Thursday, February 18, 2016

Beauty and the Beast: Villeneuve, Beaumont, and Disney

Beauty and the Beast has been retold countless times. It was originally derived from a Greek myth called Cupid and Pysche (more on that later).

The original, actual B&B story (yeah, I call it that) is the length of a short novella. (Mine is about 140 pages.) A lot of people have the misconception that it was written by Jeanne-Marie LePrince de Beaumont. This is untrue, although Beaumont is definitely responsible for making B&B well known and widely read.

“Beauty and the Beast” by Julia Griffin:

The original author was Gabrielle-Suzanne Barbot de Villeneuve. (Do the French all have names like this?) She was born in Paris in 1695. Beaumont is well known for abridging Villeneuve's lengthy tale. If you search for Villeneuve's Beauty and the Beast on the internet you'll only find the abridged version, unless you want to buy the book. (There's a shortened version here.)

Honestly, I like Villeneuve's better. You actually get to know why the Beast was cursed and other little histories about our characters. But the delivery of the details isn't exactly interesting and it's a little confusing. It's told to the readers by the good fairy. It involves at least two Fairies, one Queen, AND a Fairy Queen, all of whom are referred to as either Fairy or Queen ambiguously. All four are obviously females, so it gets even more discombobulating when the narrator starts throwing pronouns around.

I wouldn't say the book is for everyone. But if your a Beauty and the Beast enthusiast then I think you'd love it and it's definitely worth your while.

If you'd like, you can read Beaumont's version here.

So how about some of the differences between Villeneuve, Beaumont, and Disney? 

(I've not seen the Disney's Beauty and the Beast since I was about 9 years old, maybe less? So my memory might be a little sketchy on it. You might have to help me out in the comments.)

The Beauty and the Beast by Laura Bifano:


Villeneuve gives Beauty a father and the mother just. . . isn't mentioned at all. Her death isn't even clarified so I'm just guessing that this is why she never shows her face. Anyhow, in Villeneuve's version, the father has six sons and six daughters. The father is originally a merchant, but he loses all his wealth. The family must live in the country and work like peasants. While the sisters complain about their work, Beauty tries to lift everyone's spirits. She sings and smiles and tries to console everyone.
Her sisters believe this is foolish and simple-minded. But unlike her sisters, Beauty has deemed fine society as unreliable since all their friends had turned away from them once they lost their wealth. So she doesn't exactly miss their former wealth.

Beaumont on the other hand gives the father three sons and three daughters. This time the daughters don't even bother to help Beauty with the housework. They just idle around and bemoan their uneventful fate.

Disney downsizes Beauty's family to only her father. Um, who is an eccentric inventor.


In Villeneuve's version the merchant is informed that one of his lost ships has arrived in port. He goes to settle his shipment but everything goes wrong once again. He gets lost on the road home and ends up at the Beast's castle. He tries to pick a rose to take home to Beauty, but the Beast catches him. The Beast says the father must either return at a set time or one of his daughters come in his place. And she must come willingly.


Beauty feels responsible for her father's most recent misfortune as she did requested a rose. She agrees to go, even though her father insists against it. She determines to go alone, if her father will not take her at the set time. Her brothers wish to devise a way to save her, but the father argues that trickery would only bring more ruin upon them all. You can imagine what the sisters think.

A horse arrives for Beauty. The father leads her there. The Beast greets them and Beauty shows a lot more strength and resolve than her father.

Beaumont's version is the same.

Disney clearly has to be different. The father goes to show his inventions at a fair. When he gets lost in the forest, he stumbles upon the Beast's castle. The Beast holds him as a captive, though I don't remember why? Because he was trespassing perhaps? The father's horse returns to Beauty.

If you've never been around horses much, a horse wandering around with an empty saddle is a bad sign. So Beauty goes to find her father. Once at the Beast's castle she says she'll exchange her life for her father's. The Beast agrees.



 Villeneuve's Beast was, yes, a prince. His mother had to go to war with an enemy kingdom. She was very sad to leave him as she cherished him very much. She left him with a fairy who was a friend of hers, well sort of. This fairy happened to be old and ugly and rather mean. One does not just decline the help of a fairy (especially a mean one) without some trepidation. Everyone knows what angry fairies do. The fairy assured the queen that the prince would be safe with her.

The story gets a little dark here.

If I'm remembering correctly, the fairy liked someone. I want to say a king. But this man did not return her affections, which is probably better as technically fairies aren't allowed to marry. If they do, it usually doesn't end well.

So the fairy then turned her wounded affections toward. . . the prince. Who happened to be a lot younger than her; he was a kid and she was his guardian. Fairy or no fairy, there's something wrong with this picture. She fell irrationally in love with him. He respectfully refuses her desire for marriage. When the fairy tells his mother to talk sense into him, she's horrified at the whole idea and also refuses.

Now we have an angry fairy. The main ingredient for casting a curse.

The old, evil fairy cast a curse on the prince to make him very ugly. While he retains his intellect, his speech is dull so it appears as if his mind is dumb as an animal's.

"Beauty and the Beast" by Dean Stuart:

In flies the good fairy. The fairy who actually is the queen's friend (Unless she's just a passer-by? I can't remember.). She cannot undo the curse as she is of a much lower rank than the evil fairy. (The fairies' rules and such are rather strict and complex.) But she can alter the curse. The prince will not be a beast forever so long as he can find someone who will love him and agree to marry him in the state that he's in.

The good fairy also turned all the prince's servants invisible and enchanted his castle so that the weather was always fair. The prince had everything he needed during his cursed state. 

You know, except for someone to break the curse. Well. . . the good fairy had a huge hand in that too. So he really didn't have to do anything but be a nice Beast. Be himself. In beastly form. The prince is actually a kind and generous person, uh, beast.

Beaumont doesn't bother to describe all these details for us. We just know the prince was cursed to be a Beast until someone loves him or something along sentimental lines.

"Beauty and the Beast":

Disney's prince was an ill-tempered brat. A fairy cursed him to be a Beast to improve his character. She also set a time limit on his life. If he could not find someone to love him before a specific rose withered, he would die.
Here's a very interesting post I found that talks about the differences between Villeneuve's Beast and Disney's Beast. I definitely encourage you to read it. It brings up a topic that I had never thought of considering Villeneuve's version of Beauty and the Beast.


In both Villeneuve's and Beaumont's stories, the prince appears to Beauty in her dreams in his true form. They talk and get to know each other. Beauty falls in love with the dream prince, and in Villeneuve's version she goes back and forth over it. She loves him and yet, he's only a dream. She finds herself so silly for loving a figment of her imagination. Yet he seems so real, how can he be imaginary? Likewise, how can he possibly be real? She also has visions of the good fairy who instructs her to not judge by appearances. 

When does the poor girl actually sleep?

Disney's version has none of this, probably because their Beast must better himself in order to win Belle's affection.

Beauty & the Beast:


In Villeneuve's tale Beauty has a mirror that reflects things that are happening all around the world. Sometimes she witnesses historical events or the marriage of royal personages. Most often though she watches plays or the Opera as she is most fond of that. (It kind of like TV.)

In Beaumont's version, Beauty is provided with a library, a harpsichord, and music books.

: Beauty and the Beast:

Disney has the Beast personally give Beauty the castle library.


In Villeneuve, Beauty has a hidden history that not even she and her father are aware of. At the end the good fairy unravels the whole tale for everyone. But in the other versions Beauty or Belle is just who she appears to be.

Belle by on @DeviantArt:

In Villeneuve's and Beaumont's tale, the Beast nearly dies just because. . . Beauty left. Yeah. It doesn't make a lot of sense.
Disney's Beast though actually has a good excuse. To start with the antagonist, shot an arrow into his back. Or was it his chest? But also, the Beast's rose has almost wilted, signifying that his life is near its end unless Belle comes to save the day.


I've heard that Villeneuve's tale is written against arranged marriages, while Beaumont's is more meant to teach girls to make the most of arranged marriages; that not every husband who looks beastly actually is. I've also heard that Disney's Belle is very feminist.


the translation differences and my internet wanderings

(You may want to tread weary here; this part is darker like the Beast history.)

I've read that there's translation arguments over Villeneuve's work. Apparently, her original writing reads that every night the Beast asks if Beauty will allow him to sleep with her. Beaumont changed it so that the Beast always ask Beauty if she will marry him. (My translation of Villeneuve's is an adaption and it also reads "marry.")

Some people argue that in Villeneuve's time, it was basically considered the same question. What "sleeping with" meant in Villeneuve's days, meant "marrying" in Beaumont's. (V was born in 1695, B in 1711. A sixteen year difference? It's possible, but I give a skeptical nod to this proposition.)

Other people argue that Beaumont actually did change the wording. These people say that when the Beast asked to sleep with Beauty, Villeneuve's translation means to simply share a bed, nothing actually goes on between them. Which could be likely since in Villeneuve's book when Beauty does consent at the end, that's exactly what happens. Nothing. 

 In V's version, Beauty and the Beast spend a night together before the Beast is transformed into a prince. Again, my translation is adapted and it leaves out that part. It reads as if: Beauty goes to bed alone, dreams of her prince, and wakes up with the prince sleeping on a couch nearby. But I've heard that originally the Beast simply falls asleep snoring away without a word, and Beauty, rather relieved, tentatively climbs in bed and sleeps too. In the morning, he's a prince. There's been some translation arguments about that section too. (And I wonder if people just want to make it dirtier than it really is?)

In Villeneuve's story though both the Beast/prince and Beauty seem very child-like, especially near the end of the book. They both have an air of innocence and naivety.

Beauty and the Beast By Justin Gerard // This one's almost whimsical with the way the room and her hair is down as well as her just casually playing the violin. Plus, it makes me laugh because his snout looks more like a whale's mouth.:

When I read the book, I envisioned them as young, barely teenagers. Not old enough to be married. Although, that could be part of the point? Back then, children were given in marriage to each other, or even to spouses much older than themselves (like the evil fairy). They were too young to be going to bed with people. Perhaps Villeneuve was trying to say something there? 

BUT the fact the Beast asks, whatever he's asking, is very. . . what's the word? Revolutionary? Unheard of? Villeneuve's time was one of arranged marriages. A lady had no say in whom she married. She was merely a puppet and piece of property and/or social status. People seem to view Villeneuve as an early feminist by giving Beauty the power to say no.

Beauty could refuse the Beast what he asked. Beauty was the one who decided to take her father's place. (Some say Beauty was submissive to her father and went where he went. Um, no. In actuality, Beauty's choice overrode the choice her father would've made.) Beauty also holds the Beast's life in her hands metaphorically as he nearly dies when she leaves (I think that's rather pathetic, but that's a fairy tale for you). Basically the power to move the forward story is give to females: Beauty, the fairies, and the queens. 


I recently found out that Disney is making a live action film of Beauty and the Beast that is to be released in 2017. I'm so excited about it!  Emma Watson is playing Belle, and it's still a musical.

Have you read Villeneuve's Beauty and the Beast? Are there other differences? Which is your favorite version of Beauty and the Beast? Have you heard of Disney's upcoming film!?


  1. Wow. This was so good. *nods* Your research and all the pictures you included--you must have put a lot of thought into this. And it's so interesting. I've never read the original B&B, and I haven't read any of the retellings either. I definitely want to read the original and the adaptation now. I also hadn't known that it was supposed to be a retelling of Cupid and Psyche, but that sort of makes sense, and it also makes me more interested in reading the originals because I'm partial to Cupid and Psyche.

    Thanks so much for sharing! :)

    1. Thank you!
      You should! It's really good. I didn't know it was derived from C&P until I started researching it. But they do have a lot of similarities.

      Thanks for reading! (It is a horrendously long post.)



    ~shakes and fangirls~

    but WOW!



    BatB is my favourite fairytale (at least in terms of a message. Aesthetically, if that makes sense, I love the thorny hedge in SB or Rapunzel's tower, but from a "moral" POV I love BatB). But what you've said sheds a whole new light on it. I'm very very interested in the story as protofeminist! It's so interesting that both versions were written by women. (Reading Les Mis and Hugo's deification of the Virgin Cosette, I realised that the only novels I've read pre-20th century that are wholly not misogynistic were written by women?? THIS SHOULD NOT BE THE CASE BUT IT IS.) Of course, they still can't let go of the ideal of the physically perfect heroine (hence: Beauty), but I love the theme of appearances not being all they seem.

    The whole arranged marriage thing is interesting, too.

    I'd be very interested to read Villeneuve's version, with the fairies etc (even with the confusing pronouns!). I also need to rewatch the film, which I've not seen for years. The songs are so good. And I properly do love Belle.

    I don't know that I have a BatB retelling in me, though. Do you?


      Agreed. Most fairytales suck when it comes to morals for girls. But B&B is actually pretty good. (Really? That's terrible! And sad. But at the same time, these women were taught to view themselves and other women that way, so it makes sense that they wrote like that, but still. It's terrible that they were taught that!) It seems in a lot of fairytales, outward appearance tells the audience about the character's inward appearance, the evil, ugly step sisters, ugly witches, beautiful younger children, handsome princes, etc. But B&B just completely twists that. Well, except for Beauty.

      Yeah, arranged marriages. I'm sure some of them could've worked out in the end. But think about the huge age differences some of these girls faced. Girls who were really young. Nowadays, it'd be considered illegal and/or revolting.

      Yes! Villeneuve's version is good! Although I only have an adapted version. . . A part of me wants to learn French so I can go read all the French books in their original language. Highly unrealistic of me, but it would be cool. YES! I so want to see the movie again. I was trying to find it before writing this up, and yeah. Wal-Mart failed me.

      Ha, a B&B retelling? Yes. I do think I could pull it off a couple times over.

    2. I just opened my email and saw literally like fifteen comments of you replying to me on here XD that'll teach you to have a blog party where you post every day for weeks, I JUST WON'T STOP COMMENTING! XD XD

      RE the bit in parenthesis, I don't think I was clear. What I meant was, in the 19th c novels I've read by men (Hugo, Dickens, Dumas, Hardy etc) there has always been at least some misogyny. It's only in the ones written by women (Austen, Bronte(s), Eliot) that I've felt women are well represented. Hence why Austen is the forever bae. (And Eliot too. And I do love the Brontes ... !)

      On that note, about to go watch BBC P&P for the first time! (I watched the first episode a week or two ago and am now continuing.)

    3. Oh, see. That makes more sense. I was kind of wondering if I misunderstood you. But yeah. Guys were living in their own man world back in the 19th century. Ahem, I love Austen. She is so good at writing diverse women. I don't mean diverse in ethnicity, but diverse in thought, in background, in social status, in character. Her lady characters were not all the same and they're very real. Of the Brontes, I've only read Jane Eyre. And I disliked it. I only finished it because a friend loves it gave me her book to read because she wanted my opinion. It's not badly written. I just didn't enjoy it. It's depression and there are not humorous parts to give you a breath. Oh, and Rochester is a royal jerk. I think the first time ever used the word jerk was when I told my friend what I thought of Mr. Rochester. Jane shouldn't have went back to him. And I've not read Eliot at all.

      Is there a new BBC P&P?

    4. Have you read all her books?

      Harsh words against Jane Eyre! I liked it but it is not anywhere near as good as any Austen work, because, as you say, "it's depression and there are not humorous parts to give you a breath" (which sounds like a Google translate sentence, I'm just saying ;) ). Jane really annoyed me near the end, when she's thrashing through the countryside blinded by tears like I'LL NEVER BE HAPPY AGAIN and I'm like pal chill just go back to him?! Rochester is rather annoying but I think you have to get under his prickly exterior a bit, I'm not sure. I need to reread. I love Wuthering Heights (the other Bronte I read) which I love, but if anything it's more gothic than Jane, and the characters are all pretty horrible!

      You must read Eliot. I've read Adam Bede and The Mill on the Floss and they're both A****.

      No, I mean the Colin Firth one! I finished it the other night, I loved it!

    5. No. But I really want to.

      ". . . I meant to say "depressing". XD But yeah, that does sound like Google translate. 0_0 Yes, Jane was rather dramatic. But I guess, she had a really depressing life. The first time she was ever truly happy was when she fell in love. When that was taken from her, I guess she didn't think she'd have any luck being happy again? I've not read Wuthering Heights yet. It sounds like it could be interesting.

      I'll have to read them sometime!

      Oh, it's been a while since I've seen the Colin Firth one. It's really good.

    6. I've read 5/6, all but Mansfield Park. I really want to reread P&P esp since watching <333 I love Emma so much, though, real talk. And Colin Firth!!! Have you seen Love Actually?

  3. I believe the following is Ernest Downson's translation of the unabridged original:


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