Fairytale Adaptations: Beauty and the Beast

A comparison of the original and Disney version of Beauty and the Beast, talking about the characters, themes, and events in each story.

Hi, everyone!

Today’s post is about another well-know fairytale: Beauty and the Beast.

Beauty and the Beast is one of those stories where the adaptation(s) have become more well known than the original. And it makes a lot of sense.

To sum up, Beauty has two older sisters and three brothers. Her sisters are vain and spoiled, while she’s as perfect as can be. One day, her father leaves to find some cargo from a catastrophic shipwreck. But he loses his way, and stumbles on an enchanted castle, where he meets invisible servants. Problem is, he collects a rose for Belle on the way out. The resident Beast says he’ll die for that, unless one of his daughters takes his place.

Predictably, Beauty agrees. She goes to the castle, and finds it very comfortable, except that the Beast proposes to her every night. Three months pass, and she longs to see her father. The Beast agrees, on condition that she comes back after a week. Unfortunately, her sisters convince her to stay. She only returns when she realizes that the Beast would make a better husband than her sisters’, despite being ugly. The Beast is dying of grief, and transforms into a prince when she confesses her love. A good lady praises her virtue, while transforming her sisters into statues at the front gates. Beauty and the prince marry, and they live happily ever after.

The end.

Now, the adaptation everyone knows — Disney’s animated 1991 version — couldn’t be any different. For one thing, Belle has a defined character. She’s a bookworm who’s shunned by everyone in town, and who longs for adventure. She is decidedly the main character, with every action she takes driving the plot. While her father still ends up with the Beast, Belle finds him and makes the decision to take his place. She runs away when the Beast explodes on her, and starts to care for him once he changes. Their relationship progresses from enemies to friends, and slowly changes to something more with the ballroom scene.

As in the original, Belle still wants to go back to her father. But there’s no guarantee she’ll return — the Beast thinks his transformation will become permanent while she’s gone. The reason she does is she accidentally sends the village after him, and she can’t let him die. It isn’t until Beast is dying in her arms that she realizes her true feelings. Just in time, as the rose’s last petal falls. As in the original, he and everything else are transformed, and it seems the two marry shortly afterward.

The two biggest differences between the adaptations are the villain and the message. In the original, there isn’t a clear-cut villain — the main “villain” is Beauty’s perception of the Beast and how it needs to change. In the Disney version, Gaston is basically the embodiment of what the sisters represented in the original. He’s vain, egotistical, and hates anything that doesn’t fall within what he calls “acceptable”. While his death was an accident, he would’ve probably ended up dead anyway for attempting to kill his monarch. Just as the sisters wound up functionally dead for their behavior.

At the end of the original, the good lady makes the message clear. When finding someone to marry, you must choose virtue over wit or beauty, and that virtue must be evident in you. That’s the only way you’ll have a long-lasting marriage. And that’s exactly what happens. Beauty marries the prince, the man she loves, and her sisters become statues in front of her castle.

In the Disney version, the enchantress states the message at the beginning: beauty is found within. Belle chooses the Beast because he learns to treat her like a human being, value her interests, and be willing to sacrifice himself for her sake. While Gaston is incredibly handsome, that’s not reflected in how he treats others, and that’s exactly what Belle wants to escape.

On the whole, both are interesting versions of a fairytale that’s been told in countless different ways. But between the two, it makes sense why Disney’s version is more popular. The characters are more realistic, and the songs are memorable. Most importantly, the story is one that everyone can relate to on some level. Even if someone has never truly been an outcast, most people have felt they don’t belong at some point . Belle and Beast belong together partially because of their blossoming relationship, and because they find a sense of belonging in each other that they’ve never had.

Besides, it’s still being talked about over twenty-five years later. That’s one of the hallmarks of a truly amazing story.

Thanks so much for reading! If you’d like to contact me, you can email me or follow me using the buttons on my homepage. On my social media, I let my followers know whenever I have a new blog post and give occasional updates about my life.

What do you think about these two adaptations? Do you agree, or do you have a different opinion? Let me know in the comments!

And if you have any suggestions about topics, let me know there as well. I’d love to hear them!

Your Fairytale Enthusiast,

Kirsten Hardin

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