Friday’s Fairy Tales: La Belle et La Bete/Beauty and the Beast

batb

I am indeed much very wicked,” She said, “to cause so much grief

to a Beast who has shown me nothing but kindness.  Is it his own fault that

he is so ugly, and has so few wits? He is good, and that makes up for all the rest

(Perrault 2004:132)

This week I will be discussing one of the most popular, and possibly most controversial tales of the western hemisphere: Beauty and the Beast, or as it was originally known- La Belle et la Bete.

The controversy comes from the simple question of: True Romance, Selflessness/Sacrifice or Stockholm Syndrome?

On the Aarne Thompson scale, this tale falls under425C: Supernatural or Enchanted Relatives> Husband. The tale originates from France, with the earliest record being around 1740, written by Gabrielle- Suzanne Barbot de Villeneuve.

Original Source: For this week’s tale, I do have a copy of it in my book of Perrault, but it is all the way upstairs. So Imma be lazy and refer to the wikipedia article. Because reasons.

The Story:

  • There was once a wealthy merchant, who lived with his three daughters. As usual, the youngest is the loveliest of them all. (*self-important-cough*)

  • The merchant loses his fortune after poor sales wreck his business (pun intended), the family have to move into a run down cottage and actually work to survive.

  • After a couple of years, one of the dad’s ships arrives back in port, which has apparently survived the wreck. The dad sets off to investigate the ship, but before he goes, he asks his three daughters if they would like any gifts bringing back with him.

  • The eldest daughters, thinking their father as wealthy again, ask him for dresses and jewels; the youngest daughter asks for a rose as none grow in that part of the country.

  • As a result of his outstanding debt however, the ship has been seized, leaving the family still penniless and his daughters without presents.

  • On his way home, the merchant gets lost in a forest and stumbles across a castle/palace. He enters the property to find tables covered in food, which he interprets to have been left for him by the owner. The merchant spends the night there.

  • As the merchant is about to leave, he remembers his youngest daughter’s wish. He wanders into the castle’s garden and picks the loveliest rose he can find. But the castle’s owner- a hideous beast- appears and tells him that for stealing his most precious possession despite how well the beast’s hospitality was the night before, the merchant must die.

  • The merchant begs for his life, pleading that he was intending the rose to be a gift for his youngest daughter. The beast tells the merchant that he will let him leave to give the rose to his youngest daughter, but only if Belle would return in place of her father.

  • The merchant leaves upset, with additional jewels, dresses and money for his daughters, provided by the beast- who added the additional condition that the youngest daughter (calling her Belle from now on for ease), must never know of this deal.

  • The merchant arrives home and tries to hide this from Belle, but she pries it out of him and willingly travels to the Beast’s castle. Upon arriving at the castle, the Beast informs her that she is now the mistress of the castle and that he is her servant.

  • He presents her with gifts and luxury, and engages her in length conversations daily. At the end of every day, the Beast asks her to marry him, and every night she says no.

  • Every night after she refuses him, Belle dreams of a handsome prince, who asks her why she won’t change her answer to his proposals- she replies she cannot marry the Beast as she only loves him as a friend. Belle does not realise that this dream!prince is actually the Beast and becomes convinced that the Beast actually has the Prince held captive in the castle somewhere. She explores the castle and discovers many enchanted rooms, but never the prince.

  • This goes on for several months, eventually Belle becomes homesick and begs the Beast to let her visit home and see her family. The Beast allows her to go home on the condition she should return exactly one week later. Belle agrees to this and sets off with an enchanted mirror and a ring. The mirror allows her to see what is happening back at the castle with the beast and the ring allows her to be transported by to the castle if turned thrice around her finger.

  • Belle returns home, where her sisters are surprised to find her…you know, alive. They become jealous of her happy life and try to deter Belle from returning to the castle for one extra day, in the hopes that this will anger the Beast and make him eat Belle alive. They rub onions into their eyes to make themselves appear upset. Belle is gullible enough to believe this party trick and agrees to stay another day.

  • Belle feels guilty about not returning to the Beast and uses the mirror to check in with him, only to find that the Beast is lying half-dead from heartbreak. She immediately uses the ring to return to the Beast.

  • Belle weeps over the Beast, telling him she loves him. When her tears land on him, the Beast transforms into the handsome prince from her dreams. The prince tells her that a fairy turned him into a hideous beast after he refused to provide her with shelter from the rain and that only by finding true love, despite his ugliness, could the curse be broken. He and Belle marry, and they live happily ever after.

I’m running very late putting this up (it’s actually 11pm on friday night- oops sorry guys! Life got busy suddenly!) So I’ll jump straight ahead to the retelling recommendations and discussion questions!

Recommendations:

  1. Beauty by Robin McKinley. A lovely story full of description and magic. Highly recommended.

  2. Belle (Once Upon a Time)- Cameron Dokey, much shorter but does the job of telling the tale.

  3. Beastly- Alex Flinn, for those who love modern retellings.

  4. Cruel Beauty- Rosamund Hodge, review available Here: Batb mixed with Greek mythology? Yes plz~

Discussion Questions:

Could this be classed as a Cautionary Tale? If so, how?

Maybe against stealing or being boastful about your wealth? Otherwise, I don’t think so. Or maybe it is actually warning against Stockholm Syndrome? We all know the internet loves that possibility.

Do you think this tale is aimed towards Children, or can it be for Adults as well?

I think this tale is a story of enchantment for children, but also it teaches about selflessness and for seeing and loving people for their personalities rather than their appearances.

Did you notice any interesting patterns or underlying themes in this story?

Selflessness. Definitley. Despite his bad luck and poverty, the father selflessly offers his daughters gifts and risks his own life to attempt to bring his daughters the one gift they ask for. Belle’s selflessness for swapping places with her father to protect him (although there is a debate whether it is more because she always wished to see more of the world and get away from her sisters and her boring life, that it isn’t actually selfless at all). Beast’s selflessness for allowing Belle to leave despite loving her and knowing in most versions of the tale, that if she leaves and does not lift the curse, she may not come back and he will die.

Is this a tale you would tell your children? If so, which version would you prefer? If not, why not?

Hells yeah!

Readers: Is there a specific tale you would like me to discuss/analyse in the future?

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12 thoughts on “Friday’s Fairy Tales: La Belle et La Bete/Beauty and the Beast

  1. arianrhod123 says:

    Beauty and the Beast has always been my favourite fairy tale (and favourite Disney film)! Somehow, I haven’t actually read a retelling of the story yet, although Beauty is definitely on my to read list.

    • thebookheap says:

      It is a lot of description and a little slow, but I highly recommend it, its lovely! She has also written Rose Daughter but I’ve not read that yet

      • arianrhod123 says:

        My plan is to read some of her books at somepoint because they look really good.

      • thebookheap says:

        I couldn’t get into Spindles End but definitely recommend Beauty to start with!

  2. The original is actually pretty close to the versions of Beauty & the Beast we all know and love. I was expecting something completely different. I really do love this story, very much a story of finding the beauty on the inside. I have read Beastly and really enjoyed it, really want to read Cruel Beauty. It’s been on my list for ages!
    Is Peter Pan considered a fairy tale? My favourite disney film however I have never read the original. Would be interested to see the differences, and if there are any more re-tellings 🙂 Great post, and don’t worry, I’m nearly always up at 2am doing the post for the next day!

    • thebookheap says:

      Cruel Beauty is definitely worth a read if you are a fan of the story! Oops, I meant to put a link to my review of it up *fixes* that is what you get for publishing late at night, eh!

      Peter Pan, I’m not sure if it would be considered a fairytale as such, same as Alice in Wonderland, because they haven’t really had earlier versions with different elements. They’ve been published as novels early 1900s and have basically remained the same throughout the last 100 years or so… I see your point though! I love the disney of peter pan but to be honest, the book didn’t really entertain me much. I don’t know if there have been many re-tellings of the story, there probably are one or two though.

    • thebookheap says:

      Do you know, I’ve just written the newest FF: about the legend of Mulan, and it has made me change my mind! I might actually do a post about Peter Pan and then Alice in Wonderland after all!- What would you like to see in it?

      • LOVE Mulan, will be checking that one out!
        Wow, I don’t know what I would want in it, but these are my favourite things about both:
        Peter Pan- I love the whole ‘faith, trust and pixie dust concept’. The whole rule that you can’t fly if you don’t believe. Only the kids can fly and they never grow up so is the whole message that they are trying to put across is that once you grown up you don’t believe in magic anymore? Because I’m 22 and I totally believe in magic!
        Alice & Wonderland – Mad Hatter, no doubt is the best character. I really love the mad hatters tea party. I don’t know much about Alice & Wonderland. Haven’t read it, only watched all related films 🙂
        ALSO I know you haven’t done Snow White yet and wanted to let you know about this new book due out in October called ‘Stitching Snow’ by R.C.Lewis. To quote someone else : “A very imaginative retelling of the Snow White fairy tale…almost the same…except set in the future, different planet, including inter-planetary space travel, and our heroine is a techno-geek and plenty strong enough to take care of herself. But other than that…” Looks cool, thought you might like 🙂

      • thebookheap says:

        I’d be interested in doing peter pan because I always wonder, with the book being written for Great Olmond St’s Children’s Hospital, if Neverland is meant to be where kids go when they pass away and they are the “lost boys”… morbid, eh.

        hmmm I’ll have to look into that one, thank you! Always up for fairy tale retellings!

      • Oh yeah, never thought of it like that. Thats really clever, kinda sad but at the same time. It’s probably nicer to think of them always being children and playing in a magical place rather then the more depressing reasons why they are never going to grow up.

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