For today’s post I want to do an analysis of something that I felt inspired to write about. I have this theory that you can interpret the story of Sleeping Beauty as being a variant on the archetypes found in the Arthurian legends. Specifically the Disney version of Sleeping Beauty has characters that seem to mirror the archetypes of some of our favorite Arthurian figures.
The titular character of Aurora can be seen to mirror Guinevere. Maleficent has characteristics that mirror Morgana, and Prince Phillip mirrors Lancelot! Aurora is pushed into a role of being a princess without her consent, not realizing she was born for it. Her main concern is to marry for love, instead of having an arranged union. Guinevere was given to Arthur for queen, and in most versions of the legends this was not something she chose, so much as it was Arthur winning her hand. Her love for Lancelot was true love, and she chose to be with him (and this mirrored Prince Phillip and Aurora meeting in the woods). The arranged marriage Aurora had mirrored the Arthur and Guinevere match, even though in this case the arranged marriage was to her true love all along! In that way Prince Phillip can be seen as both a version of Lancelot and a version of Arthur.
The connection between the dark and antagonistic versions of Morgana and Maleficent is deep. Morgana had many variations of her name in the legends (as did most Arthurian figures), and one of her most common names is, of course, Morgan Le Fay. Morgan Le Fay literally means “Morgan the Faerie” in French. Maleficent is a dark faerie, and that gives an obvious connection! Maleficent had a pet raven, and Morgana is associated with ravens and crows, as well as the crow goddess the Morrigan. Maleficent could turn into a dragon, and in the Arthurian legends we see connection to the Welsh dragon over and over again! Both of these faerie women have the ability to shapeshift, as is utilized in parts of their stories. Finally both are consumed by hatred of the other central female character in the tale. Morgana hated Guinevere so much that she often tried to kill her, even sending the Green Knight to the Christmas feast in hopes of scaring her to death (in Sir Gawain and the Green Knight)! Likewise, Maleficent cursed Aurora as a baby because she was offended to not be invited to the christening!
Even some of the smaller characters can be seen as mirroring figures in the legends. Aurora’s mother, the queen, reminds me very much of Arthur’s mother Igraine. Much like Igraine she is an often overlooked character. Also similar to Igraine she had her child taken from her when she was just a baby (Arthur was taken as a baby by Merlin) and in both cases it was to protect the babe! The three good faeries can be seen as the version of Merlin in this telling, instead protecting Guinevere not Arthur (in this case). We may also look to the good faeries as versions of the Lady of the Lake, at least Merryweather, who seemed to be the only one really capable of being a foster mother to the young princess. The Lady of the Lake famously fostered Lancelot! Aurora being raised around the magic of the forest and the faeries is similar to Guinevere’s connection to sovereignty and Avalon (in some tellings she had magic just like Morgana). Aurora, of course, had no idea of her true lineage, or the fact that her aunts were faeries, but she still was impacted by being raised around faeries. Faeries have a different way of looking at the world, after all!
Finally, I feel there is a connection between the Matter of Britain (as the Arthurian tales are also called) and Sleeping Beauty because of the fact that for the character of Prince Charming it is a classic hero’s journey! The hero’s journey was undertaken by the Knights of the Round Table regularly. It is the story of the young man (or in some more modern stories young woman) fighting evil and winning the hand of a representative of the goddess of sovereignty! Prince Phillip defeated Maleficent, in dragon form, to be able to kiss Aurora, and awaken her. At the most simple terms this is what the hero’s journey was about, defeating evil and gaining love!
I hope you have enjoyed my analysis of the similarity of my favorite fairytale and my beloved Arthurian legends. Do you agree or disagree with my opinion? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below!
Note on Image: The image at the top of the post is Maleficent as played by Kristen Bauer van Stratten in Once Upon a Time, a show that regularly mixed themes of fairytales and legends! I found the image on heroes-and-villain.fandom.com.
- Le Morte D’Arthur by Sir Thomas Malory
- Sleeping Beauty (1959)
- The Power of Myth by Joseph Campbell
- Once Upon a Time (2011-2018)