Beauty and the Beauty in the Beast
Once upon a time
The classic opener for any fairy tale, which is no different in the case of Beauty and the Beast. Fairy tales were meant to teach our children life lessons that society, at the time, deems important to learn. They teach us the difference between right and wrong, black and white, good and bad, light and dark, and beauty and ugly. There are many different variations and names to Beauty and the Beast. This famous fable has been passed down and integrated into our culture time and time again, each time adding different lessons that were thought to be important in that day and age. What has changed over the years? How have the fairy tales of Beauty and the Beast affected the children of yesterday, today and tomorrow? I hope to show how fairy tales, more importantly Beauty and the Beast, is helpful to children in many ways, but mostly by teaching them the way that they should act in society. There are three very important lessons that Beauty and the Beast teaches us. First, and probably, the biggest one, is that beauty is only skin deep. It is what is on the inside that counts. Second, which ties in with the first lesson is, don’t be too greedy because you will only be looking for the beauty on the out side. Finally, do unto others as you would have done to you, this will make you beautiful on the inside were it counts.
In this paper I am going to take a look at two versions of Beauty and the Beast. Although The Lady and the Lion and Beauty and the Beast are very different, the base story is there. True beauty is determined by what is on the inside and not on the outside. In addition vanity and riches will not make you happy. Finally, to be truly beautiful you must treat people how you would want to be treated.
Before I get into those versions of Beauty and the Beast, I want to talk about those who don’t think this fairy tale should be seen or heard by children. One version of this tale is by none other than Disney. Kathi Maio said, “Disney’s version features a beast who looks ugly and acts even uglier What a heart-warming fable! Why it’s a regular training film for the battered women of tomorrow!” (194). At first I thought, wow she has issues, but when I looked deeper I found what she meant. Not to say that I agree with her by any means. It is a fairy tale for a reason! These things can never and will never happen. Fairy tales are how children learn basic fundamentals of society. Children don’t know how to read that deep into the movie and even if they do, as a parent, you should be there to show them the difference between right and wrong. In the Disney version there is singing. Every Disney movie has it. I think it is a good thing; it adds to the fact that this is just a fairy tale and that these things have not and will not ever happen (For those who take things too seriously *coughKathiMaiocough*).
Madame Le Prince De Beaumont wrote one of the first versions of Beauty and the Beast in 1745. She was a teacher and her intent was to teach her students moral lessons. She felt so strongly in these lessons that she turned them into a fairy tale to help her students grasp them. The story starts off with a merchant who had three daughters and three sons. The two older girls were very arrogant because they were rich. The sisters would not marry because they wanted to be wed to someone who was very rich. Beauty was the youngest and she had many suitors, but she refused to marry because she felt she was too young and she wanted to stay with her father longer. The merchant loses his wealth and is forced to move to the country. The two older sisters were devastated and lost all of their suitors. Beauty on the other hand was so nice that her suitors still wanted to marry her. A while after their move to the country, the merchant got a note that said his stuff had arrived. This would make them rich again. “When the sisters got word of this they begged their father to bring them back dresses, furs, hats, and all sorts of trinkets” (217). Beauty asked for nothing but a rose. The father left and returned poorer than when he left and lost his daughter to the beast. Every night Beauty and the Beast would eat dinner and talk. Beauty became fond of the Beast. Her father grew ill and so she went and visited him. Her sisters were envious of her because they had both married men that were too vain and witty. Beauty on the other hand lived with a good person. She returned to the castle three days late because of her greedy sisters, and found the Beast dying because he thought that Beauty had left him. She had decided to marry him because she cared for him so much. When she told him this the dark castle turned bright. When Beauty looked back down at he Beast he was a prince. Her family was taken there too. The fairy that had turned the prince into the Beast turned the sisters into statues. The sisters were forced to stay that way until they learned their lesson about vanity and wit. Beauty and her Beast, now a prince live happily every after.
You can see that even though this was written in 1745, many of the lessons and morals are still useful in today’s society. First of all this shows that beauty is only skin deep. What is on the inside is what really counts. “You are very generous,” said Beauty. “I am well pleased with your kind heart; when I think of that, you no longer seem so ugly to me” (221). Beauty is falling in love with the person on the inside. She also said, “There are many men more monstrous than you, and I prefer your form to those men who hide a false, corrupt and ungrateful heart” (221). This really cuts to the quick. People that are bad are just plain ugly on the inside and in turn you don’t want to be around them. As a child I would really began looking at the insides of my friends to see if they are beauty or the beast.
In this version though, Beauty also has two sisters and they are constantly looking for wit and fortune and are very greedy. “The two eldest said they would never marry unless they could find a duke, or at least a count” (216). Now if that isn’t greedy, I don’t know what is. At the end of this they are both turned into statues and will remain that way until they learn their lesson. Greed will get you no where.
The Lady and the Lion, was written by Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm, it in 1812. The Grimm brothers had traveled around Germany and listened to the older women’s tales. This was very different from the French version of Beauty and the Beast, as you will see. The Father takes a long journey. “The eldest sister wanted pearls, the second diamonds, but the third said, Dear father, I should like a singing, soaring lark'” (208). Beauty’s father tries to get her a lark from a tree. The Beast in this story happens to be a lion. Beauty must go live with the Beast. Once she got there, she learned that the lion turned into a man at night. They fall in love and get married. The lion was then turned into a dove and must fly for seven-years and Beauty followed her love everywhere because he drops feathers and blood. After the seven-years are up, he is turned into a lion and forced to battle a dragon. Beauty saves the lion only to lose him to an evil princess. Then she must trade the treasures that the sun and the moon gave her to rescue the Beast. Then they live happily ever after.
The same message is coming out in this version of Beauty and the Beast. Beauty goes and lives with the Beast. “On her arrival she was so kindly received. Shortly after they were married” (209). Finding out that beauty is only skin deep, she falls in love with that man and not the Beast on the out side. This something that children need to learn. I my opinion isn’t taught enough in today’s world.
One of the other big points was that material items will not make you as happy as love. In the story the evil princess wanted the dress given to Beauty by the sun, and the golden chickens, given to beauty by the moon, so bad that she was willing to do anything. When the evil princess asked whom she could buy these wonderful gifts from, Beauty, simply said, “Not with gold or goods, but with flesh and blood” (211). The princess was so greedy that she was willing to give up her husband for material things, which lead to the prince leaving the evil princess and following his true love to safety. So in the end, the princess lost her soon to be husband and all she had to show for it was a dress and some chickens. I don’t know about you but I know I wouldn’t be happy with that.
The most important thing I learned from both of these versions, don’t piss off the fairy!! In both versions there is a fairy or a wizard involved and the man is always turned into the beast because he did something wrong. In the Beauty and the Beast, the fairy says, “come and receive the reward. You shall become a great queen. As for your sisters I know your hearts and the malice they contain. You will become two statues.you shall stand before the gate of your sisters castle, for I can see no greater punishment than for you to witness her happiness” (224). The point behind all of the magic is, do unto others as you would have done to you. The two sisters received what they had done to others, back to them. This motto is something that I have tried to live by my whole life. No, not just because of the fear that fairies will come after me and turn me into a beast or a statue. (Which if you think about it would be very scary, seeing a something with wings and a wand flying at you.) I just feel that if you want to be treated well, you should treat others well. This was most likely imbedded into me through fairy tales just like Beauty and the Beast.
As you can see from only two very short versions of this fairy tale that the values in it are virtues that we should all have. This fairy tale has been passed down for many generations and with each year it grows and adapts to society, but the bases for this story stay true. You can’t judge a book by its cover. The truth is it is what is on the inside that counts, which leads to the next lesson; that being greedy will not make you happy. For everything you get that you think will make you happy, you will only find that you are unhappier than before. This flows nicely into the golden rule. Do unto others as you would have done to you, and this will bring you true happiness. I believe that this is a great fairy tale and the values it teaches are even better. My children will know the story of Beauty and the Beast well.