1. Narrator: “In a far away land, long ago, lived a king and his fair queen. Many years had they longed for a child and finally their wish was granted. A daughter was born, and they called her Aurora. Yes, they named her after the dawn for she filled their lives with sunshine. ”
At these words, spoken by an off-screen voice, the golden storybook of Sleeping Beauty opens. The camera then zooms in upon the still illustrations of the book’s turning pages, and they begin to animate. Choral voices swell after the word “Aurora,” establishing her dawning glory and simultaneously suggesting the emotional veracity and gravity of the story. The quote also suggests that the story’s royal family achieves happiness and completion only when a child joins them. Without the child, the family suffers. Disney thus affirms his appeal to the traditional family of two married parents with children. The subsequent story affirms the rightness of an intact family. When Phillip returns Aurora, who has been displaced from her family for so long, he creates a larger, happier, and more profitable family as Stefan unites his kingdom with Hubert’s.
The opening asserts that the story is set in a distant time, in an unnamed place. This vagueness allows viewers to stimulate their imaginations, and assures them that historical accuracy is neither of concern nor to be expected. Though the film later narrows the timeframe to the fourteenth century, viewers must reconcile this semimythical setting with the reality of the film’s 1959 release in the United States. Walt Disney originally wished to remake Sleeping Beauty and re-release a new version of it every seven years, a plan that suggests not only that new versions of the film would have changed through the decades, but that the 1959 version of the film indeed relates in many ways to 1950s America.
2. Prince Phillip: “But don’t you remember? We’ve met before!”
Briar Rose: “We . . . we have?”
Prince Phillip: “Of course, you said so yourself: Once upon a dream!”
After the romantic initial meeting of Briar Rose and Phillip in the glen, Rose becomes confused by her attraction to this stranger. Phillip, instantly comprehending Rose’s inherent goodness, understands her caution at conversing with a stranger and humorously attempts to convince her that they already have a relationship. This teasing plays into the idea that their relationship has been somewhat predetermined and that their meeting was simply a matter of time. Phillip picks up instantly on Briar Rose’s belief that true love is preordained, instant, and forever. They unite in idealizing a romantic relationship and play on the dream motif of the film. This exchange also establishes Phillip as the calmer half of the pair, more confident and more in control. By contrast, Briar Rose is a tittering wreck experiencing love’s first tugs on her adolescent heart. Their initial meeting also foreshadows their eventual marriage, which proves Rose’s dream true. Though she isn’t aware of it now, she will in fact marry the Prince of her dreams, and “Once Upon a Dream” will play during their triumphant moment of reuniting.
3. Flora: “The road to true love may be barriered by still many more dangers, which you alone will have to face. So arm thyself with this enchanted Shield of Virtue, and this mighty Sword of Truth, for these Weapons of Righteousness will triumph over evil.”
Flora gives her cautionary advice just after the fairies free Phillip from his chains in Maleficent’s dungeon, and just before his Dante-esque journey through the tribulations created by the resistance of evil. The quote exemplifies a somewhat inconsistent morality inherent in the fairy tale. Although Prince Phillip is pure, innocent, noble, and brave, the fairies personally arm him like a warrior with the implicit final goal of murdering Maleficent. Couching the Prince’s quest within these ominous statements, Flora reassures him that any violence he may have to commit is natural. Violence becomes a duty, a right, part of his goodness rather than contrary to it. Officially blessed, he takes his Weapons of Righteousness and runs headlong into battle with Evil. Though Flora suggests that the Prince must face this noble challenge alone, the Prince doesn’t overcome any obstacle without the aid of the fairies. Repeatedly, the fairies modestly minimize their own roles in the success of the Prince’s quest, which shifts more focus onto the Prince’s individual heroism.
4. Maleficent: “No, it cannot be! Now shall you deal with me, O Prince, and all the powers of hell!”
After the Prince escapes Maleficent’s flaming castle and defeats her sudden forest of thorns, he stands ready to make a safe return to Stefan’s castle. Maleficent must gather all her powers and appear in person for a final standoff with the Prince. The fact that Maleficent uses the word hell at this crucial juncture effectively shocks the audience and further cements her evil nature. Phillip, Stefan, or Aurora couldn’t possibly use the word hell, and its appearance here proves without a doubt that Maleficent really is a member of the other side. Maleficent’s use of the word hell suggests that the film’s war between Good and Evil is actually a religious battle. If Maleficent can conjure the powers of hell, she is obviously a devil and an unbeliever, and her murder is justified. By association, too, the people opposing her must be devout, God-fearing believers.
5. Flora: “Sword of Truth, fly swift and sure, that evil die and good endure.”
As Prince Phillip teeters on a crumbling cliff, a step away from falling to his death, he is able to strike at Maleficent’s dragon one last time. The quote verbalizes the joint wishes of Phillip and all the fairies in this culminating moment of battle. The normally charming rhyming spells of the grandmotherly fairies take a twisted turn here with a rhyming prophesy of death, through which Flora essentially blesses the murder of Maleficent. Spells or prophecies delivered through rhyme schemes seem familiar, as if the speaker repeats something tried-and-true, passed down through the generations. This couplet, for instance, rolls off the tongue as if long-held wisdom has been perfected into a catchy phrase. Ancient storytellers like Homer passed down their tales in rhyme schemes to make them easier to recite. The classic struggles had to be rhythmic and easily remembered, so that they stuck in the listeners’ and tellers’ heads. Any prophesy in rhyme suggests a resuming of some classic battle, and here suggests that Flora’s words have historical veracity. She reminds the audience that this murder is both necessary and right, and that truth and goodness will emerge victorious from Phillip’s one strike of truth.
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