This article is about the fairy tale. For other uses, see Beauty and the Beast (disambiguation).
Illustration for Beauty and the Beast by Walter Crane.
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). Her 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 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.
- 1 Plot
- 2 Villeneuve’s version
- 3 Commentary
- 4 Modern uses and adaptations
- 4.1 Literature
- 4.2 Film
- 4.3 Television
- 4.4 Theatre
- 4.5 Other
- 5 See also
- 6 References
- 7 External links
A widower merchant lives in a mansion with his six children, three sons and three 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 two elder sisters, in contrast, are wicked, 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 farmhouse and work for their living. Beauty does most of the household work while her sisters taunt her.
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. The sons ask for weaponry and horses to hunt with, whereas 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. A hidden figure opens the giant doors and silently invites him in. The merchant 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, as the merchant is about to leave, he sees a rose garden and recalls that Beauty had desired a rose. Upon picking the loveliest rose he can find, the merchant is confronted by a hideous “Beast” which tells him that for taking his most precious possession after accepting his hospitality, the merchant must die. The merchant begs to be set free, arguing 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 or one of his daughters will return.
Beauty dines with the Beast in an illustration by Anne Anderson.
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 Beauty must never know about his deal. The merchant, upon arriving home, tries to hide the secret from Beauty, but she pries it from him. Her brothers say they will go to the castle and fight the Beast, but the merchant dissuades them, saying they will stand no chance against the monster. Beauty then agrees to go to the Beast’s castle. The Beast receives her graciously and informs her that she is now mistress of the castle, and he is her servant. He gives her lavish clothing and food and carries on lengthy conversations with her. Every night, the Beast asks Beauty to marry him, only to be refused each time. After each refusal, Beauty dreams of a handsome prince who pleads with her to answer why she keeps refusing him, to which she replies that she cannot marry the Beast because she loves him only as a friend. Beauty does not make the connection between the handsome prince and the Beast and becomes convinced that the Beast is holding the prince captive somewhere in the castle. She searches and discovers many enchanted rooms but never the prince from her dreams.
For several months, Beauty lives a life of luxury at the Beast’s palace, having every whim catered to by invisible servants, 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. He allows it on the condition that she returns exactly a week later. Beauty agrees to this and sets off for home with an enchanted mirror and ring. The mirror allows her to see what is going on back at the Beast’s castle, and the ring allows her to return to the castle in an instant when turned three times around her finger. Her older sisters are surprised to find her well fed and dressed in finery. Beauty tries to share the magnificent gowns and jewels the Beast gave her with her sisters, but they turn into rags at her sisters’ touch, and are restored to their splendour when returned to Beauty, as the Beast meant them only for her. Her sisters are envious when they hear of her happy life at the castle, and, hearing that she must return to the Beast on a certain day, beg her to stay another day, even putting onion in their eyes to make it appear as though they are weeping. They hope that the Beast will be angry with Beauty for breaking her promise and eat her alive. Beauty’s heart is moved by her sisters’ false show of love, and she agrees to stay.
Illustration by Warwick Goble.
Beauty begins to feel guilty about breaking her promise to the Beast and uses the mirror to see him back at the castle. She is horrified to discover that the Beast is lying half-dead from heartbreak near the rose bushes from which her father plucked the rose, and she immediately uses the ring to return to the Beast.
Beauty weeps over the Beast, saying that she loves him. When her tears strike him, the Beast is transformed into the handsome prince from Beauty’s dreams. The Prince informs her that long ago a fairy turned him into a hideous beast and that 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.
Villeneuve’s original tale includes several elements that Beaumont’s omits. Chiefly, the backstory of both Beauty and the Beast is given. The Beast was a prince who lost his father at a young age, and whose 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. Beauty’s story reveals that she is not really a merchant’s daughter but the offspring of a king and a good fairy. A wicked fairy had tried to murder Beauty so she could marry her father the king, and Beauty was put in the place of the merchant’s dead daughter to protect her. Villeneuve also gave the castle elaborate magic, which obscured the more vital pieces of it. Beaumont greatly pared down the cast of characters and simplified the tale to an almost archetypal simplicity.
Painting of Petrus Gonsalvus (c. 1580)
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.
- Belle: An Amish Retelling of Beauty and the Beast (2017) by Sarah Price
- 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 (2002), 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 a song based on the fairy tale 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.
- Eros and Psyche
- East of the Sun and West of the Moon
- Noble savage
- Jane Eyre
“La Bella y la Bestia”: Una historia real inspirada por un hombre de carne y hueso (difundir.org 2016)
- “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
- (in French) La Belle et la Bête, audio version
- The Scarlet Flower (1858)
- Beauty: A Retelling of the Story of Beauty and the Beast (1978)
- Lord of Scoundrels (1995)
- Rose Daughter (1997)
- The Quantum Rose (2000)
- Beastly (2007)
- Fashion Beast (2012)
- Zémire et Azor (opera)
- Beauty and the Beast Live on Stage (stage)
- Beauty and the Beast (musical)
- “Beauty and the Beast” (1983)
- “Election Day” (1985)
- “Beauty and the Beast” (1991)
- Disney characters
- Disney’s Beauty and the Beast (video game)
- Beauty and the Beast (Disney franchise)