Beauty and the Beast (French: La Belle et la Bête) is a fairy tale written by French novelist Gabrielle-Suzanne Barbot de Villeneuve and published in 1740 in La Jeune Américaine et les contes marins (The Young American and Marine Tales). Its lengthy version was abridged, rewritten, and published first by Jeanne-Marie Leprince de Beaumont in 1756 in Magasin des enfants (Children's Collection) and by Andrew Lang in the Blue Fairy Book of his Fairy Book series in 1889, to produce the version(s) most commonly retold. It was influenced by some earlier stories, such as "Cupid and Psyche", The Golden Ass written by Lucius Apuleius Madaurensis in the 2nd century AD, and "The Pig King", an Italian fairytale published by Giovanni Francesco Straparola in The Facetious Nights of Straparola.
Variants of the tale are known across Europe. In France, for example, Zémire and Azor is an operatic version of the story, written by Marmontel and composed by Grétry in 1771, which had enormous success well into the 19th century; it is based on the second version of the tale. Amour pour amour (Love for love), by Pierre-Claude Nivelle de La Chaussée, is a 1742 play based on de Villeneuve's version. According to researchers at universities in Durham and Lisbon, the story originated around 4,000 years ago.
A widower merchant lives in a mansion with his twelve children (six sons and six daughters). All his daughters are very beautiful, but the youngest, Beauty, is the most lovely, as well as kind, well-read, and pure of heart; while the elder sisters, in contrast, are cruel, selfish, vain, and spoiled. The merchant eventually loses all of his wealth in a tempest at sea, which sinks most of his merchant fleet. He and his children are consequently forced to live in a small cottage in a forest and work for a living. While Beauty makes a firm resolution to adjust to rural life with a cheerful disposition, her sisters do not and mistake her determination for stupidity.
Some years later, the merchant hears that one of the trade ships he had sent has arrived back in port, having escaped the destruction of its companions. Before leaving, he asks his children if they wish for him to bring any gifts back for them. His oldest daughters ask for clothing, jewels, and the finest dresses possible as they think his wealth has returned. Beauty asks for nothing but her father to be safe, but when he insists on buying her a present, she is satisfied with the promise of a rose as none grow in their part of the country. The merchant, to his dismay, finds that his ship's cargo has been seized to pay his debts, leaving him penniless and unable to buy his children's presents.
During his return, the merchant becomes lost during a storm. Seeking shelter, he comes upon a palace. Seeing that no one is home, the merchant sneaks in and finds tables inside laden with food and drink, which seem to have been left for him by the palace's invisible owner. The merchant accepts this gift and spends the night there. The next morning, the merchant has come to view the palace as his own possession and is about to leave to fetch his children when he sees a rose garden and recalls that Beauty had desired a rose. The merchant quickly plucks the loveliest rose he can find, and is about to pluck more to create a bouquet, only to end up being confronted by a hideous "Beast" who tries to kill him for stealing of his most precious possession (after accepting his hospitality). The merchant begs to be set free, revealing that he had only picked the rose as a gift for his youngest daughter. The Beast agrees to let him give the rose to Beauty, but only if the merchant brings one of his daughters to take his place without deception; he makes it clear she must agree to take his place while under no illusions about her predicament.
The merchant is upset but accepts this condition. The Beast sends him on his way, with wealth, jewels and fine clothes for his sons and daughters, and stresses that his daughters must not be lied to. The merchant, upon arriving home, hands Beauty the rose she requested and informs her it had a terrible price, before relaying what had happened during his absence. Her brothers say they will go to the castle and fight the Beast, while his older daughters refuse to leave and place blame on Beauty, urging her to right her own wrong. The merchant dissuades them, forbidding his children from ever going near the Beast. Beauty decides to go to the Beast's castle and the following morning she and her father set out atop a magical horse which the Beast has provided them with. The Beast receives her with great ceremony and her arrival is greeted with fireworks entwining their initials. He gives her lavish clothing and food and carries on lengthy conversations with her and she notes that he is inclined to stupidity rather than savagery. Every night, the Beast asks Beauty to sleep with him, only to be refused each time. After each refusal, Beauty dreams of a handsome prince who she begins to fall in love with. Despite the apparition of a fairy urging her not to be deceived by appearances she does not make the connection between the prince and the Beast and becomes convinced that the Beast is holding him captive somewhere in the castle. She searches and discovers many enchanted rooms containing sources of entertainment ranging from libraries to aviaries to enchanted windows allowing her to attend the theater. She also comes across many animals including parrots and monkeys which act as servants, but never the unknown prince from her dreams.
For several months, Beauty lives a life of luxury at the Beast's palace, having every whim catered to, with no end of riches to amuse her and an endless supply of exquisite finery to wear. Eventually, she becomes homesick and begs the Beast to allow her to go see her family again. He allows it on the condition that she returns exactly two months later. Beauty agrees to this and is presented with an enchanted ring which allows her to wake up in her family's new home in an instant when turned three times around her finger. Her older sisters are surprised to find her well fed and dressed in finery and their old jealousy quickly flares when their suitors gazes turn to Beauty despite her providing her sisters lavish gifts to bestow on them and eventually informing the men that she was only there to witness the weddings of her sisters. However, Beauty's heart is moved by her father's overprotection, and she reluctantly agrees to stay longer.
When the two months have passed she envisions the Beast dying alone on the castle grounds and hastens to return despite her brothers resolve to prevent her doing so. Once she is back in the castle, Beauty's fears are confirmed and she finds the Beast near death in a cave on the grounds. Seeing this, Beauty is distraught, realizing that she loves him. Despite this she remains calm and fetches water from a nearby spring which she uses to resuscitate him. That night, she agrees to marry him and when she wakes up next to him she finds the Beast transformed into the unknown from her dreams. This is followed by the arrival of the fairy who had previously advised her in her dreams, along with a woman she does not recognize, in a golden carriage pulled by white stags. The woman turns out to be the Prince's mother whose joy quickly falters when she finds out that Beauty is not of noble birth. The fairy chastises her and eventually reveals that Beauty is her niece with her actual father being the Queen's brother from Happy Island and her being the fairy's sister.
When the matter of Beauty's background is resolved she requests the Prince tell his tale and so he does. The Prince informs her that his father died when he was young and his mother had to wage war to defend his kingdom. The queen left him in the care of an evil fairy, who tried to seduce him when he became an adult; when he refused, she transformed him into a beast. Only by finding true love, despite his ugliness, could the curse be broken. He and Beauty are married and they live happily ever after together.
Beaumont greatly pared down the cast of characters and simplified the tale to an almost archetypal simplicity. The story begins in much the same way, although now the merchant has only six children: three sons and three daughters of which Beauty is one. The circumstances leading to her arrival at the Beast's castle unfolds in a similar manner and on this arrival she is informed that she is mistress there and he will obey her. Beaumont strips most of the detail and lavish descriptions present on Beauty's exploration of the palace in Villeneuve's versions and quickly jumps to her return home. She is given leave to remain there for a week and when she arrives her sisters plot to feign fondness for her to entice her to remain another week in hopes that the Beast will devour her in his anger. Again, she returns to him dying and restores him to life. They then marry and live happily ever after and this ends Beaumont's tale as she omits the background information given on both the Prince and his family and Beauty and hers.
Production and themes
Harris identifies the two most popular strands of fairy tale in the 18th century as the fantastical romance for adults and the didactic tale for children Beauty and the Beast is interesting as it bridges this gap, with Villeneuve's version being written as a salon tale for adults and Beaumont's being written as a didactic tale for children.
Tatar (2017) compares the tale to the theme of "animal brides and grooms" found in folklore throughout the world, pointing out that the French tale was specifically intended for the preparation of young girls in 18th century France for arranged marriages. The urban opening is unusual in fairy tales, as is the social class of the characters, neither royal nor peasants; it may reflect the social changes occurring at the time of its first writing.
Hamburger (2015) points out that the design of the Beast in the 1946 film adaptation by Jean Cocteau was inspired by the portrait of Petrus Gonsalvus, a native of Tenerife who suffered from hypertrichosis, causing an abnormal growth of hair on his face and other parts, and who came under the protection of the French king and married a beautiful Parisian woman named Catherine.
Modern uses and adaptations
The tale has been notably adapted for screen, stage, prose, and television over the years.
- The Pig King, by Giovanni Francesco Straparola, an Italian fairytale published in The Facetious Nights of Straparola.
- The Scarlet Flower (1858), a Russian fairy tale by Sergey Aksakov.
- Beauty and the Beast ... The Story Retold (1886), by Laura E. Richards.
- Beauty: A Retelling of the Story of Beauty and the Beast (1978), by Robin McKinley.
- Rose Daughter (1997) by Robin McKinley.
- The Courtship of Mr. Lyon (1979), from Angela Carter's The Bloody Chamber, based on Madame Le Prince de Beaumont's version.
- Beauty (1983), a short story by Tanith Lee, a science fiction retelling of Beauty and the Beast.
- Fashion Beast, a 1985 screenplay by Alan Moore, adapted into a graphic novel in 2012.
- A Grain of Truth (1993), a short story by Andrzej Sapkowski in The Last Wish.
- Lord of Scoundrels (1995) by Loretta Chase, a Regency romance and retelling of Beauty and the Beast.
- The Fire Rose (1995) by Mercedes Lackey.
- The Quantum Rose by Catherine Asaro, a science fiction retelling of Beauty and the Beast.
- Beastly (2007) by Alex Flinn, a version that sets the story in modern-day Manhattan.
- Bryony and Roses (2015) by T. Kingfisher (pen name of Ursula Vernon)
- Belle: An Amish Retelling of Beauty and the Beast (2017) by Sarah Price
- A Court of Thorns and Roses (2015) by Sarah J. Maas
- La Belle et la Bête (1946), directed by Jean Cocteau, starring Jean Marais as the Beast and Josette Day as Beauty.
- The Scarlet Flower (1952), an animated feature film directed by Lev Atamanov and produced at the Soyuzmultfilm.
- Beauty and the Beast (1962), directed by Edward L. Cahn, starring Joyce Taylor and Mark Damon.
- Panna a netvor (1978), a Czech film directed by Juraj Herz.
- Beauty and the Beast (1987), a musical live-action version directed by Eugene Marner, starring John Savage as Beast, and Rebecca De Mornay as Beauty.
- Beauty and the Beast (1991), an animated film produced by Walt Disney Feature Animation and directed by Kirk Wise and Gary Trousdale, with a screenplay by Linda Woolverton, and songs by Alan Menken and Howard Ashman.
- Beauty and the Beast (1992), directed by Masakazu Higuchi and Chinami Namba.
- Blood of Beasts (2005), a Viking period film directed by David Lister alternately known as Beauty and the Beast.
- Spike (2008), directed by Robert Beaucage, a dark version of the fairy tale updated to modern times.
- Beastly (2011), directed by Daniel Barnz and starring starring Alex Pettyfer as the beast (named Kyle) and Vanessa Hudgens as the love interest.
- Beauty and the Beast, (2014), a French-German film.
- Beauty and the Beast (2017), a Disney live-action adaptation of the 1991 animated film, starring Emma Watson and Dan Stevens.
- Beauty and the Beast (1976), a made for television movie starring George C. Scott and Trish Van Devere.
- Beauty and the Beast (1984), an episode of Shelley Duvall's Faerie Tale Theatre, starring Klaus Kinski and Susan Sarandon.
- Beauty and the Beast (1987), a television series which centers around the relationship between Catherine (played by Linda Hamilton), an attorney who lives in New York City, and Vincent (played by Ron Perlman), a gentle but lion-faced "beast" who dwells in the tunnels beneath the city.
- Beauty & the Beast (2012), a reworking of the 1987 TV series starring Jay Ryan and Kristin Kreuk.
- Grimm's Fairy Tale Classics episode "Beauty and the Beast" (The Story of the Summer Garden and the Winter Garden) (1988), in which the Beast has an ogre-like appearance.
- Happily Ever After: Fairy Tales for Every Child (1995), episode "Beauty and the Beast", featuring the voices of Vanessa L. Williams and Gregory Hines. The Beast is depicted as having a rhinoceros head, a lion-like mane and tail, a humanoid body, and a camel-like hump.
- Stories from My Childhood, episode "Beauty and the Beast (A Tale of the Crimson Flower" (1998), featuring the voices of Amy Irving as the Beauty, Tim Curry as the Beast, and Robert Loggia as Beauty's father.
- Once Upon a Time episode "Skin Deep" (2012), starring Emilie de Ravin and Robert Carlyle.
- Sofia the First episode "Beauty is the Beast" (2016), in which Princess Charlotte of Isleworth (voiced by Megan Hilty) is turned into a beast (a cross between a human and a wild boar with a wolf-like tail) by a powerful enchantress.
- La Belle et la Bête (1994), an opera by Philip Glass based on Cocteau's film. Glass's composition follows the film scene by scene, effectively providing a new original soundtrack for the movie.
- Beauty and the Beast (1994), a musical adaptation of the Disney film by Linda Woolverton and Alan Menken, with additional lyrics by Tim Rice.
- Beauty and the Beast (2011), a ballet by choreographed by David Nixon for Northern Ballet, including compositions by Bizet and Poulenc.
- A hidden object game, Mystery Legends: Beauty and the Beast, was released in 2012.
- The narrative of the Sierra Entertainment adventure game King's Quest VI follows several fairy tales, and Beauty and the Beast is the focus of one multiple part quest.
- Stevie Nicks recorded "Beauty and the Beast" for her 1983 solo album, The Wild Heart.
- Real Life based the video for their signature hit "Send Me an Angel" on the fairy story.
- Disco producer Alec R. Costandinos released a twelve inch by his side project Love & Kisses with the theme of the fairy-tale set to a disco melody in 1978.
- The interactive fiction work, Bronze by Emily Short, is a puzzle-oriented adaptation of Beauty and the Beast.
- Windling, Terri. "Beauty and the Beast, Old and New". The Journal of Mythic Arts. The Endicott Studio. Archived from the original on 26 July 2014.
- Stouff, Jean. "La Belle et la Bête". Biblioweb.
- Harrison, "Cupid and Psyche", Oxford Encyclopedia of Ancient Greece and Rome',' p. 339.
- Heidi Anne Heiner, "Tales Similar to Beauty and the Beast"
- Thomas, Downing. Aesthetics of Opera in the Ancien Régime, 1647–1785. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 2002.
- BBC. "Fairy tale origins thousands of years old, researchers say". BBC News. Retrieved 20 January 2016.
- Betsy Hearne, Beauty and the Beast: Visions and Revisions of An Old Tale, p 25 ISBN 0-226-32239-4
- Harries, Elizabeth (2003). Twice upon a time: Women Writers and the History of the Fairy Tale. Princeton University Press. p. 80.
- Tatar, Maria (7 March 2017). Beauty and the Beast: Classic Tales of Animal Brides and Grooms from Around the World. Random House Penguin. ISBN 9780143111696.
- Gilbert, Sophie (31 March 2017). "The Dark Morality of Fairy-Tale Animal Brides". The Atlantic. Retrieved 31 March 2017. "Maria Tatar points [...] the story of Beauty and the Beast was meant for girls who would likely have their marriages arranged".
- Maria Tatar, p 45, The Annotated Classic Fairy Tales, ISBN 0-393-05163-3
- Andreas Hamburger in: Andreas Hamburger (ed.) Women and Images of Men in Cinema: Gender Construction in La Belle et La Bete by Jean Cocteauchapter 3 (2015). see also: "La Bella y la Bestia": Una historia real inspirada por un hombre de carne y hueso (difundir.org 2016)
- Crunelle-Vanrigh, Anny. "The Logic of the Same and Différance: 'The Courtship of Mr. Lyon'". In Roemer, Danielle Marie, and Bacchilega, Cristina, eds. (2001). Angela Carter and the Fairy Tale, p. 128. Wayne State University Press.
- Wherry, Maryan (2015). "More than a Love Story: The Complexities of the Popular Romance". In Berberich, Christine (ed.). The Bloomsbury Introduction to Popular Fiction. Bloomsbury. p. 55. ISBN 978-1441172013.
- David J. Hogan (1986). Dark Romance: Sexuality In the Horror Film. Jefferson, North Carolina: McFarland & Company. p. 90. ISBN 0-7864-0474-4.
- "50's and 60's Horror Movies B". The Missing Link. Retrieved 21 April 2010.
- Russell A. Peck. "Cinderella Bibliography: Beauty and the Beast". The Camelot Project at the University of Rochester. Archived from the original on 6 April 2010. Retrieved 21 April 2010.
- Janet Maslin (13 November 1991). "Disney's 'Beauty and the Beast' Updated In Form and Content". The New York Times. Retrieved 21 April 2010.
- "Beauty and the Beast". Movie Review Film. Retrieved 21 April 2010.
- Maslin, Janet. "Beauty and the Beast: Overview". The New York Times. Retrieved 21 April 2010.
- Calum Waddell. "Spike". Total Sci-Fi. Archived from the original on 28 July 2011. Retrieved 21 April 2010.
- Larry Carroll (30 March 2010). "Vanessa Hudgens And Alex Pettyfer Get 'Intense' In 'Beastly'". MTV. Archived from the original on 5 April 2010. Retrieved 21 April 2010.
- "Beauty and the Beast (2017)". Retrieved 6 March 2017.
- "Alternate Versions for La Belle et la Bête". IMDb. Archived from the original on 11 April 2010. Retrieved 21 April 2010.
- Tale as Old as Time: The Making of Beauty and the Beast. [VCD]. Walt Disney Home Entertainment. 2002.
- Thompson, Laura (19 December 2011). "Beauty and the Beast, Northern Ballet, Grand Theatre, Leeds, review". Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 8 June 2016.
- Mystery Legends: Beauty and the Beast Collector's Edition (PC DVD)
- KQ6 Game Play video
- Bronze homepage, including background information and download links
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- "Beauty and the Beast: folktales of Aarne-Thompson type 425C
- Cinderella Bibliography – includes an exhaustive list of B&tB productions in books, TV and recordings
- Original version and psychological analysis of Beauty and the Beast (Archive on Wayback Machine)
- (in French) La Belle et la Bête, audio version