Beauty and the Beast: more thoughts

Further to Sam’s post below, I’m writing a paper on YA adaptations of ‘Beauty and the Beast’ for the Damsels in Redress: Women in Contemporary Fairy-Tale Reimaginings at Queen’s University, Belfast (7-8 April), so the tale is very much on my mind. I’m looking at Robin McKinley’s version, Beauty (1978) that Sam mentions, plus her later reworking of it as Rose Daughter (1997). I’m also looking at Rosamund Hodge’s Cruel Beauty (2015), and, briefly, Donna Jo Napoli, Beast (2004); Alex Flinn, Beastly (2007); Sarah J. Maas, A Court of Thorns and Roses (2015); perhaps others (there are so many!). And Angela Carter’s powerful revisions in The Bloody Chamber, ‘The Courtship of Mr Lyon’ and ‘The Tiger’s Bride’ will be reference points.

I was hoping to see the new Disney version tonight, but it’s booked up; I’ll review it here when I see it. I watched the old Disney version and will be rewatching Cocteau’s La belle et le bête and the 1952 animated film by Lev Atamatov of the Russian version of the tale, ‘The Scarlet Flower’.

Some of the many varieties of animal that make up the Beast-man that Sam talks of can be seen in the illustrations to Betsy Hearne’s excellent book Beauty and the Beast: Visions and Revisions of an Old Tale (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1991). I’m also looking forward to the folklorist Maria Tatar’s new book on the subject when it comes out this month.

And Sam mentions the library in McKinley’s version. This motif of Beauty’s love of books seems to stay in place through practically all of the incarnations, from Madame de Villeneuve’s 1740 original onwards, including the Disney version (where she is a bookworm and her doltish suitor Gaston a philistine), and the significance of women’s reading in different contexts is crucial to the way the tale has been reshaped.

There are some more links here to recent articles:

An interview by Kevin Fallon with Dan Stevens (who plays the Beast) on the gender politics of the new film: Dan Stevens: ‘”Beauty and the Beast’s” Woke, Feminist Beast’

A fascinating article on human-animal couplings in folktales worldwide and what they signify, quoting Maria Tatar: Jane Henderson, ‘Fairy tales love animal-human couplings — but why?’

An article by Valerie Derbyshire on the history behind Madame de Beaumont’s version and its feminist content: ‘Beauty and the Beast was originally a feminist fable disguised as marriage guidance’

Illustrations of classic fairy tales in the New York Public Library, compared with their Disney versions: Lauren Weiss, ‘Disney Classics in the Digital Collections’

About William the Bloody

Cat lover. 18C scholar on the dialogue and novel. Co-convenor OGOM Project
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2 Responses to Beauty and the Beast: more thoughts

  1. firekrank says:

    I am meaning to go and see ‘Beauty and the Beast’ as well – there are many films I am meant to have caught by now and I live a five minute walk from an Odeon! I noticed when teaching ‘Beauty’ that ‘Beauty and the Beast’ forms the backdrop to most romance novels especially YA models. It’s the Bad Boy turned good by love idea.

    • William the Bloody says:

      Exactly!! It’s *the* architext for the paranormal romance in a way–that’s why it’s caught my attention. I’m thinking of devoting a chapter to it in my (very provisional) monograph on PR.
      I just don’t see enough films at all, but you have no excuse!

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