If you know anything about fairy tales, you know that a "fairy tale ending" doesn't always mean a happy ending. Many of Disney's beloved movies draw inspiration from darker, more disturbing source material, and this is definitely the case for Maleficent.
Keep reading for everything you need to know about the original Maleficent story.
Maleficent: Mistress of Evil is a sequel to the 2014 movie. Read about the original 17th century story to learn more.
Maleficent: Mistress of Evil, like its 2014 prequel, simply titled Maleficent, is a reworking of 1959's Sleeping Beauty. In the original Disney classic, Maleficent is "mistress of all evil" and responsible for the spindle curse on little baby Aurora.
In the 1959 animated film, Maleficent does this because the king and queen don't invite her to Aurora's christening ceremony.
However, her origin story paints a different picture.
Maleficent first entered literature in Giambattista Basile's Sun, Moon and Talia, written in 1634. The earliest known version of this story is told in two parts.
It begins with a great and important king who is warned by wise men in his curt that his newborn daughter, Princess Talia, would prick herself with a poisoned splinter of flax.
Despite the king's best efforts to rid his palace of all flax, the princess comes upon a spindle and does in fact prick her finger, which leads her to dropping dead on the spot.
The king warps his daughter's body in velvet cloth and leaves her in a locked palace, in a deep forest.
Years later, a hunting nobleman comes upon the forest and makes his way into the palace where he finds Talia's body. The nobleman impregnates the sleeping princess, who gives birth to two children nine months later, despite the fact that she's still asleep.
One day, one of her children is sucking on her fingers and manages to suck out the poisoned flax splinter that kills her, leading Talia to wake up. Another few months pass and the nobleman eventually returns to the forest, delighted to find his love awake and well. After a brief period of celebration, the nobleman returns home to his wife... AKA, the character we now know as Maleficent.
The nobleman's wife finds out about her husband's infidelities and orders Princess Talia and her children to be killed. Lucky for Talia, the nobleman swoops in and orders that his wife be burned in Talia's place at the last instant, and goes on to marry his new young princess. In Basile's version, everyone except the wronged wife lives happily ever after.
The original 1634 story has been reworked several times.
French author Charles Perrault, the Brothers Grimm and Walt Disney all drew inspiration from this original 17th century Basile story. Each author made changes so that the tale could resonate with the audiences of their time, and the Disney version certainly removes some of the more unsavory parts of the tale.
However, the latest crop of live-action movies go much deeper into Maleficent's origins. In the recent films, Maleficent is a powerful fairy who develops a relationship with a peasant named Stefan. But after the Moors where she lives are threatened by a local king and Maleficent goes to battle his armies, she is betrayed by Stefan, who she still believes loves her.
One day while they're sleeping, Stefan uses iron chains to burn Maleficent's wings off, leaving her unable to fly and heartbroken. When she finds out that Stefan betrayed her so that he could become king, she becomes angry and decides to get revenge when he has his first daughter.
At the baby's christening, Maleficent appears and puts the curse of the spindle on her — then, as a cruel twist, she says that the only way the curse can be lifted is by "true love's first kiss," the gift Stefan had given Maleficent on her 16th birthday, back when they were friends.
However, in a modern twist, "true love's first kiss" actually comes from Maleficent herself, whose motherly love for Aurora trumps her hatred for King Stephan. At the end of the first movie, Maleficent bestows her crown on Aurora, who becomes the Queen who unifies the human kingdom and the magical Moors.
In the newest Maleficent: Mistress of Evil movie, audiences learn more about the relationship between Maleficent and Aurora, as they face new enemies and protect their homeland together.
Maleficent: Mistress of Evil is now playing at a theater near you.