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Beauty and the Beast

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Beauty and the Beast

Beauty and the Beast (French: La Belle et la Bête) is a traditional 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, written by Lucius Apuleius Madaurensi in The Golden Ass 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 Gabrielle-Suzanne Barbot de Villeneuve's version. According to researchers at universities in Durham and Lisbon, the story originated around 4,000 years ago.


A wealthy, widowed 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. They secretly taunt Beauty and treat her more like a servant than a sister. The merchant eventually loses all of his wealth in a tempest at sea. He and his children are consequently forced to live in a small farmhouse and work for their living.

Some years later, the merchant hears that one of the trade ships he had sent off has arrived back in port, having escaped the destruction of its compatriots. He returns to the city to discover whether it contains anything valuable. 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 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 in a forest during a storm. Seeking shelter, he enters a dazzling 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.

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 accepts responsibility for her actions and willingly goes 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 multiple 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.

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 her father had stolen from 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 after he refused to let her in from the rain 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 version

Villeneuve's original tale includes several elements that Beaumont's omits. Chiefly, the back-story 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 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. The 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. She 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.


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.

Some authors and experts have suggested that the story of Beauty and the Beast could be influenced by a true story. It would be the story of Petrus Gonsalvus, who was born in the sixteenth century on the island of Tenerife (Spain) and was brought to the court of King Henry II of France. Petrus suffered hypertrichosis, causing an abnormal growth of hair on his face and other parts. In Paris, he was welcomed under the protection of the 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, a Russian fairy tale published by Sergey Aksakov.
  • Beast by Donna Jo Napoli, a retelling set in Persia and told from the Beast's point of view.
  • Beastly, written by Alex Flinn, sets the story in modern-day Manhattan.
  • "Beauty", a short story by Tanith Lee, is a science fiction retelling of "Beauty and the Beast". It appeared in Lee's anthology, Red as Blood, or Tales from the Sisters Grimmer, published in 1983. The heroine is named Estár; the Beast, a catlike telepathic alien, is never given a name that can be written or spoken in any human language.
  • Beauty and the Beast ... The Story Retold. Laura E. Richards. London: Blickie & Son, 1886. Also, Boston: Roberts Brothers, 1886.
  • Beauty and the Werewolf by Mercedes Lackey, part of the Five Hundred Kingdoms series.
  • Beauty: A Retelling of the Story of Beauty and the Beast, 1978 and Rose Daughter, 1997 (both by author Robin McKinley).
  • Belle: A Retelling of Beauty and the Beast by Cameron Dokey, and Spirited by Nancy Holder, both part of the Once Upon A Time series.
  • "The Courtship of Mr. Lyon", a story from Angela Carter's The Bloody Chamber, is based on Madame Le Prince de Beaumont's version.
  • East, by Edith Pattou, is based on the Norwegian story "East of the Sun and West of the Moon".
  • Fashion Beast, a 1980s screenplay by Alan Moore, was adapted into a graphic novel in 2012.
  • The Fire Rose by Mercedes Lackey, part of the Elementals series.
  • Roses & Thorns: Beauty and the Beast Retold, by Chris Anne Wolfe, a retelling of the classic story where both protagonists are female.
  • In The Last Wish by Andrzej Sapkowski, the story "A Grain of Truth" is very similar to "Beauty and the Beast", though the beast enjoys being a beast and the daughters of various merchants willingly live with him in exchange for money.
  • The Quantum Rose by Catherine Asaro is a science fiction retelling of "Beauty and the Beast". It won the 2002 Nebula Award for Best Novel and the 2001 Affaire de Coeur Award for Best Science Fiction Novel. The first third of the novel appeared as a three-part serialization in Analog magazine in the 1999 May, June, and July/August issues. Tor Books published the full novel in 2000.
  • The Cold King by Amber Jaeger, a retelling in a historical setting.
  • A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J Maas, a retelling of "Beauty and the Beast" alongside "East of the Sun, West of the Moon" and "Tam Lin"
  • Lord of Scoundrels by Loretta Chase, a Regency romance and retelling of Beauty and the Beast
  • Cruel Beauty by Rosamund Hodge, a retelling of "Beauty and the Beast," and book one in the Cruel Beauty universe.
  • Film

  • A French version entitled La Belle et la Bête was made in 1946, directed by Jean Cocteau, starring Jean Marais as the Beast and Josette Day as the Beauty. This version adds a subplot involving Belle's suitor Avenant.
  • A 1952 animated feature film, The Scarlet Flower, based upon Aksakov's aforementioned tale, was directed by Lev Atamanov and produced at the Soyuzmultfilm. It was restored at the Gorky Film Studio in 1987 and is now widely available on several video and DVD editions in Russia (an English-subtitled version has not been released).
  • A 1962 version directed by Edward L. Cahn, starring Joyce Taylor and Mark Damon, had the Beast as a prince who transformed into a werewolf at night, with makeup by Universal's Jack Pierce.
  • In 1987, The Cannon Group and Golan-Globus Productions released Beauty and the Beast, a musical live action version, directed by Eugene Marner, starring John Savage as Beast, and Rebecca De Mornay as Beauty, with original music by Lori McKelvey. It was released on VHS in 1988 by Cannon Video, and on DVD in 2005 by MGM Home Entertainment.
  • In 1991, Walt Disney Feature Animation produced a musical animated film entitled Beauty and the Beast, directed by Kirk Wise and Gary Trousdale, with a screenplay by Linda Woolverton, and songs by Alan Menken and Howard Ashman. Like the 1946 version, the Disney version also names Beauty "Belle" and gives her a handsome suitor (here named Gaston) who eventually plots to kill the Beast. The Beast is depicted to having the head structure and horns of a bison, the jaws, teeth, and mane of a lion, the eyebrow of a gorilla, the tusks of a wild boar, the arms and body of a bear, and the hind legs and tail of a wolf.
  • Children's film producer Diane Eskenazi produced Beauty and the Beast, directed by Masakazu Higuchi and Chinami Namba, for Golden Films in 1993. The film, which relied on moderate animation techniques but was mostly faithful to the original tale, featured classical compositions as opposed to an original soundtrack, featuring the works of many well-known popular composers. This film's version of the Beast has the body of a gorilla, the mane of a lion, the snout and tusks of a common warthog, and the tail of a bull.
  • The theme of the music video "I'd Do Anything for Love (But I Won't Do That)" by Meat Loaf, released in 1993, is adapted from Beauty and the Beast.
  • A 2003 Viking period film directed by David Lister was alternately known as Beauty and the Beast and Blood of Beasts.
  • A dark version of the fairy tale updated to modern times, director Robert Beaucage's 2008 film Spike, was described (at its premiere at the Edinburgh International Film Festival where it was chosen as part of the Best of the Fest) as "Angela Carter rewriting La Belle et la Bête as an episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer".
  • Another modern take on "Beauty and the Beast" is Beastly starring Alex Pettyfer as the beast (named Kyle) and Vanessa Hudgens as the love interest (named Lindy). Directed by Daniel Barnz and based on the novel by Alex Flinn, it was released on 18 March 2011. The story places the basics of the original fairy tale in the context of a contemporary American high school. The film also features Neil Patrick Harris as Kyle's blind tutor and Mary-Kate Olsen as the girl responsible for cursing Kyle and causing his subsequent transformation.
  • Beauty and the Beast, a French-German film, released in 2014.
  • Beauty and the Beast, a Disney live-action film starring Emma Watson and Dan Stevens, set for 2017 release.
  • Television

  • George C. Scott appeared as the Beast in a made-for-TV rendition in 1976, with his second wife, Patricia "Trish" Van Devere, co-starring alongside him as Belle in the film, which aired as part of the Hallmark Hall of Fame. Scott was nominated for an Emmy for his performance.
  • In 1984, Shelley Duvall's Faerie Tale Theatre aired "Beauty and the Beast", starring Klaus Kinski and Susan Sarandon. The script, sets, makeup, and costumes were based on the 1946 film.
  • Beauty and the Beast, a television series which owed as much to detective shows and fantasy fiction as to the fairy tale, was originally broadcast from 1987 to 1989. This was centered around the relationship between Catherine (played by Linda Hamilton), an attorney who lived in New York City, and Vincent (played by Ron Perlman), a gentle but lion-faced "beast" who dwells in the tunnels beneath the city. Wendy Pini created two issues of a comic-book adaptation of the TV series. The series was cancelled when ratings fell after Hamilton decided to leave the show at the end of the second season.
  • Beauty and the Beast was featured in Grimm's Fairy Tale Classics. In this version, the Beast had an ogre-like appearance and appeared at the Merchant's house when his time to give him Beauty came. Outside of Beauty breaking the spell on the Beast enough to turn him back into a prince, the two of them sent birds to carry messages of their marriage. The narrator commented that he learned of this story because "a little birdie told" him.
  • Beauty and the Beast was featured in Happily Ever After: Fairy Tales for Every Child. The story is set in Africa and features the voices of Vanessa L. Williams as the Beauty, Gregory Hines as the Beast, Debbie Allen as Precious, Terrence C. Carson as the Tree, and Paul Winfield as the Father.
  • Beauty & the Beast (2012) is a reworking of the 1987 TV series with Jay Ryan and Kristin Kreuk reprising the roles that Perlman and Hamilton, respectively, had originated in that production.
  • Both ABC and the CW have ordered pilots for television shows based on the classic fairy tale, with the CW version being a remake of the 1980s television series.
  • A variation of the story was incorporated into an episode of the ABC TV series Once Upon a Time entitled "Skin Deep", in which Beauty/Belle is played by Emilie de Ravin and the Beast is Rumpelstiltskin (played by Robert Carlyle).
  • While Belle had appeared in Sofia the First, the Beast wasn't featured. Instead, a variation of the story is used in the episode "Beauty is the Beast" where Princess Charlotte of Isleworth (voiced by Megan Hilty) was turned into a Beast by the powerful enchantress Zinessa (voiced by Meredith Roberts Quill) because she was rude and insensitive to her friend Morris the Goblin (voiced by Andrew Rannells). The description of her Beast form is a cross between a human and a wild boar with a wolf-like tail. Once Princess Charlotte vouched for Morris the Goblin upon the royal guards arresting him and became friends with him in front of her parents King Philip and Queen Everly (voiced by Fritz Sperburg and Jamie Denbo) upon being encouraged by Sofia, the spell on Princess Charlotte was broken and Zinessa left in cat form while quoting to Princess Charlotte "well done." After thanking Sofia who was transported back to Enchancia, Princess Charlotte invited Morris to the Summer Ball.
  • Theatre

  • In 1994, Philip Glass wrote an opera, La Belle et la Bête, based on Cocteau's film. Glass's composition follows the film scene by scene, effectively providing a new original soundtrack for the movie.
  • The Disney film was adapted for the stage as Beauty and the Beast by Linda Woolverton and Alan Menken, who had worked on the film. Howard Ashman, the original lyricist, had died, and additional lyrics were written by Tim Rice.
  • In 2011, a new ballet adaptation of Beauty and the Beast was created by choreographer David Nixon for Northern Ballet. Works by several composers, including Bizet and Poulenc, were used for the score.
  • Other

  • 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.
  • References

    Beauty and the Beast Wikipedia