I had Disney’s Sleeping Beauty playing in the background (like I do), and maybe it was because of a pensive mood or simply rewatching the movie as an adult, but I found myself thinking more deeply about Flora’s gift of beauty than I ever have before. And noticing some inconsistencies or strange details.
How Did Flora’s Gift of Beauty Really Work?
Supposedly, Flora gave Aurora the “gift of beauty” utilizing (or stealing from) some seriously old poetry:
One gift: beauty rare
Gold of sunshine in her hair
Lips that shame the red, red rose
She’ll walk in springtime wherever she goes.
The only problem with that is that Princess Aurora looks a great deal like her mother. So how does that work with the whole gift of beauty? I’ve been pondering that, and I can think of two possibilities.
1. The “Gift” Didn’t Actually Do Anything
That’s the obvious solution, right? Aurora takes after her parents due to DNA, and the gift wasn’t actually responsible for any of it. Her hair, her skin color, and her lip color can all be attributed to her mother. And her eye color could’ve come from either (or both) parents.
So there’s actually no evidence that Flora changed anything, is there?
2. Flora’s Given the Same Gift Before
The other possibility is that Flora has a very specific idea of beauty (think of the lyrics to the song – some of that’s almost racist in its specificity), and every princess who gets it looks alike. I mean, the Queen was a princess, too, at one point, right? Maybe, she got the exact same gift. And all the princesses who get this gift from Flora look fairly similar.
I like this idea, well, not in reality since that would be awful, but in story-telling it’s interesting because it has lots of plot conflict potential. Imagine a land where all the princesses look alike because of a fairy’s obsession with a particular look. That could cause a variety of inciting incidents: the one princess who didn’t get the gift, princes not being able to tell princesses apart, princes who like brunettes, fairy gifts hiding uncertain child paternity – it’s definitely fertile ground for issues.
Other Questions About the Gift of Beauty
Who Was Flora’s Gift For?
When you think about how the life of a princess was historically, a gift like beauty benefits the King a lot more than it does the princess. It’s a lot easier to bargain for alliances and such with a beautiful princess to bargain with.
The benefits for the princess are either shallow (“Yay! I’m beautiful!”) or related to such bargains (“My father is pleased he was able to arrange a good marriage for me.” or “I was able to fulfill my duty because the prince finds me beautiful.”).
That changes the whole perspective of the gift, doesn’t it? It was either a shallow gift, overly valuing beauty. Or it was essentially political brown-nosing that enables and supports a chauvinistic system.
Since Flora’s established to be pretty impractical and less-than-worldly in the rest of the movie, the shallow valuing of beauty seems the most likely motivation in Disney’s Sleeping Beauty. That said, the other ideas could lead to interpretations that could be very interesting to explore. Especially if you go back to the original story of “Sleeping Beauty,” which is much darker (as usual).
What If Someone Doesn’t Find Aurora Beautiful?
If Flora’s gift only specified that Aurora would be beautiful, then, it could be a spell that affects people’s perception of her. Since the spell was very specific about how Aurora would look, however, what if someone doesn’t find blond hair and red lips beautiful? Would that person still have to find her beautiful because of the magic?
A Complicated Gift
Flora’s gift of beauty is definitely not as simple as it seemed when I was a kid, and Disney’s Sleeping Beauty really leaves a lot of questions unanswered (which is understandable, really).
On the other hand, the questions it raises about beauty and magic definitely provide a lot of inspiration for potential new stories, and that’s good enough for me.