10 Different Versions of The Beauty and the Beast

by Tolovaj

The Beauty and the Beast is among the most popular fairy tales with thousand years of history. What changed in the narration and messages of known versions?

While we recognize Madame Le Prince's version of The Beauty and the Beast (La Belle et la Bete) as 'the original', we don't need much to find versions published several decades or several centuries before this French writer published 'her' fairy tale, which was actually abridged version of Madame Villeneuve's.

Of course, in all these variations we can also find many changed details which make all the difference. Even in the 20th and 21st century this story still inspires countless artists who try to use the well-known frame of the lady who helped the beast at the transformation in a human being to present their own views on contemporary society send their personal messages or express criticism to the established conditions in our relationships.

I dived several thousand years into the past to present you 10 popular versions of The Beauty and the Beast, each with a short comment and links to further exploration of the theme:

1. The Myth of Hades and Persephone (cca 650 BC)

This story is actually more related to The Little Red Riding Hood, but we can find many elements of The Beauty and the Beast in it as well:

joshua-cristall-hades-and-persephone
  • Hades as the god of the Underworld, a secretive and isolated character, can be easily seen as The Beast.
  • Hidden hands taking care of Persephone can be noticed in later (most famous versions) of the fairy tale as well.
  • There's a motif of leaving home, returning back for limited time and leaving again, just like in later versions of The Beauty and the Beast
  • We can notice the competition between The Beast (Hades) and her family (Demeter) and usage of dirty tricks/magic to achieve the goals on both sides in both stories.
  • While the Beauty (Persephone) was reluctant at The Beast (Hades) at first, she falls in love after a while. Both stories follow the same pattern again.

2. Cupid and Psyche aka Eros an Anime by Lucius Apuleius Madaurensis (cca 2nd century AD)

Here is the story of Cupid and Psyche explained in detail:

https://manyinterestingfacts.wordpress.com/2013/01/25/cupid-and-psyche/

And here are some of the major points connecting this myth with the fairy tale in question:

edward-burne-jones-cupid-and-psyche
  • There is a very strong jealousy between female characters in both stories, Aphrodite and Psyche in the myth and The Beauty and her sisters in the fairy tale.
  • The leading male character (Cupid in the myth, The Beast in the fairy tale) is under the powerful spell.
  • While the male can't help himself, her love can save him in both cases.
  • Important, life-changing events happen while one of the main characters is in sleep.

3. Cymon and Iphigenia by Boccaccio (1353)

While it's not officially associated with the tale in question it obviously shares several important characteristics with The Beauty and the Beast:

  • Cymon got his name after his lack of manners and poor education. It means 'brute' or 'The Beast'. The Beast was presented as similarly rude and uneducated character in older version of The Beauty and the Beast.
  • For his behavior, his father sends him out of town - to live in the country just like the family of Belle moved out of town to the country.
  • A mere look at the sleeping Iphigenia has the power to change him into a completely different person. Just like in Villeneuve's version The Beast starts as a badly behaved beast to transform into a charming prince, Cymon becomes a highly educated nobleman.
  • Sleep plays a very important role in this story as well. While Iphigenia doesn't do anything but sleeps, The Beauty gets important messages through dreams. In both cases, the sleep leads to life-important changes in men in the stories.
  • We are dealing with life-threatening jealousy in both tales.
  • In both stories fathers initiate changes yet are completely helpless when transformations begin. Iphigenia doesn't have sisters like Belle but is presented with two handmaids.


More about the story of Cymon and Iphigenia:

http://artyoushouldknow.canalblog.com/archives/2018/08/27/36657920.html

To be honest we can add that this story about the transformation shares many important elements with at least two more popular fairy tales: The Sleeping Beauty and The Frog Prince.

cymon-and-iphigenia-leighton

4. The Pig King by Giovanni Francesco Straparola (1550)

* The prince is under the magic spell. He needs to find love if he wants a human look.

* There are three sisters and elder two are not willing to marry him, just like the elder two in most known version today don't want to deal with The Beast.

* He is a very rich prince and the sisters are from poor family. Lost of money is one of the central points in the fairy tale we are familiar with.

* Financial benefit of the family is obvious. It's a parent who insists on the marriage of the girl after girl after girl even first two girls are killed!

* In the night he changes his look and becomes human, but only after he finds a woman who doesn't despise him for his day look.

By the way, The Pig King is one of the official predecessors of Hans My Hedgehog by brothers Grimm ad a whole series of so-called animal-groom fairy tales.

john-dixon-batten-beauty-and-beast

5. Prince Marcassin by Madame d'Aulnoy (1698)

This story is very similar to Straparola's but expanded.

* We are dealing with an enchanted prince (changed into a boar this time).

* First two sisters die here as well but the third finds him to be all right before he changes into a human.

* There's a motif of retreat to the country, another important moment in The Beauty and the Beast.

* First two sisters are returned to life at the end so we can enjoy a happy ending after all. It looks this was a common characteristic among French fairy tale writers of this time (think about Perrault's version of Cinderella).

picture-of-madame-daulnoy

6. Gabrielle-Suzanne Barbot de Villeneuve (1740) and Jeanne-Marie Leprince de Beaumont (1756)

Both ladies can be considered as 'original' writers of the fairy tale about the Beauty and the Beast, which was actually several thousand years old before they were even born. I wrote about both versions and their relationship in a separate article:

https://wizzley.com/beauty-and-beast/

I cordially invite you to read it as well. Today Leprince's version stands as the one where modern rewritings start off.

All crucial elements are already explained: 

arthur-hughes-beauty-and-beast
  • Changes of financial and social status.
  • Jealousy between sisters.
  • Aversion to the look of the Beast which is eventually overcome by his nice character.


Now, when we already have the gold standard, from which all next versions start, we'll focus on differences.

7. East of the Sun, West of the Moon aka The White Bear by Peter Christen Asbjornsen and Jorgen Moe (1842)

The main difference is a much more active role of the girl who makes a mistake of putting the prince into danger but tries to rescue him. The plot is pretty close to the above-mentioned myth about Cupid and Psyche. Before the happy ending she needs to overcome many problems and compete with a real princess (she is just a peasant) they reunite and start living happily ever after.

What fairy tale in your opinion shares the most characteristics with The Beauty and the Beast?
frederick-richardson-east-of-the-sun-west-of-the-moon

8. The Scarlet Letter aka The Little Red Flower by Sergey Aksakov (1856)

This version is very similar to the French versions mentioned above. All the details by which it differs from them are explained here:

http://blackandwhiteandmore.blog.fc2.com/blog-entry-1.html

scarlet-flower-nikolay-bogatov

You'll have a chance to find all illustrations from the book as well.

9. Bloody Chamber by Angela Carter (1979)

Angela Carter published a collection of short stories which are modern rewritings of some of the most popular fairy tales. In Bloody Chamber, we can read two variants of The Beauty of the Beast. The main difference is the power of the Beauty in her retellings. She feels it, she uses it and she enjoys it.

There is also another important point to acknowledge: being the Beast he is special and interesting but as a handsome young man he is just an ordinary guy what is further emphasized in Cocteau's movie La Belle et la Bete from 1946. Belle is actually disappointed after the transformation. In this case, a transformation can be understood as the end of magic.

The Bloody Chamber and Other Stories by Angela Carter
The Bloody Chamber: And Other Stories: 75th-Anniversary E...

10. Beauty and the Beast by Disney Company (1991, 2017)

This is where the majority of new generations meet this immortal story for the first time. With an animated movie from 1991 and a live-action film from 2017 this story is focusing again on the enchantment of romance, the ability of transformation, obvious change of both characters in the world where women should not be treated as someone's property but strong, smart and independent characters with occasional magical powers.

Some trivia about Disney's The Beauty and the Beast:

* The cartoon from 1991 was the third attempt to make a movie from the story. Walt Disney tried to adapt it in 1930 and 1950 yet couldn't find a suitable formula so the project was postponed until 1990.

* Brian McEntee, the art director of the movie, used symbolic powers of colors to distinguish between good and evil. Blue represents good and is worn only by Belle and the Beast. Red represents evil (Beast.wear red cap in first scenes).

* Animators made a Beast with a combination of a bear, a boar, a buffalo, a gorilla, a lion, and a wolf.

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Updated: 09/21/2018, Tolovaj
 
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Did you know there are so many versions of The Beauty and the Beast?

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Tolovaj on 09/29/2018

Hi, AngelaJohanson! Beauty and the Beast has a slightly different status than some other fairy tales which were frequently rewritten in Grimms' and Perrault's collections. One of the reasons is authorship - it has known autohors from the very beginning while for all Perrault's and Grimms' tales majority of scholars believed they come from oral tradition. Today we know all of them are written by more or less professional writers. Thanks for stopping by.

AngelaJohnson on 09/28/2018

Although my mother read Fairy Tales and Aesop's Fables to us when we were kids, she never read the story of Beauty and the Beast.

Tolovaj on 09/21/2018

Glad to hear that, sandyspider!

sandyspider on 09/20/2018

Interesting to find out all the different versions. I did not know this before.

Tolovaj on 09/15/2018

Thanks, Veronica. I am glad to hear that.

Veronica on 09/14/2018

Thank you. What a great piece of research. beauty and the beast is one of my favourite stories and certainly my favourite Disney .

I never knew all these versions and from your writing it is easy to see bhhow the best known story developed.

Thank you for this post.

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