Last night I happened upon the movie, Maleficent, with Angelina Jolie, which is essentially the remake of Sleeping Beauty (with a brilliant twist). It touched me deeply, as it plays into both my deep dive with the concept of cancer and what is happening in the world, where the prevailing message is, “Kill it before it kills you,” whatever the feared “it” is.
If you haven’t seen the movie, this is a spoiler alert because I am going to talk about the twist. There is such value in unpacking the potency of these archetypal themes, which we discount as fairy tales.
In the film, Maleficent is the evil sorceress who shows up at the King’s castle for the christening celebration and casts the spell on the newborn Aurora (Sleeping Beauty), so she will prick her finger on a spinning wheel at the age of 16 and fall into an eternal sleep. The only thing that will be able to wake her is love’s true kiss. The King makes it clear that Maleficent is unwelcome; everyone fears her unmatched power. The King takes all possible measures to protect the child, including having fairies take her into hiding to raise her.
Maleficent has full knowledge of this so she creates a wall of thorns between Aurora’s father’s kingdom and where Aurora is being raised. All attempts by the King’s knights to penetrate the wall prove useless.
As Aurora grows, Maleficent is always nearby keeping tabs on her. There are times when they interact. In each case, Aurora, who is the epitome of a Pollyanna, sees only good in Maleficent and perceives the world Maleficent rules over as magical.
The purity of Aurora’s heart and the persistence of her sovereign innocence begin to melt Maleficent’s heart. When Maleficent realizes Aurora is getting close to the age when the curse will take effect, she attempts to reverse it, but cannot. It must play out. A prince shows up and is smitten by Aurora; he’ll return later, on cue for the kiss.
As Aurora’s 16th birthday nears, the fairies return her to the King’s castle, and the fated scene begins to unfold. Maleficent risks her life to enter the castle, but despite her best efforts to prevent the spell from taking hold, Aurora pricks her finger and falls into an unshakeable sleep. The Prince is summoned to wake her with a kiss, but his kiss fails. A distraught Maleficent, looking on from behind a curtain, tells her servant that she made the spell the way she did because true love doesn’t exist. When the heartbroken Prince leaves, Maleficent draws near to Aurora and tells her she will never be able to forgive herself and confesses that she had been caught up in hatred and revenge. Grief-stricken, she kisses Aurora once on the forehead; the girl wakes, awoken by “love’s true kiss.”
Aurora asks Maleficent if they can go home, meaning back to Maleficent’s realm, but the King’s men storm the chamber. The soldiers assume Maleficent is still trying to harm the princess even though Aurora is screaming for them not to hurt her, and they unleash all of their forces on the sorceress. But now that Maleficent has redirected her power in service to love, she is stronger than ever. She is ultimately victorious, overcoming all the hatred that the enraged King and his knights have leveled at her.
Maleficent’s childhood wound, which turned her to hatred and revenge, has been healed by Aurora, who saw her as only good. Maleficent knows that she is both good and evil. In the end, it is she who reunites and restores the two kingdoms.
This is worth unpacking. There is an understandable distrust of Maleficent because of her track record, and the combination of fear and hatred on the part of the King and his minions did not allow them to see her differently. How true is this in the world where our trust has been broken and we cement a story and image about someone that doesn’t allow them to change? I have always believed that people rise or fall to our expectations of them.
Bringing about true transformation requires innocent perception. But whereas a baby may cry in the presence of anyone expressing intense, difficult emotions, as conscious adults our opportunity is to travel many paths and to discover which ones create suffering and which do not. We can then take that knowledge, apply compassion, and funnel it back through innocent perception. As Christ said, “you must become like a child again.” I would call this enlightened, innocent perception.
There is so much more we could chew on here, but for now I will end with a thought about good, evil, and power. They exist on a spectrum and those who have “mastered” either good or evil are at the ends of that spectrum. However, no “pure” state is ever achieved in which either darkness or light is totally absent; there’s always an element left that can be rekindled.
The more one focuses their intention on mastering anything, the more effective and powerful they are in that pursuit. By virtue of that, a master will have more power than someone who allows themself to drift and be influenced by others. I recently learned of the book Outwitting the Devil, written in 1938 by Napoleon Hill, which speaks to this. Hill’s family considered the book too controversial and prevented its publication until 2011. You can listen to the full book for free or get an 8-minute summary of the key points here. In the dialogue, the Devil says, “I can best define the word ‘drift’ by saying that people who think for themselves never drift, while those who do little or no thinking for themselves are drifters.”
So in essence, power exists in those who act with agency to bring about an intention. The intention doesn’t matter as much as the focus and consistent action toward that end. The universe allows for all expressions without judgement, knowing that all roads ultimately lead to the same learning.
Aurora, in her consistent innocence and commitment to calling forth love, was ultimately more powerful in dismantling hate and evil than all of the King’s men. We don’t have to fully embody hatred to get to the apex of love, as Maleficent did. However, the extent to which we can consciously touch upon the more difficult emotions, combined with innocent perception and compassion, will make our mastery of love more potent. The times demand our courageous commitment to this.