Beauty: A Retelling of the Story of Beauty and the Beast
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|25 October 1978|
|LC Class||PZ8.M1793 Be 1978|
Beauty: A Retelling of the Story of Beauty and the Beast was first published in 1978, written by American children's book author Robin McKinley. It was her first book, retelling the classic French fairy tale La Belle et La Bete. The book was the 1998 Phoenix Award honor book. It was the 1966 -1988 Best of the Best Books for Young Adults.
Roderick Huston, a wealthy merchant, has three daughters; Grace, Hope, and Honour. When Honour was a child she asked what her name meant and afterwards said she'd rather be named Beauty, a nickname which soon stuck. As she grows older, she feels the nickname is increasingly ill-fitting, as she remains plain while her sisters become lovelier and more socially adept. Grace becomes engaged to one of her father's ship captains, Robert Tucker, and Hope to a blacksmith named Gervain Woodhouse. When all of Huston's ships are lost at sea, Robert is presumed dead and the family become destitute. They are forced to move to the countryside, near Gervain.
A year passes. The family slowly adapt to their new lives and Hope has two children with Gervain. One day they receive news of one of Huston's ships arriving back into port. Huston leaves the next day, but not before asking his daughters if they want any gifts. Grace and Hope jokingly ask for jewellery and dresses, while Beauty asks for a rose cutting or seeds, as none grow in the countryside.
Huston returns home sooner than everyone expected, with a beautiful rose and saddlebags filled with more treasure than they could possibly hold. He explains that on his way home through the forest he became lost in a storm, and happened across a mysterious castle. Inside he was given shelter and waited on by invisible servants. As he was leaving the next day, he found a beautiful rose garden and plucked a single rose for Beauty. The owner of the castle, a terrifying beast, appeared, furious that Huston would steal from him after his hospitality. The Beast agreed to let him go on the condition that one of his daughters must return and live in the castle.
Despite her family's pleas, Beauty insists that she go. As the months pass, Beauty comes to enjoy living in the castle. She grows close to the Beast, enjoying walks together and spending time in the castle's enormous library, but cannot bring herself to love him and refuses his marriage proposal every night. She also dreams every night of her family in vivid detail and tries to decipher clues about the Beast's past when she slowly starts to hear the voices of the two invisible maids that wait on her. When Beauty becomes homesick, the Beast shows her a magic mirror that allows her to see her family. In it she sees Grace agreeing to marry the local minister, despite still loving Robert. Robert himself has recently returned home after years lost at sea, eager to find Grace. Beauty begs to visit her home and tell Grace before it's too late, promising to return in a week and stay with the Beast forever afterwards. The Beast reluctantly allows her to go.
When Beauty arrives home her family is overjoyed, but quickly become disheartened when they learn she's leaving again. During the days without the Beast, Beauty begins to recognize how she truly feels about him. At her family's behest she agrees to stay a while longer, but quickly rushes back to the castle when she has a dream about the Beast dying. Beauty discovers him nearly dead. Realizing her true feelings, she confesses her love and tells him that she will marry him. In an instant the enchantment on the Beast and the castle is broken.
The Beast is returned to his handsome human form, explaining to the astonished Beauty about a curse on family lineage and how it could only be broken by someone loving him despite his appearance. He shows Beauty her reflection, revealing how she has blossomed into a true beauty. Beauty is reunited with her family, and she and the Beast start their new lives together.
ALA Booklist has called it "a captivating novel," and Publishers Weekly has called it "a splendid story."
- "Reflection and Reflexion: Female Coming-of-Age, the Mirror Stage, and the Absence of Mirrors in Robin McKinley's Beauty and Rose Daughter" by Evelyn Perry