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Beauty and the Beast (French: La Belle et la Bête) is a traditional fairy tale (type 425C – enchanted husband – in the Aarne-Thompson classification). The first published version of the fairy tale was a rendition by Madame Gabrielle-Suzanne Barbot de Villeneuve, published in La jeune américaine, et les contes marins in 1740. The best-known written version was an abridgement of Mme Villeneuve's work published in 1756 by Mme 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.

Variants of the tale are known across Europe. 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. It is based on Mme Leprince de Beaumont's version of the tale.

Amour pour amour, by Nivelle de la Chaussée, is a 1742 play based on Villeneuve's version.


A wealthy merchant lived in a mansion with his three daughters, all of whom were very beautiful, but only the youngest is named Belle (French for "beautiful," "La Belle" means "The Beautiful [person]") for being lovely and pure of heart. The merchant eventually loses all of his wealth in a tempest at sea, and he and his daughters must therefore live in a small farmhouse and work for their living. After some years of this, the merchant hears that one of the trade ships sent by himself had arrived in port, having escaped the destruction of its compatriots; therefore he returns to the city to discover whether it contains anything of monetary value. Before leaving, he asks his daughters whether they desire that he bring them any gift upon his return. His two elder daughters ask for jewelry and fine dresses, thinking that his wealth has returned; Belle is satisfied with the promise of a rose, as none grow in their part of the country. The merchant finds that his ship's cargo has been seized to pay his debts, leaving him without money by which to buy his daughters their presents.

During his return, he becomes lost in a forest. Seeking shelter, he enters a castle. He finds inside tables laden with food and drink, which have apparently been left for him by the castle's owner. The merchant accepts this gift and is about to leave when he sees a rose garden and recalls that Belle had desired a rose. Upon picking the most lovely rose he finds, the merchant is confronted by a hideous 'Beast', which tells him that for taking his (the Beast's) most precious possession after accepting his hospitality, the merchant must stay his prisoner forever. 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 go only if the merchant will send his daughter to live in the castle in his place.

The merchant is upset, but accepts this condition. He tries, upon arriving home, 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 treats her as his guest. He gives her lavish clothing and food and carries on lengthy conversations with her. Each 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, and she replies that she cannot marry the prince 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 for him and discovers multiple enchanted rooms, but of course, never the prince from her dreams.

For several months Belle lives a life of luxury at the Beast's palace, being waited on hand and foot by invisible servants, having no end of riches to amuse her and an endless supply of exquisite finery to wear. Yet eventually, she becomes homesick and begs the Beast to allow her to go to see her family. He allows it, if she will return 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 grow jealous 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. It is their wish that the Beast will grow angry with Belle for breaking her promise and will eat her alive. Belle's heart is moved by her sisters' show of love, and she agrees to stay.

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 of heartbreak near the rose bushes her father had stolen from and she immediately uses the ring to return to Beast.

By the time Belle finds the Beast he is already dead, and she weeps over him, saying that she loves him. When her tears strike him, the Beast comes back to life and is transformed into a handsome prince. The Prince informs Belle 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 he break the curse.

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 to marry her father the king, and Belle was put in the place of the merchant's dead daughter to protect her. She also gave the castle elaborate magic, which obscured the more vital pieces of it. Beaumont greatly pared down the cast of characters and simplified the tale to an almost archetypal simplicity.


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.


Beauty and the Beast is Aarne-Thompson type 425C. Other tales of this type include The Small-tooth Dog, The Singing, Springing Lark and Madame d'Aulnoy's Le Mouton (The Ram).

Closely related to them are tales of Aarne-Thompson type 425A. These include The Sprig of Rosemary, Cupid and Psyche, East of the Sun and West of the Moon, The Black Bull of Norroway, The Daughter of the Skies, The Enchanted Pig and White-Bear-King-Valemon.

A common motif, often found in such tales, is that the transformation was accomplished by a thwarted supernatural lover -- nereid, fairy, elf, or troll; the victim must live in that form until finding another love, as beautiful as the thwarted lover.


The tale has been notably adapted for both stage and screen several times.

Film versions

A French version of La Belle et la Bête was made in 1946, directed by Jean Cocteau, starring Jean Marais as the Beast and Josette Day as the Beauty. This version adds a subplot involving Belle's suitor Avenant, who schemes along with Belle's brother and sisters to journey to Beast's castle to kill him and capture his riches while the sisters work to delay Belle's return to the castle. When Avenant enters the magic pavilion which is the source of Beast's power, he is struck by an arrow fired by a guardian statue of the Roman goddess Diana, which transforms Avenant into Beast and reverses the original Beast's curse. In 1994, Philip Glass wrote an opera, "La Belle et la Bête," based on Cocteau's film. Glass' composition follows the film scene by scene, effectively providing a new original soundtrack for the movie.

A 1962 version with Joyce Taylor and Mark Damon had the Beast as a prince who transformed into werewolf at night. The makeup was by Jack Pierce and based on his Universal Studios Wolf Man design.

In 1987, The Cannon Group and Golan-Globus Productions released a musical live action version, directed by Eugene Marner, starring John Savage as Beast, and Rebecca De Mornay as Beauty, with original music by Lori McKelvey. The plot of this adaption is more comparable to the authoritative Beaumont version than others. It was released on VHS in 1988 by Canon Video, and on DVD in 2005 by MGM Home Entertainment.

In 1991, Walt Disney Feature Animation produced a musical animated film adaptation of Walt Disney's Beauty and the Beast, directed by Kirk Wise & Gary Trousdale, with a screenplay by Linda Woolverton, and songs by Alan Menken & Howard Ashman. It won Academy Awards for Best Song and Best Original Score, and is the only animated film ever to be nominated for an Academy Award for Best Picture. It was also one of only two animated films included in AFI's 100 Years... 100 Passions list, which announced the 100 greatest love stories of all time. Like the 1946 version, the Disney version also names Beauty "Belle", and gives her a handsome suitor (based on Avenant but here named Gaston) who eventually plots to kill the Beast. Other aspects of the story are changed or added as well: In the Disney version, Belle's father (here called Maurice) is an inventor, not a merchant, and Belle is his only daughter. Belle is befriended by the Beast's servants, who have been transformed into household objects. (There is also an element of Bluebeard in it, in the sense that she is told, early on in the Beast's castle, not to go in a certain chamber, but disobeys him out of curiosity.) Belle returns from the Beast's castle when the handsome and popular but violent and boorish Gaston threatens Maurice, but eventually Gaston is apparently killed during a final confrontation with the Beast. Beauty and the Beast is now considered one of the Walt Disney Company's classic animated films.

Children's film producer Diane Eskenazi produced an adaptation of Beauty and the Beast for Golden Films in 1993. The film, which relied on moderate animation techniques but was mostly faithful to the original tale, featured classical compositions as opposed to an original soundtrack, featuring the works of many well-known popular composers.

A modern re-telling movie version of Beauty and the Beast is being made and will be released on 30 July 2010. The movie is called Beastly, based on the book Beastly by Alex Flinn. It will star Alex Pettyfer as the beast (named Kyle) and Vanessa Hudgens will portray the love interest (named Lindy).

Stage versions

  • The Disney film was adapted for the stage 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. Seven new songs, "No Matter What", "Me", "Home", "How Long Must This Go On?", "Maison des Lunes", "Human Again", and "If I Can't Love Her" were added to those appearing in the original film score in the stage version. "Human Again" was a song written for the movie by Howard Ashman before he died. It was found many years later in his files. He had chosen to cut it from the release but never actually shared it with Alan Menken or the others. When it was found, it was animated and integrated into the movie for the DVD release, as well as the stage production. Later, another song, "A Change In Me", was added for Belle. There is a great deal of emphasis on pyrotechnics, costuming and special effects to produce the imagery of the enchanted castle that was produced by Disney Theatrical. Some characters are given names and bigger roles, like the feather duster (Babette) and the Wardrobe (Madame de la Grande Bouche). This version of Beauty and the Beast is often examined in gender studies because of the underlying female and male roles it presents to young audiences. Disney's stage musical version of Beauty and the Beast closed on July 29, 2007 after 5,464 regular performances (and 46 previews). The 17th (and final) Belle was played by Anneliese van der Pol and Donny Osmond returned to play Gaston in the final performance. With Disney set to release its Broadway version of The Little Mermaid on November 3, 2007, it was believed that having two Disney heroines on Broadway at the same time would divide audiences between the two shows. The Little Mermaid is open in the Lunt-Fontanne Theatre - the same theatre that "Beauty and the Beast" ran in from 1999 - 2007.

  • In 2003, the RSC put a version on stage that was closer to the original story than the Disney version. It was so popular that the RSC repeated it in 2004 with additions and slight variations to their original script.

  • Beauty and the Beast is often performed as a pantomime in the UKmarker - there are many versions by many different authors. Often the character of a witch is introduced who turns the Prince into the Beast because he refuses to marry her - and a good fairy (usually called the Rose Fairy) who intervenes to help the plot reach a happy conclusion. Also in the pantomime versions the Prince often meets and falls in love with Beauty prior to his transformation (making the story more Cinderella-like). The traditional pantomime Dame figure (man dressed outrageously as a woman) can be either Beauty's mother or (again Cinderella-like) two of her sisters.

  • Beauty and the Beast was The Castle Theatre Wellingboroughmarker Christmas show in Nov-Dec 2007 with all new music. The Castle's version of Beauty and the Beast tells the original story, though a traveling theatre company. The set included a spinning cavivan.

  • Beauty and the Beast, musical version, has recently (1-15 November, 2008) been performed by the Gilbert and Sullivan Society, in conjunction with Leiz Moore and Allan Jeffery in Tasmania. The ultimate love story was a great success with thousands over the two week period coming out to view local talent at its very best in the 'tale as old as time'

  • The British Amateur Premiere of Beauty and The Beast will take place in January-February 2009, to be performed by the Douglas Choral Union at the Gaiety Theatre in the Isle of Manmarker. This will be the first British production of the entire score of Beauty and the Beast by an Amateur company, not in the West End, and not with an abridged version of the score.


George C. Scott turned in a made-for-TV rendition in 1976, in which, early in the presentation, his Belle Beaumont Trish Van Devere spots him devouring some of the local wildlife in the style of a lion, only later to comport himself in his dialogues with her (still as the Beast) with the nobility and charm of a knight. Scott was nominated for an Emmy for his performance.

In 1984, Shelley Duvall's Faerie Tale Theatre produced an adaptation starring Klaus Kinski and Susan Sarandon. The sets, makeup and costumes were based on the 1946 film.

Beauty and the Beast, which owed as much to detective shows and fantasy fiction as to the fairy tale, originally broadcast from 1987 to 1989. This was centered around the relationship between Catherine, an attorney who lived in New York City, played by Linda Hamilton, and Vincent, a gentle but lion-faced "beast", played by Ron Perlman, 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.

There was also a 1995 cartoon based on Belle, from Disney's Beauty and The Beast.

In 1967, a made-for television movie called Ugly and the Model was made. It was a parody of the tale and is very loosely based on it.

HBO's Happily Ever After: Fairy Tales for Every Child did a version of the story set in Equatorial Africa.

Prose versions

Beauty and the Beast has been the subject of many novels, most notably in Beauty: A Retelling of the Story of Beauty and the Beast by Robin McKinley, a Newbery Award-winning author. McKinley's second voyage into the tale of Beauty and the Beast resulted in Rose Daughter.

Tanith Lee's collection Red As Blood, or Tales from the Sisters Grimmer included a science-fiction retelling, in which a wealthy merchant's daughter living in the far future falls in love with an alien.

Donna Jo Napoli wrote a YA novel, Beast, centered around the Beast's point-of-view and his life before he met Beauty. Besides the additional back-story, this version stays close to the original.

Nancy Holder wrote an entry in the Once Upon a Time series called Spirited, which is a loose retelling of the story with a young Englishwoman named Isabella Stevenson who falls in love with her captor, Wusamequin, a brooding Mohican medicine man during the French and Indian War. Cameron Dokey wrote an entry in the Once Upon A Time... called "Belle".

Beauty and the Beast are characters in the Fables comic book. They are resident in the New York Citymarker branch of Fabletown, and are rather poor at the beginning of the series. Beast's continued human appearance is contingent on the happiness of their marriage; when they quarrel, he begins to revert to his monstrous form. After the election of Prince Charming as mayor of Fabletown, they are promoted to, respectively, assistant to the mayor and sheriff, replacing Snow White and Bigby Wolf (Big Bad Wolf).

The story was adapted by Mercedes Lackey into her Elemental Masters novel The Fire Rose, setting the story in early 20th-century San Franciscomarker.

Two separate adaptations of the tale appear in Angela Carter's short story collection The Bloody Chamber, which reinterprets several different fairy tales.

Fantasy author Francesca Lia Block included a retelling of the story in her collection The Rose and the Beast, which features modern retellings and alternate endings for nine classic fairy tales.

Author Alex Flinn wrote a retelling of Beauty and the Beast in a modern day setting in the "Beast's" point-of-view in the book Beastly, which is set in New York Citymarker and Brooklynmarker.

Beauty and the Beast in popular culture

See also


  1. Jeanne-Marie Leprince de Beaumont, Beauty and the Beast
  2. Heidi Anne Heiner, " Tales Similar to Beauty and the Beast"
  3. Thomas, Downing. Aesthetics of Opera in the Ancien Régime, 1647-1785. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 2002.
  4. Betsy Hearne, Beauty and the Beast: Visions and Revisions of An Old Tale, p 22-3 ISBN 0-226-32239-4
  5. Betsy Hearne, Beauty and the Beast: Visions and Revisions of An Old Tale, p 25 ISBN 0-226-32239-4
  6. Betsy Hearne,
  7. Maria Tatar, p 45, The Annotated Classic Fairy Tales, ISBN 0-393-05163-3
  8. Betsy Hearne, Beauty and the Beast: Visions and Revisions of An Old Tale, p 8-9 ISBN 0-226-32239-4
  9. Betsy Hearne, Beauty and the Beast: Visions and Revisions of An Old Tale, p 10-11 ISBN 0-226-32239-4
  10. Heidi Anne Heiner, " Tales Similar to East of the Sun & West of the Moon"
  11. Francis James Child, The English and Scottish Popular Ballads, v 1, p 313-4, Dover Publications, New York 1965
  12. Robin McKinley, Beauty: A Retelling of the Story of Beauty and the Beast ISBN 0060753102
  13. Robin McKinley, Rose Daughter ISBN 0441005837

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