La Belle et la Bete

The old French fairytale of Beauty and the Beast is famous for its depictions of love breaking a curse.    This is a common theme amongst romantic fairytales.    In the tale a young woman goes willingly into a Beast’s castle in order to save her father, who has been imprisoned within.   He has been imprisoned for stealing a rose for his daughter, in fact.

The young woman gives herself into the Beast’s clutches if he will release her father, and a bargain is struck.   Every night afterwards, the Beast asked her to join him for an elegant meal, and each night he proposed.   Eventually she begins to soften to his nature.    She even accepts his proposal and they are wed.    Her love of him despite his beastly countenance is what broke the spell, and revealed that he was a handsome prince that had been cursed all along!   

In the Disney version Belle rescued her father, and learns much by spending time in the castle with all of the cursed objects (that were once people).   The Beast tried hard to win her affection, in hopes of breaking his curse, and because he fell in love with her.   In an important display of knowing who Belle is, the Beast gifts her his large and beautiful library!   She slowly falls in love with the Beast, leaving only once, when her father was ill and needed her.    She forgets to come back to the castle as quickly as promised, and the Beast weakens and is near death.   Gaston uses this moment to attempt to murder the Beast.    Thanks to Belle arriving and Gaston falling to his demise the Beast lives.   Belle confessed her love and kissed the Beast, turning him into the young and handsome prince (who is usually said to be named Adam).

The 1991 Disney animated film took much inspiration from the 1946 Jean Cocteau French surrealistic classic!    In the 1946 film there are also objects within the castle that move as if they were once human.   The makeup of the Beast in the 1946 film is similar to the animation of the 1991 Disney one, as well.

In 2017 Disney did the live action remake of the animated film.   This movie is incredibly enjoyable, and I loved that they kept all of the favorite songs within the film!   Seeing Belle’s library in a live action film was really lovely, although that library is a dream even in animated form.

The symbolism of roses is common amongst nearly every telling of this particular tale.   Roses are symbols of beauty and love.   White roses are also symbols of innocence, true love, and eternity.    Red roses are symbols of erotic and romantic love, as well as of passion.   It can also be said that the rose is a symbol of womanhood, and that it can show Belle becoming a woman and wife rather than the maiden she has been.    There is inherent sexuality in this tale, and it is in many ways about sexual awakening.   The Beast becomes man when his love is returned, and at the same time he awakens passion and sexuality within Belle!

Over the years there have been many adaptations of this particular fairytale.   This includes not one, but two, television shows that share the title.     The 1987 Beauty and the Beast show kept the appearance of the Beast as truly beastly.   In the 2012 CW show the Beast character is a beast based on genetic engineering.   

Also of note are the book and film Beastly which set the telling of the tale in modern high school, the musical based on the Disney films, and the Once Upon a Time storyline of Belle and Rumplestiltskin!     If you ever get a chance to see a performance of Beauty and the Beast on stage I highly recommend this musical!!!

I hope you enjoyed this post about this iconic French tale and its many adaptations!

Further Reading/Watching

Below are a list of books, movies, and television shows to fall in love with if you are interested in La Belle et la Bete!

  • Beauty and the Beast: Classic Tale About Animal Brides and Grooms from Around the World Edited by Maria Tatar
  • The Blue Fairy Book Edited by Andrew Lang
  • Beauty and the Beast and Other Classic Fairy Tales (Barnes and Noble Leather-bound Classics)
  • Spinning Straw into Gold: What Fairy Tales Reveal About the Transformations in a Woman’s Life by Joan Gould
  • Beauty and the Beast (1946)
  • Beauty and the Beast (1991)
  • Beauty and the Beast (2017)
  • Beauty and the Beast (2014)
  • Beastly (2011)
  • Beauty and the Beast (1987-1990)
  • Beauty and the Beast (2012-2016)
  • Once Upon a Time (2011-2018)