In 1991, Walt Disney Featured Animation released the American animated fantasy film, Beauty and the Beast, and was based on Jeanne-Marie Le Prince de Beaumont’s 1756 version of the fairy tale.
The film narrates the story of a young maiden, Belle, that sacrifices her life in order to save her father. She agrees to stay as the prisoner of a hideous beast in his enchanted castle. However, throughout her stay she realized that while his appearance was ugly and menacing, he was actually a gentle and considerate creature, eventually falling in love with him and breaking his curse. Upon finding someone to love him, the Beast returned to his normal self, a handsome prince, and marries Belle.
The story’s most famous version is the one of Jeanne-Marie Le Prince de Beaumont in 1756. In this version, unlike Disney’s, there’s a rich merchant that has three daughters and three sons. His two eldest daughters were greedy and arrogant, while his youngest was humble and more beautiful than the others. Upon losing his fortune, the merchant has to move to the country and work as a poor man. While his eldest daughters could not accept the poor life, his youngest took care of the house and her family, also finding the time to read and enjoy a good book. And because of this, her sisters were mad with hate and jealousy.
One day, when the merchant finds himself lost in the woods, he stumbles on the Beast’s castle and is well-received. Though, upon his departure he takes a few roses from the castle’s garden for his youngest daughter. The master of the house, the terrible Beast, said he must die for being such an ungrateful person and taking the roses which the Beast treasured so much. The merchant begged for forgiveness and explained that he wanted to bring a present to his daughters. The Beast then agrees to let him live if one of his daughters came willingly and took his place. Of course, Beauty, the youngest daughter, took her father’s place and after three months of being with the Beast, she fell in love with him.
However, every night the Beast asked for Beauty’s hand in marriage which she refused. So he asked for her to stay with him forever, yet she admits she wanted to be with her father who was sick and alone since her sisters had married and her brothers had gone to the army. He agrees to let her go for a week, but she had to promise to return or he would die without her. After a week passed, she did not return for her sisters had tricked her into thinking that they actually missed her and wanted her to be with them. On the tenth day after having an awful nightmare, Beauty returns to the Beast and finds him lying dead in the garden, though his heart was still beating. She brought him water and he was happy that she had returned because without her he thought of starving himself to death. There she admits her love for him, his curse is broken, and he becomes a handsome prince. He marries Beauty and her sisters are turned into statues for their malice and greedy hearts. (Serves them right, huh?)
Before Madame Beaumont’s version there have been older versions found. Her version was published as a retelling of Gabrielle-Suzanne Barbot de Villeneuve’s 1740 version. And even before that, there has been found a version similar to this one in Giambattista Basile’s 1634 Pentamerone.
Furthermore, one of the oldest, if not the oldest, version found that resembles the story of “Beauty and the Beast” is the story of “Cupid and Psyche” written in the 2nd century A.D by Apuleius. In this story you can also find the union of a very beautiful girl and a “hideous” monster. And Psyche, like Beauty, is also tricked by her own jealous sisters.
I believe it’s a lovely fairy tale, and thankfully it’s not as gruesome as other fairy tales that I’ve researched. Although in “Cupid and Psyche’s” version, Venus is very mean. But what else can you expect from the goddess?
As of today’s versions, the most recent ones include the 2011 film Beastly, the ABC television series version on Once Upon A Time, and also the CW television series Beauty and the Beast.
Well, until our next once upon a time… Adieu 😉