What if…? I turned Sleeping Beauty into a dark fantasy novel

Spoiler alert: For those who haven’t seen Maleficent, beware…

A few weeks ago, I fired up the What if…? series with my dark reimagining of this

Today I’m reworking the classic animated film Sleeping Beauty, and to a lesser degree, Angelina Jolie’s Maleficent. What if, instead of a sometimes-for-kids, sometimes dark, but just as often musical and cheery film, I penned Sleeping Beauty as a full-length dark fantasy novel? And what if, instead of Maleficent’s decidedly PG rating, I poured a decanter of thick, soupy shadow juice all over it and gave my pretend new novel a solid R? The original film is a classic, the new film not so much, but between the two I believe there’s a grimmer tale yet untold. Two movies. Two stories. One blender. One book.

Well? What if?

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Fear not. In the book, she gets WAY more screen time.

 As far as darkness, the movie Maleficent sets a good tone in the beginning. Stefan is a thief, albeit a terrible one, and his doomed romance with our heroine sets the stage nicely for his betrayal. But let’s get doomier. Let’s get tragic(er). In my pretend book, King Stefan never hates Maleficent. He loves her. Always and forever. Even after he carves off her wings, even after she curses his child to die, he pines for her. His wife and queen, Aurora’s mother, will suffer long bouts of depression due to his love for another woman. His subjects will think him mad. For what woman could ever hope to compete with Maleficent, whose beauty, majesty, grace, and power are second to none? Stefan will always lament his sacrifice. He gave up the truest of loves for the dubious honor of becoming king. Aurora’s curse is his fault, and rather than become an irredeemably evil monarch (the easy way out), he is tormented to the last of his days by what he has done.   

In the movie, I liked the twist of Maleficent watching over Aurora and eventually wishing she could undo the curse. But after that one act of kindness, I want no redemption for her. In Dark Sleeping Beauty, our favorite evil sorceress will do far more terrible things than in either movie. After realizing she cannot undo Aurora’s curse, she’ll raise up her goblin armies, send out storms of crows to spy for her, and destroy city after city in dragon form. (Because, you know, we ALL want more dragon.) Prince Philip’s father, the wonderfully plump Hubert, will perish in an ocean of her green fire. Her thorn thickets will cover most of the realm. Castles will fall to her and her alone (But not Stefan’s). The Hobbit’s Smaug will have nothing but envy for the horror Maleficent wreaks. She’s lost her heart. She’s going to lose Aurora. A woman’s vengeance is like nothing else on this earth.

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I wonder if Brad asks her to dress up like this after the kids are asleep…

Fallen at Maleficent’s hands:

Two of the three faeries. Cooked to crisps while helping Prince Philip break free of Maleficent’s fortress. For the record, I’m sticking with the animated faeries. The ones in the new movie…awful

King Hubert. BBQ’d. Gives Prince Philip all the more reason to hate Maleficent

Stefan’s wife, the queen. Hangs herself from a gibbet. “Alas, I’ll never be but an afterthought in your eyes,” she’ll write in her death note. “No matter the horrors of what she’s done, you’ll always wish Maleficent were queen. And perhaps one day she will be, albeit without you.”

King Stefan. Of grief and sickness. And only days before Price Philip escapes and kisses his daughter

Who gets to live:

Prince Philip. Though wounded terribly and gravely ill after spending a decade in Maleficent’s dungeon

The blue faerie, Meriwether. She alone will put Stefan’s kingdom into a ten-year sleep. In fact, the closing narrative will be hers, lamenting Stefan’s foolishness and Maleficent’s wrath

Aurora. She’ll still get her kiss. But she has to sleep for a decade first. And when she wakes, her parents are dead and her kingdom is the last standing

Maleficent’s crow. Dude worked too hard to die 

The End Game: The last battle in the animated film Sleeping Beauty is fairly epic. After enduring the best villain’s speech ever, Prince Philip flees his dungeon, battles hundreds of goblins, carves through walls of thorns, and duels Maleficent in dragon form to the death. In Dark Sleeping Beauty, it’s a little different. A weary, sickly, and ten-years-older Philip crawls from his cage. He takes up his new magical weapons, but instead of a glorious sword and unbreakable shield, the faeries give him a wicked, dragon-slaying blade and an ugly fireproof shield, forged over the last decade in the lowest furnaces of Stefan’s castle. Due to Philip’s weakness, two of the faeries are cooked during his escape. He trudges away from Maleficent’s fortress, and for the next week he’s hunted by goblins. Only after regaining some of his strength and seeing Stefan’s castle surrounded by a thorns a mile thick does he dare confront his enemy. “With this blade will you her heart pierce,” Meriwether will tell him. “Else your love forever sleeps and the last kingdom shall fall.”

The aftermath: I like a good, cheesy, happy ending. Not. In Dark Sleeping Beauty, when Philip awakes his darlin’, he’s ten years older than her. Ten tired, painful years. Yet poor Aurora remembers nothing. All she knows is that she is now queen, her prince (and soon husband) is beset by shadows, and all the kingdoms around her are destroyed. She must mature quickly (she’s only sixteen) and rise to the challenge of rebuilding a ruined land. If you think about, it’s a nobler ending. Sweet as pie, the kiss and easy oblivion of the movie, but sweeter still a queen rising above the ashes of her father’s malcontent. And no, it won’t be without struggle. Not with her new pet crow sitting lightly on her shoulder.

Next week? I have no idea what next week’s blog will bring. I’ll think of something.

J Edward Neill

Author of the Tyrants of the Dead dark fantasy trilogy

Author of The Sleepers and Old Man of Tessera

Down the Dark Path

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