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Beauty and the Beast

Page history last edited by Amber Autry 12 years ago

“A Rose by Any Other Name…”

The story of "Beauty and the Beast" is a widely known fairytale involving the marriage of a beautiful young girl to a beast who turns out to be a handsome prince under a spell. The most common retelling of the tale, an abridged version of Madame Gabrielle Susanne Barot de Gallon de Villeneuve's long narrative, was written down in France by Madame Jeanne-Made Le Prince de Beaumont in 1756. There are several other tales that contain similarities to the account of "Beauty and the Beast" including a grouping found in W.R.S. Ralston’s "The Nineteenth Century". These stories involve girls wedded to various creatures, a goat, a monkey, a wolf, and a bear. A resemblance to the story of "Beauty and the Beast" can also be found in the Brothers’ Grimm rendition of "The Singing, Springing Lark". In addition, the parallels between this fairytale and the story of Cupid and Psyche recorded by Apuleius in the 2nd century cannot be denied.

 

In the account of Cupid and Psyche, most likely a Latin relation of an older Greek myth, a young woman, whose beauty rivals that of Venus, has two sisters who are envious of her loveliness. This theme of Beauty being one of three sisters, common in several versions of the story, including de Beaumont’s and the Grimm Brothers’, is left out of many 20th century adaptations, such as that of the Disney animated film . The myth of Cupid and Psyche also contains a castle where Psyche is entertained by disembodied voices that welcome her, sing and play instruments, and prepare her table with food. This element can also be found in "The Singing, Springing Lark", and in most variations of "Beauty and the Beast"; a part of the story explained by talking house hold items in the more recent editions. There are a few other commonalities between Cupid and Psyche and "Beauty and the Beast", the last of which being that in the end the two lovers do end up together. However the Grimm and Beaumont versions contain more similarities than this.

 

While in the myth Psyche is merely isolated as a result of Venus’ jealousy, in the fairy tale Beauty is given to the Beast as payment for a wrong done to him by her father. Some reports of the tale involve Beauty’s father getting lost in the woods while on a journey and stumbling across a castle where he takes shelter and is cared for by unseen hands. When the father leaves the castle, he takes a rose from the garden outside, in some version it’s because Beauty asked for him to bring her back a rose from his journey, in others he just decides to take one back for her. In any case, this act brings on the wrath of the master of the house, a beast that cherishes his roses and demands the father’s life for his show of ungratefulness. The father tries to explain himself, and upon hearing that the man has daughter the beast offers an ultimatum. Beauty’s father can leave and see his family again, if he promises to return for his punishment or to send his daughter in his stead. This how Beauty ends up a prisoner at the castle. In "The Singing, Springing Lark", rather than ask for a rose, Beauty asks for her father to bring her back a “singing, springing lark’. Instead of coming across a castle while Returning from his journey, Beauty’s father finds the lark in a tree, but when he takes the lark a lion jumps out and attacks him. The rest of the situation is fairly similar to that of the other versions in that the lion is a prince, and Beauty returns instead of her father. But in the Grimm Brothers’ rendition the prince and all of his subjects who have also been transformed into lions, return to their normal forms at night. In regards to Beasts form, a common theme between the stories is that the Beast is kind hearted, despite his physical appearance. In fact, in Beaumont’s retelling, while talking with Beast, Beauty says, “Among mankind there are many that deserve that name more than you, and I prefer you, just as you are, to those, who, under a human form, hide a treacherous, corrupt, and ungrateful heart.” In the end of every story Beast is transformed to be as beautiful physically as he is in character.

 

In each version Beauty requests to see her family and as a result some consequence befalls her; most commonly the possibility of being separated from Beast in one manor or another. In the Grimm version the lion is turned into a dove for seven years, and when he turns back into a human he almost marries another princess. In Cupid and Psyche, Cupid leaves because Psyche breaks the rules and looks at him despite his wishes; in this version the beauty’s husband is only assumed to be hideous. As he departs Cupid says, “Love cannot dwell with suspicion.” In the Beaumont version Beast is dying of self induced starvation because of her defection, and in the Disney version Beast is dying of a wound inflicted by another of Beauty’s suitors. In each instance the lovers are restored to one another by the end of the account.

 


Check out the stories for yourself


Recommendations
If you’re looking for a book to read and you enjoy the tale of "Beauty and the Beast" check out Beastly by Alex Flinn.

 


Citations

  • Ashliman, D. (2010). Grimm brothers’ home page. Retrieved from http://www.pitt.edu.
  • Brooke P. (January 2004). Lyons and Tigers and Wolves - Oh My! Revisionary Fairy Tales in the Work of Angela Carter. Critical Survey. Available from: Academic Search Complete, Ipswich, MA.
  • Opie P., Opie I. (1974).The Classic Fairy Tales: Cinderella, 117-127. New York, Oxford; Oxford University Press.

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