This entry is part of an on-going series discussing my favorite fairytales and their multiple modern re-tellings. Any entries relating to this topic will be labeled “Favored Fairytales.”
Have you ever found yourself consuming numerous variations of a single story? I go through different spurts, often tied to genre, but sometimes a particular kind of story grabs me and won’t let go until it’s sated. So I wanted to talk about one of my favorite fairytales, one that is probably familiar to most people.
Like most kids, I was raised on Disney films. Some I always felt lukewarm about, some that used to be favorites no longer appeal to me, even though I can appreciate the talent and artistry that went into making them. I never liked Sleeping Beauty and I was always ambivalent about Snow White and Cinderella. Some, like The Lion King and Mulan, have withstood the test of time and remain favorites. When I was a kid, The Little Mermaid was my favorite, hands down. But now, as an adult, a different film has risen to the top of the list: Beauty and the Beast.
While I enjoyed Beauty and the Beast, I don’t recall it grabbing me the way it does now, probably because it is very focused on a burgeoning romance. I suppose that, as I’ve grown, I’ve come to identify more strongly with bookish Belle than with rebellious Ariel. And, unlike so many other Disney films, the prince and “princess” actually spend a great amount of time together before they marry and dance off into their happily ever after. It’s a far more realistic development of a relationship than, say, Cinderella or Snow White who spend approximately ten minutes with their groom before marrying him. The “love at first sight” trope is one that I’ve expressed disapproval of before (see my article “Why Love At First Sight Doesn’t Work In A Story” for more details), and I probably will complain about it in the future. Beauty and the Beast is one of the few stories that revolves around two people in extraordinary circumstances learning to live, and eventually fall in love, with one another. Call me a helpless romantic, but I really enjoy that kind of story; it has far more substance than the typical perfunctory, “And then the prince found the princess and married her and they lived happily ever after the end.” And I do so love romantic redemption stories. ^_^;;
Apparently I’m not the only one fascinated by Beauty and the Beast; there are numerous iterations of it in both literature and film. Not only do you have the subtle variations that comes with different translations, but there are more drastic modern interpretations that take the basic idea of a beauty taming a beast with love and play with it. I have yet to read one that I didn’t like, and I’ve included a list of the ones that I have read for your perusal:
Beauty by Robin McKinley
Beauty and the Beast by Mercer Mayer
Beauty and the Werewolf by Mercedes Lackey
A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sara J. Maas
Cruel Beauty by Rosamund Hodge
The Fire Rose by Mercedes Lackey
Heart’s Blood by Juliet Marillier
Of Beast and Beauty by Stacey Jay
Rose Daughter by Robin McKinley
Stolen Songbird by Danielle L. Jensen
The Quantum Rose by Catherine Asaro
I’m sure there are many more that could be added to this list; I included only the ones that I’ve read which have a close correlation to the original French fairytale in how the underlying story is fashioned. Reading these books has also encouraged me to try my hand at writing my own version of Beauty and the Beast as a gender-swapped fairytale short story tentatively titled “Handsome and the Hag.” And if you have any suggestions of other stories like Beauty and the Beast, please let me know! I’m always on the lookout for fresh inspiration.