A few days ago I had the chance to watch the movie Maleficent. I didn’t expect to so fully identify with one of Disney’s most feared villains.
For those of you who haven’t seen the movie, the villain does not start, nor end, the movie as a villain. Maleficent was a fairy, with wings. She met a human boy and they became friends, and then more. As a youth the boy stayed away for a long time. When he returned she forgave him for his absence as they talked like he had never left. While she slept the boy attempted to kill her, but could not. There was a ransom on her head and he wanted it. Instead, he found another way to convince the king he had killed her.
Maleficent awoke to find painful wounds on her back where her wings had been. As I watched her mourn the loss of her wings with pain so great it was more than physical, I nearly cried out.
A man she had trusted, given her soul to, had stolen a piece of her. Wings were her means of reaching great heights as well as a huge piece of her identity. Maleficent says, “I had wings once. They were strong. But someone stole them from me.”
This is how I feel looking back on my marriage and the abuse I endured. My abuser stole the pieces of me that enabled me to fly, that made me feel like myself. Only in looking back now do I realize the importance of what was taken. You don’t know what you’ve got until it’s gone is the popular saying. But sometimes it’s been gone so long that you only realize it’s been missing when you get it back.
As the movie progresses both Maleficent and the boy, who has now become king as the reward for supposedly killing the fairy, become filled with hate and bitterness. The king also grows in fear and paranoia, knowing that Maleficent has great power, despite the loss of her wings. Because this is another telling of Sleeping Beauty, that storyline is played out but with a twist. Maleficent’s heart is eventually softened by Sleeping Beauty, watching her grow; effected by her loving countenance. Meanwhile the king loses his queen while estranged from his daughter for her protection, growing in hate.
This reminds me of the choice I had to make at a certain point in my healing. There was such great pain and complicated emotions to wade through in an effort to heal. It was difficult to allow anyone to be close to me, to trust anyone, I didn’t even trust myself very much. After all, look who I chose to marry and stayed with for more than 20 years. It was difficult to trust God as well. Yet when I thought about my future and what I wanted to be I knew that shutting everyone out would lead me to become like the king, like my abuser- dark and cold, haunted by the past. I knew I did not want to become that, I wanted to become free of the ugliness of my past so that I could teach my children to love truly and not to fear deep and abiding relationships. I chose Christ, healing, forgiving, and courageously venturing into real relationships.
In the end Sleeping Beauty is awakened by the kiss of Maleficent who has grown to love her like a daughter. Sleeping Beauty then finds and releases Maleficent’s wings, which the king has kept through all of the years, which find their owner. The king’s desire the destroy the fairy, who is a daily reminder of his theft and deception, eventually kills him. Maleficent is whole again, wiser and more loving from her experiences.
Fairy tales were once the way the wisdom of the ages was passed down generation by generation. Many of our fairy tales have become so corrupt that their meanings and symbols have become lost. We often think of them as nothing more than an evening’s entertainment. Still, there are a few like this one, that have great meaning and teach lessons to our children that they won’t understand for years to come.