When I researched the origins of Beauty and the Beast for my book I found a lot of fairy tale commentaries. I know everyone is aware that the main theme of B&B is “Don’t judge a person by their appearance,” but a lot of analysts take it deeper. I thought it might be fun to discuss some of the different opinions about the original fairy tale. (This is about the traditional story, not mine–although it’s similar enough some of the comparisons can still be made.)
Some people think the original versions (Written by Villeneuve and Beaumont, as you might recall from my previous post.) is actually a social commentary because the stories start in urban settings with Belle and her merchant father. Additionally Belle’s standing in the social ladder (She isn’t a princess like Sleeping Beauty or Snow White, nor is she a lord’s daughter like Cinderella) shows a significant change in society’s social structure. The servants play key roles in the fairy tale when typically they are ignored or painted as background characters in other stories.
Others say the moral of the story actually lies with the Beast–and not just the obvious lesson that one should not be an odious brat to the elderly. The claim is that the secondary lesson of the story is men should not force themselves on women and should instead wait patiently and do their best to woo them, giving the girls the choice to say “yes” or “no” to marriage.
It has also been proposed that Beauty and the Beast is like most of the female/princess fairy tales (like Snow White, Cinderella, and Sleeping Beauty) and is about a girl’s journey to adulthood. When the tale opens Belle’s father is the most important person to her. When the Beast holds him prisoner Belle chooses to sacrifice herself on her father’s behalf. When she tells the Beast she loves him she has made a choice that he is now her most important person–signaling her exit of childhood and entrance to adulthood as she leaves her parents and desire to remain in her childhood home behind.
A rather cynical critic noted that poor Belle gets shuffled between “greedy and needy” males (greedy and needy in that Belle’s father gets sick because he is parted from her for a number of months and the Beast almost dies because she’s gone over a week.) and the real moral of the story is that men are greedy pigs. As humorous as this claim is, I don’t think it’s quite on target–although I will admit the whole “dying because she’s gone” thing is a bit melodramatic.
If you want a good laugh read Overthinking it’s satire entry on Disney’s version of Beauty and the Beast. It is hysterical, citing Gaston as a conservationist and Belle as a schizophrenic. The author even notes that Gaston’s march against the beast’s castle was clearly a village intervention.
In a total change of gears, next week is CHRISTMAS so I’ll be taking a break from blogging for a few days so I can
stuff myself with food enjoy the holiday season with my family. I will still be sending out extra chapters of B&B though, so don’t worry about emailing me over the holidays. Until then, Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night! (Er…day.)