A live-action film based on the fairy tale “Beauty and the Beast” is hitting theaters this week.
Today, Disney’s “Beauty and the Beast” is most familiar to the masses in its animated form; however, the original can seem comparatively brutal and dark.
Though Disney’s Belle is an only child, in the classic tale she has siblings. Unsurprisingly, her sisters serve the role of foils for Beauty. She’s gorgeous, they’re merely average-looking; she’s generous, they’re selfish and envious; she’s hardworking, they’re lazy; she’s well-read, they’re frivolous.
One day, Beauty’s father is caught in a storm. Then, he takes refuge in a mysterious castle where he meets no one, but finds food, a fire, and a bed prepared for him. When he leaves, he takes a single rose from the garden to bring Beauty ― which brings the Beast’s wrath down upon him. In exchange for his life being spared, he agrees to return with one of his daughters. Beauty agrees to go, though she’s fearful that the monster will eat her.
Instead, she’s given a lavish chamber and plied with good food and entertainments. She never sees anyone ― except in the evening, when the Beast joins her for dinner. She enjoys his sensible conversation, but every night he asks her to marry him, and she refuses. Finally, after several months, she admits that while she’s quite attached to him, she misses her family. The Beast allows her to return home for a visit, but warns that if she delays her return, he will die of grief.
This is where the sisters get extra vicious! Jealous of the finery Beauty wears upon her return, they overwhelm her with affection so that she will miss her deadline, assuming that the Beast will kill her and eat her in his anger. Instead, Beauty does return late and finds the Beast dying of sadness. Seeing him on his deathbed, she realizes that she loves him and begs him to live and marry her. Immediately, he is restored to his handsome, princely self ― and Beauty is rewarded for choosing a virtuous husband over a handsome or witty one. Her sisters are condemned to be living statues outside the castle, forever viewing her better fortune.
Anyway, every version is essentially the same story: A beautiful woman redeems her hideous captor with her love.