Do You Know The Actual Tale Of Beauty And The Beast?

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January 6, 2014

We thought it might be interesting to provide the real background to the tale of Beauty and the Beast since this tale, like nearly all other Fairy Tales, has been heavily massaged and edited over the centuries which is both fascinating to find out about, but also establishes that there is quite a lot of room to be creative in the adapting of a Fairy Tale for use in a ballet because so many other artists and writers have themselves tweaked it work as they thought best in their respective medium whether acting, annimation, or balletic adaptations.  Note all the listed adaptations at the end of the Wikipedia article!  So, without further adieu, here is a quite good treatment of the origin tale of Beauty and the Beast:

Beauty and the Beast

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Beauty dines with the Beast in an illustration by Anne Anderson
"Beauty and the Beast" (French: La Belle et la Bête) is a traditional fairy tale. The first published version of the fairy tale was a rendition by Gabrielle-Suzanne Barbot de Villeneuve, published in La jeune américaine, et les contes marins in 1740.[1] The best-known written version was an abridgement of her work published in 1756 by Jeanne-Marie Le Prince de Beaumont, in Magasin des enfants, ou dialogues entre une sage gouvernante et plusieurs de ses élèves; an English translation appeared in 1757.[2]
Variants of the tale are known across Europe.[3] In France, for example, Zémire et Azor is an operatic version of the story of Beauty and the Beast written by Marmontel and composed by Grétry in 1771. It had enormous success well into the 19th century.[4] It is based on the second version of the tale.
Amour pour amour, by Nivelle de la Chaussée, is a 1742 play based on Villeneuve's version.

Plot


Illustration for Beauty and the Beast by Walter Crane
A wealthy merchant lived in a mansion with his three daughters. They were all very beautiful, but only the youngest, twenty-year-old Belle, was lovely and pure of heart; her sisters, in contrast, were wicked and selfish. The merchant eventually lost all of his wealth in a tempest at sea. As a consequence of this, he and his daughters were forced to live in a small farmhouse and work for their living. After some years of this, the merchant heard that one of the trade ships he had sent off had arrived back in port, having escaped the destruction of its compatriots. He returned to the city to discover whether it contained anything valuable. Before leaving, he asked his daughters if they would like him to bring any gifts back for them. The oldest two asked for jewels and fine dresses, thinking that his wealth had returned. Belle was satisfied with the promise of a rose, as none grew in their part of the country. The merchant, to his dismay, found that his ship's cargo had been seized to pay his debts, leaving him without money to buy his daughters their presents.
During his return, he became lost in a forest. Seeking shelter, he entered a dazzling palace. He found tables inside laden with food and drink, which seemed to have been left for him by the palace's invisible owner. The merchant accepted this gift and spent the night there. The next morning as the merchant was about to leave, he saw a rose garden and recalled that Belle had desired a rose. Upon picking the loveliest rose he could find, the merchant was confronted by a hideous 'Beast', which told him that for taking his most precious possession after accepting his hospitality, the merchant must die. The merchant begged to be set free, arguing that he had only picked the rose as a gift for his youngest daughter. The Beast agreed to let him give the rose to Belle, but only if the merchant would return.
The merchant was upset, but accepted this condition. The Beast sent him on his way, with jewels and fine clothes for his daughters, and stressed that Belle must never know about his deal. The merchant, upon arriving home, tried to hide the secret from Belle, but she pried it from him and willingly went to the Beast's castle. The Beast received her graciously and informed her that she was mistress of the castle, and he was her servant. He gave her lavish clothing and food and carried on lengthy conversations with her. Every night, the Beast asked Belle to marry him, only to be refused each time. After each refusal, Belle dreamed of a handsome prince who pleaded with her to answer why she kept refusing him, and she replied that she cannot marry the Beast because she loved him only as a friend. Belle did not make the connection between the handsome prince and the Beast and became convinced that the Beast was holding the prince captive somewhere in the castle. She searched and discovered multiple enchanted rooms, but never the prince from her dreams.

Beauty and the Beast, illustration by Warwick Goble
For several months, Belle lived a life of luxury at the Beast's palace, having every whim catered to by servants, with no end of riches to amuse her and an endless supply of exquisite finery to wear. Eventually she became homesick and begged the Beast to allow her to go to see her family. He allowed it on the condition that she would return exactly a week later. Belle agreed to this and set off for home with an enchanted mirror and ring. The mirror allowed her to see what was going on back at the Beast's castle, and the ring allowed her to return to the castle in an instant when turned three times around her finger. Her older sisters were surprised to find her well fed and dressed in finery. They were envious when they heard of her happy life at the castle, and, hearing that she must return to the Beast on a certain day, begged her to stay another day, even putting onion in their eyes to make it appear as though they were weeping. They hoped that the Beast would be angry with Belle for breaking her promise and would eat her alive. Belle's heart was moved by her sisters' false show of love, and she agreed to stay.
Belle began to feel guilty about breaking her promise to the Beast and used the mirror to see him back at the castle. She was horrified to discover that the Beast was lying half-dead from heartbreak near the rose bushes her father had stolen from and she immediately used the ring to return to the Beast.
Upon returning, Belle found the Beast almost dead, and she wept over him, saying that she loved him. When her tears struck him, the Beast was transformed into the handsome prince from Belle's dreams. The Prince informed 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 Belle were married and they lived happily ever after together.

Villeneuve's version

Villeneuve's tale includes several elements that Beaumont's omits. Chiefly, the back-story of both Belle 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. Belle'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 Belle so she could marry her father the king, and Belle was put in the place of the merchant's dead daughter to protect her.[5] She also gave the castle elaborate magic, which obscured the more vital pieces of it.[6] Beaumont greatly pared down the cast of characters and simplified the tale to an almost archetypal simplicity.[7]

Commentary

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.[8]

Adaptations

The tale has been notably adapted for screen, stage, prose, and television over the years.




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