Beauty and the Beast

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This article is about the fairy tale. For other uses, see Beauty and the Beast (disambiguation).
Illustration for Beauty and the Beast by Walter Crane.

"Beauty and the Beast" (French: La Belle et la Bête) is a traditional fairy tale written by French novelist Jeanne-Marie Leprince de Beaumont and published in 1756.

Variants of the tale are known across Europe.[1] In France, for example, Zémire et 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;[2] it is based on the second version of the tale. Amour pour amour, by Nivelle de la Chaussée, is a 1742 play based on Gabrielle-Suzanne Barbot de Villeneuve's version.


A wealthy merchant lives in a mansion with his three daughters. All are equal in beauty, but the youngest, Belle, is kind and pure of heart; while the two elders, in contrast, are wicked, selfish, vain and secretly taunt and treat Belle more like a servant than a sister. The merchant eventually loses all of his wealth in a tempest at sea. He and his daughters are consequently forced to live in a small farmhouse and work for their living. After some years of this, 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 daughters if they wish for him to bring any gifts back for them. The oldest two ask for clothing, jewels and the finest dresses possible, thinking his wealth has returned. Belle 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 without money to buy his daughters their presents.

During his return, the merchant becomes lost in a forest. 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 Belle 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 Belle, but only if the merchant will return.

Beauty dines with the Beast in an illustration by Anne Anderson.

The merchant is upset, but accepts this condition. The Beast sends him on his way, with jewels and fine clothes for his daughters, and stresses that Belle must never know about his deal. The merchant, upon arriving home, tries to hide the secret from Belle, but she pries it from him 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 Belle to marry him, only to be refused each time. After each refusal, Belle 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. Belle 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, Belle lives 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 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. Belle 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. They 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 Belle for breaking her promise and eat her alive. Belle's heart is moved by her sisters' false show of love, and she agrees to stay.

Illustration by Warwick Goble.

Belle 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.

Belle weeps over the Beast, saying that she loves him. When her tears strike him, the Beast is transformed into the handsome prince from Belle'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 Belle are married and they live happily ever after together.

Villeneuve's version[edit]

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.[3] She also gave the castle elaborate magic, which obscured the more vital pieces of it.[4] Beaumont greatly pared down the cast of characters and simplified the tale to an almost archetypal simplicity.[4]


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.[5]

Modern uses and adaptations[edit]

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




  • 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 & 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.[21]
  • 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, as played by Robert Carlyle.


  • 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.[22]
  • 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.[23]


See also[edit]


  1. ^ Heidi Anne Heiner, "Tales Similar to Beauty and the Beast"
  2. ^ Thomas, Downing. Aesthetics of Opera in the Ancien Régime, 1647–1785. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 2002.
  3. ^ Betsy Hearne, Beauty and the Beast: Visions and Revisions of An Old Tale, p 22-3 ISBN 0-226-32239-4
  4. ^ a b Betsy Hearne, Beauty and the Beast: Visions and Revisions of An Old Tale, p 25 ISBN 0-226-32239-4
  5. ^ Maria Tatar, p 45, The Annotated Classic Fairy Tales, ISBN 0-393-05163-3
  6. ^ Crunelle-Vanrigh, Anny. "The Logic of the Same and Différance: 'The Courtship of Mr. Lyon'". In Roemer, Danielle Marie, and Bacchilega, Cristina, eds. (2001). Angela Carter and the Fairy Tale, p. 128. Wayne State University Press.
  7. ^ David J. Hogan (1986). Dark Romance: Sexuality In the Horror Film. Jefferson, North Carolina: McFarland & Company. p. 90. ISBN 0-7864-0474-4. 
  8. ^ "50's and 60's Horror Movies B". The Missing Link. Retrieved 2010-04-21. 
  9. ^ Russell A. Peck. "Cinderella Bibliography: Beauty and the Beast". The Camelot Project at the University of Rochester. Archived from the original on 6 April 2010. Retrieved 2010-04-21. 
  10. ^ Janet Maslin (13 November 1991). "Disney's 'Beauty and the Beast' Updated In Form and Content". The New York Times. Retrieved 2010-04-21. 
  11. ^ "Beauty and the Beast". Movie Review Film. Retrieved 2010-04-21. 
  12. ^
  13. ^ Maslin, Janet. "Beauty and the Beast: Overview". The New York Times. Retrieved 2010-04-21. 
  14. ^ Jason Buchanan. "Spike". All Movie Guide. Retrieved 2010-04-21. 
  15. ^ Calum Waddell. "Spike". Total Sci-Fi. Retrieved 2010-04-21. 
  16. ^ "Beauty & the Beast + Blood and Guts = Spike". 11 January 2007. Retrieved 2010-04-21. 
  17. ^ "Festival Highlights: 2008 Edinburgh International Film Festival". Variety. 13 June 2008. Retrieved 2010-04-21. 
  18. ^ "Best of the Fest Programme at Edinburgh International Film Festival". The List. 25 June 2008. Retrieved 2010-04-21. 
  19. ^ Robert Hope. "Spike". Edinburgh International Film Festival. Retrieved 2010-04-21. 
  20. ^ Larry Carroll (30 March 2010). "Vanessa Hudgens And Alex Pettyfer Get 'Intense' In 'Beastly'". MTV. Archived from the original on 5 April 2010. Retrieved 2010-04-21. 
  21. ^ "'Beauty and the Beast' pilot ordered by ABC – now there are two!". Retrieved 2012-01-24. 
  22. ^ "Alternate Versions for La Belle et la Bête". IMDb. Archived from the original on 11 April 2010. Retrieved 2010-04-21. 
  23. ^ Tale as Old as Time: The Making of Beauty and the Beast. [VCD]. Walt Disney Home Entertainment. 2002.
  24. ^ Mystery Legends: Beauty and the Beast Collector's Edition (PC DVD)
  25. ^ KQ6 Game Play video

External links[edit]