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Maleficent was a member of a race of Fae that lived in an enchanted forest environment called the Moors. Though she was fairy, Maleficent bore the same characteristics of a normal human, but with some distinctive differences. As part of her Fae heritage, she had pointed ears, two curved horns atop her head, and a pair of feathered wings.
While still an adolescent, Maleficent came upon a human boy from a neighboring kingdom named Stefan, who had been caught stealing gemstones. Maleficent befriended him, but when their hands touched, she was burned by his iron ring, for iron was deadly to fairies. As a demonstration of his commitment to her, Stefan discarded his ring, even though it was one of the few possessions he actually owned. Their budding friendship turned amorous, but in time, Stefan had to leave the Moors and returned to his own kingdom.
Maleficent grew to adulthood and had a strong command of magic, which she could use to affect the very nature of her environment, as well as all things living within it. She could even change the form of other living creatures. The king of the human kingdom, Henry, sought to take control of the Moors and sent his armies out to conquer them. Maleficent summoned giant, sentient trees as guardians and succeeded in repelling the human invaders. The King, ill and enraged by his failure, returned to his castle nursing a dark need for vengeance. As he lay dying, he asked for one of his charges whose loyalty was true to venture into the Moors and kill Maleficent. Whoever succeeded in this task would be named his successor to the throne upon his passing. The man who answered the challenge was Stefan. Stefan went to the Moors and found Maleficent, but could not bring himself to kill her. Instead, he drugged her and cut off her wings and brought them back to King Henry as evidence that he had killed her. The loss of her wings had a traumatic effect on Maleficent.
Stefan soon became king and took a wife. Together they had a daughter whom they named Aurora. On the day of Aurora's christening, Maleficent came to the kingdom - an embittered, darker version of her previous form. She entered the castle throne room and offered forth her own gift to the child. Maleficent's gift came in the form of a curse. She declared that by the time the girl reached the age of sixteen, she would prick her finger on a spinning wheel. After which, she would then fall into a death-like slumber from which she could never awaken. King Stefan pleaded with Maleficent to spare his daughter such a fate. Seeing him beg amused her enough so that she added a codicil to the curse. She could only be awakened by True Love's kiss. She added that no other power could break the spell that she now placed upon her. With that, Maleficent disappeared back to the Moors.
The threat of the curse drove King Stefan insane. He ordered all of the spinning wheels in the kingdom to be collected and destroyed. He sent the baby Aurora with three pixies who were to serve as her godmothers to be raised in the woods far away from the kingdom. He spent the remainder of his days obsessing over Maleficent, sitting in a private room staring at the now blackened severed wings that he kept inside of a glass display case.
As the years passed, Maleficent watched over Aurora from afar for her own amusement. She was accompanied by a confidante named Diaval, who was a raven that Maleficent would occasionally change into the form of a man. Maleficent enjoyed nothing more than playing amusing pranks on the three pixies, who were otherwise incompetent and in no way qualified to raise a baby on their own. In fact, Maleficent had to secretly care for Aurora, making sure that she was fed and kept safe. Inevitably, she came to fall in love with the child, despite an open declaration of hatred and an insistence on calling her "Beastie".
When Aurora was fifteen, she ventured into the forests where Maleficent had been keeping her silent vigil. Aurora was very bright for her age and she knew that this strange dark fairie had been watching over her throughout her entire life. Maleficent's sour demeanor melted some in the presence of the child, and she even took Aurora into the Moors. As the day of her sixteenth birthday came closer, Aurora asked if she could live in the Moors with Maleficent forever. Maleficent delighted to the notion, but was heavily aware that the day would soon come when her curse would take effect. One evening, while Aurora slept, Maleficent attempted to remove the curse. However, as per her own wording when she first cast the spell, no power save that for True Love's kiss could break it - not even her own.
Before her birthday, Aurora learned the truth about her heritage and about the curse that Maleficent had placed upon her. She journeyed to the castle to meet her father, but his mania and paranoia prevented him from forming any attachment to his daughter by this point. Maleficent knew that time was of the essence and she raced to the castle desperate to prevent Aurora from falling prey to the curse. As it turned out, Aurora found herself in one of the castle's dungeons. The power of the curse reformed one of the broken spinning wheels and she pricked her finger. She then fell into the sleep-like trance.
Her pixie guardians attempted to break the spell by bringing a boy named Prince Phillip into the tower room to kiss her. Phillip and Aurora had met previously, and though he was attracted to her, his kiss was not one born out of True Love. Heartbroken and consumed with grief, Maleficent visited the tower and spoke to the unconscious Aurora. She begged her forgiveness and then kissed her upon the brow. Maleficent's feelings for Aurora were genuine and as such, a kiss of True Love broke the spell and Aurora awakened.
Meanwhile, King Stefan knew that Maleficent was in the castle and sought to finish her off once and for all. He laid a trap for her, using a net of iron that ensnared Maleficent and burned into her flesh. As Stefan's guards converged upon her, she commanded her shape-shifter Diaval to take the form of a dragon and fight back. As the soldiers struck repeatedly at Maleficent with iron weapons, Aurora, having forgiven Maleficent, ran to the hidden room where Stefan kept the fairy's wings and broke the display case. The wings - still infused with Maleficent's life essence, returned to her, and she was whole once more. Gifted once again with the ability to fly, she escaped from the soldiers and fought against King Stefan. Stefan lunged at her and the two smashed through a tower window. Maleficent took flight, but Stefan could not keep his grip upon her and fell to his death.
With the death of her father, Aurora was named Queen of the human kingdom. With Maleficent and Diaval by her side, she successfully negotiated a treaty that united the human lands with the Moors.