In this paper I will analyse the trope of the pinioned fairy seen in both one of the world’s oldest surviving ballet La Sylphide and Disney’s Maleficent (2014) feature film. I will interrogate how men trusted as lovers in these tales in James and Stefan choose to take the wings from their fairy inciting trauma that can be read as a metaphorical rape. Wings can be seen as a symbol of freedom and beauty and as such mutilating, destroying or removing these from a woman is a form of oppression. In La Sylphide, a farmer named James who is already engaged to be wed to another, falls in love with a sylph/fairy. An old witch appears predicting he will betray his fiancée and he churlishly sends her away. Later, he jilts his fiancée at the alter and pursues the sylph. James meets the old witch again and she offers him a magical scarf which will bind the sylph’s wings and allow him to catch her and keep her forever. As he wraps the scarf around the Sylph her wings fall off and she dies. Moreover, Angelina Jolie who played the titular fairy and served as executive producer in the recent film, revealed herself that the dewinging scene in the film was indeed a metaphor for rape. With this in mind, I will discuss how important it is to redress these scenes as symbolic of rape and the male desire to possess and conform the female body for their pleasure and convenience. I will argue how both stories can be viewed as feminist fairy tales, highlighting Maleficent’s redemption as she regains her wings in the 2014 film and also how in La Sylphide the old witch is triumphant as James does not receive his happily ever after.
About the speaker
Daisy Butcher is a Gothic, Horror and Fantasy scholar attached to The Open Graves Open Minds project. She has been granted a funded PhD at the University of Hertfordshire and is working on her thesis focusing on the monstrous feminine and body horror from the nineteenth century gothic short story to modern film and TV.