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may_lily: (Beauty and the Beast Love)
Monday, July 1st, 2013 07:53 pm
From my tumblr.

Most Animal Bridegroom tales, such as East of the Sun and West of the Moon or the Black Bull of Norroway, have the bridegroom as a specific animal, such as a bear or a bull or a lion. Madame de Villeneuve’s Beauty and the Beast, however, made him a non-specific ‘monster’. Madame de Beaumont’s more popular abridgement doesn’t describe the Beast, but Villeneuve does give a few lines of description.

From J. R. Planche’s translation, page 233:

He was terribly alarmed upon perceiving at his side a horrible beast, which, with an air of fury, laid upon his neck a kind of trunk, resembling an elephant’s…

Page 242:

A frightful noise, caused by the enormous weight of his body, by the terrible clank of his scales, and an awful roaring, announced his arrival.

Page 290:

The weight of my body had become so great that I could not lift myself; all that I could do was to sustain myself on my hands, which had in an instant become two horrible paws…

So a trunk, scales, and paws.
may_lily: (Beauty and the Beast Love)
Thursday, December 27th, 2012 06:48 pm
From my tumblr.

Nearly all of the fairy tales that are best known today were written by Charles Perrault, the Brothers Grimm, Hans Christian Andersen, and to a lesser extent Joseph Jacobs and Asbjørnsen and Moe. What do these writers have in common? They’re all men.

Many women were writing fairy tales at the time of Perrault. The best known of these is Madame d’Aulnoy. But her stories don’t get constant picture books and big-budget movies. There were women fairy tale writers around the time of the Brothers Grimm as well, but I know less about them.

Three fairy tales written by women have managed to achieve fame: ‘Beauty and the Beast’, ‘Rapunzel’, and ‘Snow White and Rose Red’. Of these, ‘Beauty and the Beast’ is the only one regularly credited to a woman (when it’s not being erroneously credited to a man), albeit to the woman who wrote the adaption rather than the woman who wrote the story in the first place. ‘Rapunzel’ was first written by Charlotte-Rose de la Force as ‘Persinette’, and ‘Snow White and Rose Red’ was written by Caroline Stahl as ‘The Ungrateful Dwarf’.

‘Beauty and the Beast’ was first written as a very long, complex story by Gabrielle-Suzanne de Villeneuve. I’ve already written quite a bit about it: see Serpent Fairies, Disguise, and Princess or Peasant. Jeanne-Marie Leprince de Beaumont took this story and simplified it. It’s this simplified version that gained popularity.

Several of Madame de Beaumont’s other fairy tales have been translated into English over the years, but I have been unable to find a website that makes them easily available. None of them ever gained the popularity that ‘Beauty and the Beast’ did. It seems that there is something in the ‘Beauty and the Beast’ story that captures the imagination in a way that her original stories didn’t.

Coming soon: my thoughts on Persinette/Rapunzel and Snow White and Rose Red.
may_lily: (Beauty and the Beast Love)
Wednesday, December 19th, 2012 02:47 pm
From my tumblr.

Among those who’ve read Gabrielle-Suzanne de Villeneuve’s Beauty and the Beast, it seems to be a fairly popular opinion that the revelation of Beauty’s royal heritage is a ‘cop-out’. I’ve already written about why I don’t agree. In a nutshell, appearance vs reality is a repeating theme, and Beauty, her parents, and the Prince all must deal with loving someone who appears to be beneath their station. But I got to thinking: what if everything else was the same, but Beauty’s father wasn’t a king? Would the story have the same effect?

A powerful, supernatural woman falling in love with a handsome shepherd is an existing literary trope: think of Selene and Endymion or Henriette-Julie de Murat’s Jeune et Belle. The fairy got in trouble for marrying a mortal, so she’d be in just as much trouble if she married a shepherd as if she married a king. I wonder if the Wicked Fairy loving the king would turn out the same way, however – and this sub-plot is necessary to get Beauty away from her original family to be brought up by the merchant. Would the Wicked Fairy’s pride not allow her to woo a shepherd? Or would her rivalry with Beauty’s mother cause her to want to take her husband, no matter who he was?

Beauty’s aunt insists that the Prince’s mother accept her as a merchant’s daughter before revealing her as a princess. The mother does become considerably happier after the reveal, though. Suppose the revelation had been ‘she’s actually a fairy’s daughter, which is better than a princess’ (from the point of view of the fairies, anyway)? Would the queen have accepted that?

I find it significant that four characters agree to marry below their station: Beauty to a Beast, the Prince to a merchant’s daughter, the fairy to a mortal, and the king to a shepherdess. If the king was a shepherd and married someone of the same rank as him (or so he believed), would it have been worth losing that extra parallel to his daughter’s story? I don’t have an answer.
may_lily: (Beauty and the Beast Love)
Wednesday, November 21st, 2012 10:51 am
From my tumblr.

On re-reading Gabrielle-Suzanne de Villeneuve’s original Beauty and the Beast, I noticed some remarkable similarities between the characters of Beauty, the Beast/Prince, and Beauty’s parents. I realised that the theme of apearance vs reality goes even deeper than the ‘don’t judge a book by it’s cover’ message of the commonly told tale. In Madame de Villeneuve’s story, Beauty is revealed to be a hidden princess, and her mother is a fairy who disguised herself as a shepherdess and married a king. I know of two English translations of Madame de Villeneuve’s version online: one by Ernest Dowson and one in Four and Twenty Fairy Tales by J. R. Planché. Planché’s version is slightly bowdlerised; he changes ‘Will you sleep with me?’ to ‘Will you marry me?’

It’s a common enough story - a prince falls for a commoner, but they are not permitted to marry. The commoner turns out to be long lost royalty, the marriage is on and there’s a happy ending. Beauty and the Beast appears to follow this plot, but there’s a twist - every marriage is agreed to before the reveal of the apparently lower-status person’s true standing.

The King is the only character out of the four (Beauty, Beast, Fairy, King) who does not wear some sort of disguise at any point. He falls in love with a shepherdess. He never knows that she is a fairy, and thus higher in rank than him. Beauty’s aunt (the fairy shepherdess’s sister) makes a point of emphasising that everyone in the kingdom may marry who they love, regardless of social status. It’s a little strange to me that the Queen (the Beast/Prince’s mother and the sister of Beauty’s father), presumably having come from that culture, makes a big issue out of the Prince marrying a commoner, but her objection and eventual acceptance was necessary to emphasise the point about love regardless of social status.

The Fairy falls in love with the King. As a mortal, he is below her station, and she suffers severe penalties when the marriage is discovered. Her marriage is finally sanctioned when she firstly performs a service for the Queen of the Fairies, and secondly undergoes the serpent test, rising in status among the fairies so that she may marry who she pleases without penalty.

I wrote about the serpent ordeal earlier. Perhaps it is meant as a parallel to the Prince’s experiences as a beast. The fairies must first lower themselves to the status of a lowly crawling creature before rising in status among their peers. The Prince goes through his ordeal and meets his beloved Beauty, while the Fairy goes through something similar in order to finally be with her husband.

The Beast appears to be, well, a beast. Beauty, as a human being, objects to marrying him and prefers the Fair Unknown of her dreams. Her gradual realisation of his gentle nature and her adopted father’s advice lead her to accept him before she is aware of his true nature as a prince.

Beauty appears to be a commoner. The Prince doesn’t care one bit about her social status and is determined to marry her. His mother objects, insisting that he should only marry royalty, and the Prince is in such despair that he asks to become a Beast again, so that his social status should be no obstacle to his marriage to Beauty. Luckily, Beauty’s fairy aunt convinces the Queen to accept their marriage. It is only after the Queen agrees the Beauty’s aunt reveals that Beauty is a princess.

There is one more character who wears a disguise - the Wicked Fairy who transformed the Prince into a beast. She falls in love with the King, Beauty’s father, and disguises herself as a queen in order to win him. A queen would be a suitable match for a king, but he is having none of it. He forever loves his shepherdess wife. A good match in rank is not necessarily a good match in love.

Beauty, the Beast-Prince, and the Fairy all hide who they are, appearing to be lower in social status than they were born to. All of them find love while in their disguised state, and their lovers do not learn the truth until after agreeing to marriage. These parallels and musings on status were lost in Madame de Beaumont’s simplified adaption. I wish that Madame de Villeneuve’s fascinating work was better known.
may_lily: (Beauty and the Beast Love)
Tuesday, November 20th, 2012 10:34 am
From my Tumblr.

While Beauty and the Beast gained popularity from its adaption by Jeanne-Marie Le Prince de Beaumont, it was originally a lengthy literary fairy tale written by Gabrielle-Suzanne Barbot de Villeneuve. I know of two English translations online: one by Ernest Dowson and one in Four and Twenty Fairy Tales by J. R. Planché. Planché’s version is slightly bowdlerised; he changes ‘Will you sleep with me?’ to ‘Will you marry me?’

Madame de Villeneuve’s story contains a lot of details that do not appear in later adaptions, including information about the Prince and why he was cursed, Beauty’s secret family history, and fairy politics. One aspect that I always found puzzling was an ordeal that fairies would go through to gain power and prestige: they would ‘become a serpent’. Supposedly this was an extremely dangerous undertaking, but I never understood exactly why. Did they become a dragon or a normal snake? Why was it dangerous? Did they have to fight someone or something? Well, I was reading Prince Lutin (translated as Prince Sprite, Prince Ariel and various other names) by Madame d’Aulnoy and I may have found a clue.

I found Prince Lutin to be a rather unpleasant tale with an unlikeable hero. The main character, Leander, courts a woman names Blondine because it is expected of him. She is uninterested in him and never gives him any indication that she likes him. He discovers that she has a rival and sneaks into her bedroom when she is meeting him. Furious to see her favouring someone else, Leander beats up the rival and leaves the court, reproaching Blondine as if she’d been unfaithful to him.

Later, when Leander meets his ‘true love’, he basically turns into Edward Cullen. He spies on her invisibly and leaves presents around, causing her to fear that she’s being haunted. Naturally, it’s all just fine and she falls in love with him without even properly meeting him.

However, what interested me about the story was the fairy helper. Early on, Leander comes across a snake about to be killed by a gardener. On a whim, he decides to save and look after it. The snake turns out to be the fairy Gentille. She explains that everyone in her race must become a snake for one week when they turn one hundred. They lose their magic powers and cannot protect themselves.

Was this what inspired Madame de Villeneuve’s serpent test in Beauty and the Beast? Is it so dangerous for the fairies because they no longer have powers, and because as feared and reviled creatures, snakes were in danger of being killed if a human being came across them?

A similar circumstance occurs in Anguillette by Henriette-Julie de Murat (also in Planché’s Four and Twenty Fairy Tales). In this story the transformation occurs for a few days every month, and can be any animal. Anguillette, the fairy of the title, becomes an eel. Like Gentille she is captured and in danger of being killed, but is rescued by a kind princess.

I’ll be keeping my eyes open for further disempowered fairy-animals in literary fairy tales.
may_lily: (Default)
Saturday, September 17th, 2011 08:26 am
I heard about a 'Beauty and the Beast' TV remake a little while ago, but I assumed it was a new adaption of the fairy tale. No! It's a remake of the 80's TV show! I loved loved loved that show when I was fifteen. It remains the only time I can remember crying for a TV show. There have been plenty of shows and movies that have made me sad since then, of course, but somehow I just never cry. I longed for a remake, but I never believed it would really happen. This time, fingers crossed, Catherine will get the ending she deserves.
may_lily: (OMG Slash!)
Monday, November 20th, 2006 07:46 pm
Stuff coming out that makes me happy:

At long, long last, the Beauty and the Beast TV series DVDs! I fell in love with the show when I was 15 - Catherine and Vincent was probably my original OTP. I was never able to see it again since then, but I kept hoping there'd be a DVD eventually.

Naturally, I preordered it immediately, and what should come up on my Amazon recommendations but the Beauty and the Beast soundtrack. It's been out since last year, and I never knew it existed!

Amazon also recommended me the new Jim Grimsley novel, the Last Green Tree, which I also didn't know was coming up. It's the latest to be set in the universe of Kirith Kirin and the Ordinary.

On the licensing of Mika Sadahiro's Organic Sons: I totally called it! Sadahiro's been getting a lot of attention lately, and Organic Sons is a nice, multi-chapter story, without the violence of UGH or the 14-year-oldness of Pathos. I'm not sure it's even been scanslated, too. I'm pleased I was able to predict it!