Wednesday, April 2, 2014

B is for Beauty and the Beast (and Insecure Writer's Support Group)

First published by Gabrielle-Suzanne Barbot de Villeneuve in 1740, and then again in 1757 by Jeanne-Marie Leprince de Beaumont, the story of Beauty and the Beast is one of the most enduring fairy tales of all time.

Unlike many of the other fairy tales we've come to know and love, Beauty and the Beast was actually conceived of and written by Villeneuve herself, though it can certainly be said that she drew on many folkloric elements.  In fact, it's roots date back even further to the Greeks and the myth of Cupid and Psyche.

All these stories and versions share a common theme - finding love that isn't based on beauty – as well as the transformative nature of love. But it is interesting to note the difference between the original Villeneuve version of Beauty and the Beast, and the later well-known Disney version.  Villeneuve's story was written for adults and thus dealt with more adult themes – such as marital rights and class distinctions – whereas the Disney version, tailored to a young audience, is filled with morals.

Disney on the other hand places emphasis on the Beast's transformation, from his monstrous behavior in the beginning of the tale into the loving and caring suitor he becomes. In Villeneuve's version however, the Beast's transformation takes a back seat to other plot devices (like destiny and fairy sabotage). He doesn't start out selfish like Disney's version – he simply refuses to marry his wicked governess (who was actually a wicked fairy called the Mother of Time), and thus found himself transformed as punishment. The Beast in this version is very much a victim himself.

Furthermore, Disney's Beast is cold and intimidating, insisting that if Belle will not eat with him then she will not eat at all; Villeneuve's Beast on the other hand, is polite and courteous to Belle from the moment she arrives at his castle. He has little need to change as he and Belle grow closer, whereas Disney's version begins to soften as he comes to love Belle, her love reaching out to his inner humanity.

It's in the big finale that the two stories really diverge. Predictably the Disney version focuses on a redeemed Beast who wins the love of Belle through selflessness and finds the curse lifted. Villeneuve's version on the other hand, walks a very different, and much more complicated, path . . .

Upon the Beast's transformation back into his princely self, his fairy queen mother decides that Belle (begin the daughter of a poor merchant) really isn't good enough for him anymore. Only to learn that Belle is actually the daughter of a fairy princess (the Beast's mother's sister in fact) and a king! When the Mother of Time (the same one that cursed the Beast) wanted baby Belle dead, they hid her away with the merchant by replacing her with his own dying infant daughter, and thus he raised her as his own. So in fact, Belle and the Beast are first cousins, both royal, and how fortunate, of the same social class. Yay for happy endings, am I right?

So in the end, while both the Villeneuve and Disney versions of Beauty and the Beast share a general premise, in reality the two are quite different. Disney deals with sugary sweet theme of physical and emotional make-overs, "outer beauty being more important than inner" et cetera, et cetera. Villeneuve prefers the more antiquated concern over social class and marital rights, all wrapped up in a fairy dust coating. But fortunately for both sets of Beauties and Beasts, they all live happily ever after.

My favorite version:
Rumpelstiltskin as the Beast and Belle from Once Upon a Time (TV series)

Today is not only Day 2 of the Blogging from A to Z Challenge, it's also the first Wednesday of the month, which means it's time for Insecure Writer's Support Group! If you're interested in joining, or just want to learn more about the group, please visit us here.

My insecurity for this month may be something many of you bloggers have wondered in the past . . . how many of my friends and family actually read my blog. Or any of my work for that matter. Now I know I'm something of a sporadic blogger, but I work hard to stay active at it. And I have to wonder how many of the people I love really take interest in what I have to say. I know there are some out there who check it regularly (and to those of you, it has meant so much to me over the years). Just as I know there are many who haven't checked it in months. Maybe longer. In the end it doesn't really matter. They all support me in one way or another. Just a nagging thought.

Anybody else having the same issues?

Good luck to all my IWSG friends out there!! (Especially the ones trying to make it through A to Z . . .)

This post is part of the Blogging from A to Z Challenge. My theme (in case you didn't already guess) is Fairy Tales. Stay tuned for the rest of the alphabet, and if you'd like to check out the other participants, simply click here.


  1. I loved your analysis of the two versions of beauty and the beast. But what really appealed to me was your frank confession of your insecurity as a writer. I am not even a writer in a strict sense, just someone who writes to figure things out for herself. But whenever I blog I wonder which of my friends and family actually reads them.

  2. Now I am interested in reading the 'real' B and B. I never much cared for the Disney story. As for readers, my own family does not read my blog. It used to irritate me but I got over it. Last year I actually considered stopping, but realize that even without readers, I enjoy just putting my thoughts down.

  3. Does Villeneuve's version have a huge library like the Disney version? If not, I know which version I prefer. Plus, I'm pretty sure the Disney version has a better soundtrack.

    1. Yeah, the soundtrack and library are huge check marks in the Disney column.

  4. There is a French movie version of the story from 1946 that I've always thought was very well done.

  5. I never knew the two versions were so different.
    Hardly anyone I know in the real world reads my blog. A few read my books, but not many.

  6. Now that you've seen the crazy content of my blog, you can understand why I don't want anyone I know personally to find it! lol! They'd have me locked up!

    I've always loved the original beauty and the beast fairytale before Disney tampered with it. Though I didn't know it was originally written by a woman. That makes me treasure it even more!

  7. I compared three versions in an old post, but I didn't include the original. Hadn't read Beauty and the Werewolf then.
    Sue Ann Bowling
    Homecoming Blog
    Stormy's Sidekick
    Blogging from A to Z April Challenge

  8. holy hannah! i didn't know about that version of b&tb! i now must go find the original! so awesome!

    and i love Rumpelstiltskin on once upon a time!

  9. I've never read the Villeneuve version, I need to get on that.
    Nobody I know in real life reads my blog. I think my boyfriend looks at it every few months, probably when I mention it, but nobody else. I actually prefer it that way.

  10. I remember being shocked when I read the actual fairy tales by Grimm at how dark and desperate they were. And Collodi's Pinocchio! Disney really sugar coats everything.

    cracking post!

  11. I have been finding, recently, that people I would never have suspected read my blog. Weird.

  12. Glad to see I'm not the only fan of Belle and Rumple! As a complete Disney nutter, I have very few complaints with Disney per se. But I've had issues with the "new generation" of Disney movies for years, partly due to their switch from hand-drawn animation (I'm a former art major, need I say more), but partly because they do tend to screw up the stories a bit too much. They are classics for a reason and can be adapted in a much better way than Disney tends to do. Plus, for the stories based in fact, like Pocahontas, I shutter to think that an entire generation of children think that the Disney version is an accurate version of events!

    I can remember seeing a very old version of B&theB when I was a child, but I don't remember much about it. Guess I need to search it out.

    And I kind of have to agree with Laura. I don't really care that no one reads my blog. My blog is kind of my "hey honey, I'm home and this is how my day went" or "hey, look at the stitching I got done today" kind of place. And my Asperger mouth gets carried away sometimes, so it's better that friends and family don't read it...there is no telling what I could say at any given moment!

  13. I knew that Beauty and the Beast was a story beyond Disney's rendition of it, however, I cannot say that I've ever actually ready it. I just may have to remedy that, though. It sounds *very* interesting. Thank you for sharing!

    With regard to support... I don't know that any of my family ever reads my blogs. A few of my friends do, though. At some point I guess I did feel as though I wasn't being supported in my writing because my family didn't read my blogs or much of anything I wrote. I did feel as though they didn't much care and did give up my writing for a time as a result. I have a lot more support from a lot more people, including my family, these days, though.

    Hang in there!

  14. Super interesting, esp. because this was always one of my fave Disney movies. ;) Because Belle loved books, of course!

  15. I didn't know anything about the original version. I know a lot of our current fairy tales are far from the originals just didn't know the actual storyline.

    I definitely always wonder who reads my posts. On occasion, my mom or brother will say, Oh, I read that post but for the most part, I don't think they even read it consistently. Which I guess is fine, most of what I write about probably doesn't interest them anyways. I think they mainly look for family stuff and read that.

  16. I had a tape and book I used to read and listen to when I was a kid of the B&B and it had nothing to do with Disney. It was one of my favorite stories as a kid.

    Keep up the good blog work. I know it's hard. My family and friends don't read my blog and frankly I prefer it that way. Some people just don't understand. And that's okay! As for my work...I don't think its good to have f&f read our stuff. One, they probably won't give you the feedback you need and two, they can buy the book when it comes out. LOL!

  17. Thank you for the history of the Beauty and the Beast versions!

  18. I had no idea of the original Beauty and the Beast version. I can see why Disney changed it, and I must say the moralistic ending works better for me than the original where the girl is - ta da! - a fairy princess all of a sudden. Elitism was alive and well in VIlleneuve's time. ;)

  19. Two versions? Wow, this was something really interesting ... thanks for sharing :-)

  20. I've often wondered why the Beast was transformed into one. It's interesting that the Beast maintains the same calm personality in the original tale. Why does he accept his fate so easily, I wonder. In the Disney version, I was disappointed that the Beast changed back to a man. He may have become "handsome" but he seemed so insipid looking.
    The View from the Top of the Ladder

  21. I only knew the Disney version from the musical, because my friend was in it. I've always wondered whether anyone in the audience noticed the time the Beast went onstage with a pink hairgrip in his hair!
    My eldest brother is supportive of my books but doesn't read the blog; my other brother and his wife gave me a really snarky comment when I told them I was writing a book. Such is life.
    Blkogging from Alpha to Zulu in April

  22. It is very interesting to me the vast difference between the two stories. And I have to say, I have the same thought. I wonder just how many of my family and friends truly read my blog and what they think about it. Meh. I won't know unless I ask and I don't see that happening any time soon. Just catching up on posts here! Have a great weekend.

  23. I know of the Grimm Fairy Tale and have some of the more original written ones before censorship came into play. This is one of my favourite fairy tales. I LOVE the film La Belle et La Bette-French film by Jean Cocteau-excellent

  24. BatB is probably one of my least favorite fairy tales, at least in the way it has been portrayed in every version I've ever seen on TV or in film. This is one in which the story is definitely the best, although it's not my favorite in comparison to some others.

    Random Musings from the KristenHead — B is for 'Believe' (and Behold the Beguiling Beauty of the Beach)