Okay, not an art post, and I haven’t said very much here (yet) about my spirituality – but that’s been informing my art a lot more as it becomes a stronger force in my life, so I guess this is me starting to talk about it.

As you might have gathered from my recent work (especially my sketchwork) Faerie is a big part of that. And being a big Disney fangirl, I saw “Maleficent” a couple days ago.

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( image from eonline.com )

I was quite impressed, and I’d like to talk about how they handled Faerie Lore in the movie.

Spoilers follow.

To start with, “Maleficent” is a very visually and story-rich film – and in terms of Faerie, some parts of the Lore was more obvious than others.

I really appreciated the fact that the whole story felt exactly fairy tale, with the narration and everything – they embraced that and really owned it, which was so good. I also love that they covered lots of different types of Fae, from the more “traditional” small, winged flowery type to Goblin-like creatures, tree spirits and nature spirits like Maleficent herself (and the air spirits pictured above, those were breathtaking). And of course, shapeshifting fae, specifically addressed by Diaval’s servitude to Maleficent. And Faerie’s connection to nature in general, since the magic they showed was mostly nature-based – as well as the Moors themselves being an enhanced, ideal natural world. I did find it kind of off at first that they called the Faerie realm the Moors – since that world is such a far cry from what Moor actually means – but considering that this is a very physical Faerie realm, more like our own world, I do think it makes sense that they set it apart with a different name.

Also, they did a really good job making use of Faerie allergy to iron – I expected the humans to take advantage of that earlier, honestly (like when the old king attacked the Moors) but considering that King Stefan held on to that information until his madness and desperation really took hold, I think that adds some unexpected depth to his character and situation.

And the whole idea of turning the Fairy Godmother role on its head, having Aurora consider Maleficent her Godmother and for Maleficent herself to truly grow into that role. So wonderful!

All of that was pretty clear to me as I watched. However, there were two references to Faerie Lore that I didn’t really catch until I had time to think about the story as a whole, after it was over:

The Faerie Wife – Maleficent’s Wings

As the movie starts, and we see Young Maleficent meet Young Stefan, the basis for their conflict unfolds – their friendship developed into a deep bond and, before their lives took even more separate paths, he professed True Love to her. Only to rip that away from her later by a violent, physical violation and abandonment. At first, I thought this was just another repeat of the Woman Scorned kind of plotline, since that’s exactly how it looks.

But upon reflection, its not. Its much more.

Faerie Lore is filled with stories where a human man spies a Faerie woman and takes something from her, usually a physical part of her or a soul-bound belonging, in order to force her into marriage. Prime examplesSelkies, Swan Maidens and Tennin. Usually the Faerie Wife spends a number of years with her abductor, having children with him, living as a human, etc. All the while, her stolen form is hidden away by her husband, keeping her imprisoned. Then, eventually, she unexpectedly finds it (or in some versions, her children do), and without hesitation she returns to her people.

Maleficent’s story doesn’t follow those exact details, but I think what happened to her is a clear parallel and reference to it.

A human man comes into her life, and she trusts him implicitly, only for him to steal her wings and change her personhood. Though that act doesn’t make her his wife, it binds her to him in ways beyond marriage – she is no longer the Protector of her people, being now consumed by her rage at Stefan and bound to her revenge. The person she was is gone from Faerie, just as she would be if she’d followed him to the human world. In that Protector’s place is a dark, cruel queen who, again, lives her whole life chained by what this man did to her. Her circumstances are different from the traditional Faerie Wife, yes, but she’s just as stuck on Stefan as the usual Faerie Wife is stuck with her husband and human home.

And, like the Faerie Wife, she returns to her true glory only when her loss  is returned to her. I love that Aurora is the one who does it, too – the focus on the mother/daughter relationship between them, despite all that has passed, is so strong that I can’t think of anything else that would have done their story justice (and, again, it serves as a nod to the versions od the Lore where the Wife’s children inadvertently rescue her). Then, with her wings returned, Maleficent finally triumphs and not only gets revenge on the man who violated her, but becomes the Protector once more.

With her wings returned, like the Selkie’s skin or the Swan Maiden’s cloak, she is able to regain her place in Faerie and truly be whole.

I also love how they handled her relationship with Aurora afterward. From what I’ve read, most Faerie Wives do not take their children with them when they leave or return for them at all – at most they cast blessings on the family or bring them food to ensure some level of care, but they’re no longer fully present in their children’s lives. Maleficent keeps Aurora with her, tells her the entirety of what happened to her (as evidenced by the film’s narration by adult Aurora), and makes her a part of Faerie by crowning her there.

And on that note….

The Stolen Child – Aurora

Obviously Aurora isn’t a changeling. She is not a Faerie creature put in Stefan’s castle as a replacement for his actual human baby who was stolen by fairies (though that would have been a twist, huh). But she IS altered, physically and emotionally, by her relationship to Faerie, and that does speak to a lot of changeling themes.

When Stefan sends her away with the Pixies for her safety, despite their personal incompetence, she ends up being raised – at least in her early years – on Faerie flowers (and probably other foods from Faerie as well). This, on top of the fact that she’s also doubly-blessed by Faeries – first by Knotgrass and Flittle, then reinforced by what Maleficent says before she curses her. Considering the curse as well, Faerie magic has run through the course of her life from the beginning, and I imagine being reared on Faerie foods would only enhance that. As such, she has all the grace and charm and beauty the original fairy tale describes, and clearly feels the pull of Faerie all her life – after all, she manages to stumble into Maleficent as a toddler, and completely embraces all the wonders of Faerie each time Maleficent brings her there as a teenager. Even deciding she wants to leave the human world and live there. Faerie, despite her human birth, is where she belongs.

And let’s not forget that she was taken from her “natural,” human home – we don’t get to see much of Stefan’s queen (once again unnamed), but he hands her over to the Pixies without her apparent input, and the next we hear of the queen is her impending death. I imagine that the loss of her child – taken by the Faeries – hurt her so deeply that it caused her illness, which was then made worse by her husband’s madness. Very tragic, and placing Aurora again in the position of a child taken into the Faerie realm, even though a changeling is not left in her place.

The ending of the film, where Maleficent crowns Aurora queen in the Moors, solidifies her place there even further (and more than anything else I can imagine). I don’t think, based on the fact that Maleficent restored equality to her people, that Aurora is literally the Queen of the Faeries now. I think that gesture was made to make her one of them, but still a human queen – considering the death of her parents – who is now devoted to protecting the Moors as well as her birth place. Who more than a Stolen Child could have filled those shoes?

So yes, that said, I was very impressed and even happier about the movie after I thought about parallels above.

I hope if anyone else who’s Faerie Devoted has doubts about going to see it, they take the chance. I, for one, wasn’t disappointed.

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