The beauty and the beast origin
The tale of Beauty and the Beast, loved by so many, has been
told the world over. Explore this enchanting tale’s history to reveal its
origins…Who Wrote the Original Beauty and the Beast?
Here we cast our minds back to the aristocratic salons of
17th century France. The original story of Beauty and the Beast was
written by Gabrielle-Suzanne de Villeneuve. Originally published in La Jeune Américaine, et Les Contes
Marins in 1740, Villeneuve’s La Belle et La Bête was an original piece of storytelling. It was over
one-hundred pages long and involved a ‘stupid’ Beast, who suffered from more
than just his change of appearance.
original novella length tale, the back-story of both Belle and the Beast is
given. The Beast was a young prince who lost his father, and whose mother
had to wage war to defend his kingdom. The queen left him in care of an evil
fairy, who tried to seduce him when he became an adult; when he refused, she
transformed him into a beast.
story reveals that she is not really a merchant’s daughter but the offspring of
a king and a good fairy. The wicked fairy had tried to murder Belle, so she
could marry her father the king, and Belle was put in the place of a merchant’s
dead daughter to protect her.
Most Popular Beauty and the Beast tale
The shortened tale by Jeanne-Marie Leprince
de Beaumont (1711 – 1780). Beaumont pared
down the list of characters of Beauty and Beast and simplified the tale to
transform it into a quintessential fairy tale. This tale was first published in
1756, under the title La
Belle et La Bête as ‘a tale for the
entertainment of juvenile readers. The changes Beaumont made to Villeneuve’s
another story too, reflecting the social
concerns and political changes happening in France at the time.
The oldest Beauty and the Beast story
It is thought by some scholars that Beauty and the Beast
story may have a much
longer history. It could be that it has roots
in the tale of Cupid
and Psyche, the ancient chronicle from the
Latin novel Metamorphoses. This myth, written in the 2nd Century CE by Apuleius, is
one of the oldest tales and many believe it to be the first ever literary fairy tale.
“A tale as old as time”
Ancient Roman tale starts with Psyche’s banishment (by the jealous Venus) to a
mountaintop, in order to be wed to a murderous beast. Cupid is sent to
destroy her but instead falls in love and flies her away to his castle. There
she is directed to never seek to see the face of her husband, who visits and
makes love to her in the dark of night. Eventually Psyche succumbs to her
curiosity but accidentally scars her husband with a candle. In attempted
atonement, Psyche offers herself as a slave to Venus, and completes a set of
impossible tasks. Completing the last task (seeking beauty from the Queen
of the Underworld), Psyche opens the ‘beauty in a box’ and at once falls into a
coma. Overcome with grief, Cupid rescues her. He begs Jupiter that she
may become immortal, so that the two could be forever united.
Beauty and the Beast from around the world.
Myths and stories have travelled far and wide from
generation to generation and we find similarities in these tales from all
corners of the world.
The Woman Who Married a Snake closely reflects Cupid and Psych yet this first appeared in the Indian Panchatantra, a collection known to have existed in oral form well
before it appeared in print in 500 AD. This helps to explain later ‘Beauty
and the Beast’ stories, where the French beast
is replaced by a snake in the Russian tale of The Enchanted Tsarévich, and the Chinese tale of The Fairy Serpent.
The beast appears as other creatures too. An English
story by Sidney Oldall Addy, where the ‘beast’ is a ‘Small-tooth dog’, a Danish
narrative of ‘Beauty and the Horse’, and the Swiss variant of ‘The Bear
Prince.’ The Beast in Italian tale of Zelinda and the Monster is also no ordinary beast either, but a
fire-breathing dragon who requests the presence of the poor man’s daughter.
The tale has many variants from all
around the world but remaining constant
are the themes of envy unrewarded, of learning to love what may at first appear
story of Beauty and the Beast has inspired and entertained generations of
readers, writers and artists and continues to do so today.