Riding Hood and after that he kills the grandmother and eats her. The Wolf goes into bed pretending to be the grandmother. He tells Red Riding Hood to put bread and butter into the table and then he asks her to take off her clothes and come to the bed with him. She asks:
"Grandma why you have so strong arms?"
"So I can hold you better?" The wolf answers
"Grandma why you have such big feet?"
"So I can run faster"
"Grandma why you have such strange looking ears "
"So I can hear you better"
"Grandma why your eyes are so wide?"
"So I can see you better"
"Grandma why your teeth are so sharp?"
"So I can eat you"
The Wolf eats the girl and this is where Perrault´s story ends.
Fairytales for scaring purposes
There are many ways to analyse Perrault´s Red Riding Hood but first we need to categorize it. There are several ways to categorize fairy tales such as: Happily ever after - Underdog winning - fairy tales with moral teachings - Frightening/ shocking fairy tales Red Riding Hood belongs in the category of frightening fairy tales. These are fairy tales which are meant to be read or told out loud for the audience in the purpose of scaring them. In the original script Perrault’s edition it was written that the story teller must scream the last words of the wolf.
"SO I CAN EAT YOU"
Charles Perrault was the official fairy tale writer in 17th century France in the court of the Sun King Ludwig XIV. Many of his fairy tales were meant for aristocrat children and the teenagers of the court. Red riding hood is a disturbing fairy tale- the who gets eaten by the wolf has become an allegory of her being raped by a pedophile. Perrault´s fairy tale was quickly turned into a folk tale which was retold again and again. The use of the color red on her coat started to highlight femininity because of it’s connections to the menstrual cycle and so because of this the tale also depicts strict gender roles of the 17th century Europe.
Red Riding Hood of the Brothers Grimm
After its release, Perrault´s fairy tale was translated into several different languages. A writer called Ludwig Tüg translated story into German and created the character of the hunter. In his version the hunter kills the wolf but he cannot save the little girl and in the end there is only a hand left from poor Red Riding Hood.
The brothers Grimm most likely first became familiar with German translation and decided to add it into their collection of fairy tales. The Brothers gave their story a happy ending- the hunter was about to shoot the wolf but instead he took scissors and cut open the wolf´s stomach. Red Riding Hood and grandmother came out alive and girl said "it was so dark and I was so scared all the time". Wolf died and it´s stomach was filled with stones.
There is also a German folk tale version where the wolf drowned in a pool where the drinking water was kept for the farm animals. There are also folk tale versions of Red Riding Hood where the girl hides herself into grandmother´s closet. The hunter comes to look out for the wolf but it manages to escape.
Compared to the original French poem where the girl seems to be more self-conscious Perrault´s Red Riding Hood is more weak and helpless. This story is a model example of the class system of the time as children were seen more naive innocent and considered little people who were created to this world to amuse the adults. In 18th century children gain more individual status and childhood became sacred. Now it was parents job to protect the child and teach them moral lessons.
In the brother´s Grimm version, there is a moral teaching us that curiosity is deadly. Her Mother gives Red riding hood a cake and wine to take to her grandma. She says to Red Riding Hood "Don´t break the bottle and when you meet grandma be polite and don´t run around" "I can do it" says the girl and they shake hands. In the end of the fairy tale after girl was saved by the hunter she is thinking by herself: "From no on I will never look away from the road neither I will talk to strangers".
All these gruesome details that Brother´s Grimm added into their stories are one of the reasons why I´m not huge fan of them. If Perrault´s fairy tale had twisted suggestions to pedophiles the Brother´s Grimm story has much more bloody and sadistic details. The idea that the stomach of the wolf is cut open and gets filled with stones presents an unpleasant image.
Many of the folk tales and fairy tales of the 17th century before the arrival of industrial revolution were cautionary tales. They were warnings for children not to go too far away from home because wild animals could take them. Most of the time wild animals avoided people but predator animals such as bears and wolves did sometimes kill farm animals which caused great anger and created fear towards untamed nature.
In 18th century in Sweden, Norway and Finland Lutheran church started to pay extra for people for killing wolves. This so called "wolf hate" was part of the church process of "taming nature" and done to get rid of pagan totemic beliefs of the people. Before the spread of Christianity the wolf was not demonized but it was one of the most respected animals of the ancient world. Among Romans, Etruscan's, several native american tribes, Slavs, Vikings and many more cultures wolves were worshiped as divine beings.
In Finland the wolf was the sacred animal of Louhi- the goddess of shamans. When Christianity spread and female goddesses were demonized Louhi was turned into a representation of Christian Satan. Wolves were described to be "devil´s children". Wolf propaganda that was originally started by the church has been very harmful for wolves in Nordic countries where they are endangered species.
Meghan Ory as Ruby/Red in ABC`s Once Upon A Time
Was she a werewolf?
The story of Red Riding Hood is often connected to folk tales told about were-wolves. A person who had ability to shape shift itself into a wolf was a widely seen mythical creature in folk tales all over Europe. Werewolves of the 16th and 17th centuries were part of the witch-hunt phenomenon (Accusations of lycanthropy however were small part of the witchcraft trials). Shape sifting from an animal to a man and back was a common part of shamanic rituals and it is likely that by demonizing the wolf which was a sacred spirit animal among several tribes was just one more way for the church to convert people from their pagan beliefs to Christianity.
Wolves generally avoid people. They live in packs and are very family-oriented animals. While writing one of his most famous fairy tales Charles Perrault unfortunately also participated on wolf hunts and suspicion which still takes place today. Within past years there have been several film adaptions made of Red Riding Hood which show Red as a werewolf. In ABC`s Once Upon A Time character of Red goes through several physical and spiritual transformations before she can fully accept herself.
Amanda Seyfrid as Valerie in the movie Red Riding Hood.
Amanda Seyfried played the part of Red Riding Hood in a movie made in 2011. This movie is one of my personal favorite fairy tale adaptations and it is filled with hauntingly beautiful landscapes with mysterious captivating atmosphere
Little bit of Red
You might be surprised to find out that one of the reasons why the story of Red Riding Hood is still very popular is because of the color red. For centuries in Europe red was seen as an unholy color. It was connected to love, power, attention, sex and sexuality. Red was the color of blood and therefore it was the color of life. Red hood has several meanings in the fairy tale. Red can represent life whereas wolf can represent death. If girl is seen as a werewolf red hood can represent rebirth. It can represent girl´s awakening or suppressed sexuality and her ability to shape shift herself as a wolf is another metaphor for person owning their body. In the end Red Riding Hood is not just a fairy tale about a wolf and a girl. It is a metaphor how we can face our own fears and how we react to them. The magic and the thrill of the story make it one of the most exiting, visually appealing and horrifying fairy tales ever told.
Pronounced as Nee-na.
Artist, illustrator, writer, watercolorist and a folklorist. Gryffinclaw. Comes from Finland. Likes cats, tea and period dramas.
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