The Beauty and the Beast

This fairy tale from 18th century talks about a wealthy merchant who lost his fortune and about his daughters who were all beautiful but only the youngest named Belle had a good heart too. The merchant got in trouble and his youngest daughter saved him by marrying the monster. After a while, she noticed the monster actually has a lot of good characteristics …


Illustration from The Beauty and the Beast by Walter Crane

Do you want some more interesting facts about this classic fairy tale? Sure you do:


- Only a couple of decades after the publication of officially the oldest version of this story written in a form of a novella by Suzanne Barbot de Villeneuve, another, very shortened, yet in essence, the same tale by Jeanne-Marie Le Prince de Beaumont was published. This was the most popular one until Disney took over. Well, today we know there are actually hundreds of versions of this very same story, some of them being several thousand (!) years old. This very same story echoes in dozens of myths, from Eros and Psyche to Cymon and Iphigenia. Apart from being published in written form, other media used it as well. Theater play by Nivelle de la Chaussée and operetta by Jean-François Marmontel, for instance, were already made in the 18th century.


- Beaumont’s version is much simpler than ‘original’ and it lacks the almost complete background of the story of the Beast (he was a cursed prince) and the Belle (she was not really merchant’s daughter but a sort of fairy princess).


- The motif of the lady in trouble who develops sympathies to her kidnapper was heavily exploited in the last two centuries. Let us remember King Kong or several movie versions based on Stockholm Syndrome, which has an evolutionary explanation too. On the other hand, the focus of rewritings is changed - the transformation of the Beast to a human is perceived as a disappointment. He wasn't pretty but he was different!



Nice stuff to explore on lonely winter evenings, don’t you think so?

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