Incarnations of Beauty and the Beast

By a strange flight of fancy, certain children’s picture books are categorized in my no-longer-so-local library by something other than the author’s last name.

Beauty and the Beast tales fall into that category.

Which means I read two renditions of Beauty and the Beast while reading the BEAs (instead of the BREs or the EILs, based on who was retelling the classic tale.)

I didn’t mind in the least.

Sometimes it’s nice to see a couple different retellings of a story side-by-side.

In Jan Brett’s retelling (also illustrated by herself), Beauty is waited on by a collection of exotic animals in the Beast’s house–monkeys, peacocks, and the more tame dogs. The Beast has a man’s legs and a boar’s upper body. He only appears at dinner, where he engages Beauty in thoughtful conversation before closing the evening with a question: “Beauty, will you marry me?”

Jan Brett's Beauty and the Beast

Brett’s illustrations are a delightful treat, especially since they foreshadow the exciting denouement. We see statues and friezes of the prince’s former life in the garden as the merchant contends with the furious beast. Once Beauty is ensconced within the castle, scene after scene includes decorative tapestries which display the scene playing out in “real time”–except with the animals as the people they once were and will again become. Often, these tapestries include little messages–“Do not trust to appearance” or “Courage, Beauty-Your Happiness is not far away.”

Brett’s retelling is relatively simple and follows the classic storyline quite closely (although the classic storyline might come as somewhat of a surprise to those whose only acquaintance with “Beauty” is through Disney!) All in all, I greatly enjoyed this particular retelling.

Max Eilenberg’s retelling, illustrated by Angela Barrett, takes on a different tone.

For one thing, both the writing and the illustrations draw to mind the Victorian age, with delicious gowns for the girls and tails and top hats for the men.

Max Eilenberg and Angela Barrett's Beauty and the Beast

For another, unlike in Brett’s retelling, where the characters retain their types, being merely “Beauty” or “the merchant” or “the Beast” or “Beauty’s sisters”, Eilenberg’s retelling gives each character character beyond type. The merchant becomes “Ernest Jeremiah Augustus Fortune, Esquire, Merchant”. The sisters become “Gertrude” and “Hermione”, who are crazy about jewels and fashion respectively. Beauty and the Beast, on the other hand, maintain their typical names–although they’re given some roundness of character.

Beauty becomes a romantic, a dreamer who longs to marry for love–and who thinks nothing would be better than to marry a prince for love. Nevertheless, she keeps her romantic dreams to herself, choosing to seek her family’s best rather than her own. When her father’s fortunes appear to have taken a turn for the better and Mr. Fortune asks his daughters what they’d like him to bring back for them from his trip to the sea to recover his lost ship, Beauty wants to ask for a Prince–her true heart’s desire. But since she knows it isn’t within her father’s power to bring her back such a thing, she asks instead for something she believes will cost him little–just a rose.

Of course, she doesn’t know how costly the rose will be to her father–and to herself. And she doesn’t know that, in asking for the rose, she will be acquiring for herself a prince. But such is the charm of this story. For in being selfless, Beauty indeed obtained her heart’s desire.

The Beast, too, takes on a human quality. He is terrible in his hairy, fanged, and clawed beastliness; but even more so in his fury at what has become of him.

“Do not call me ‘lord’!” roared the creature. “Do not try to flatter me with pretty words. I do not like it. We should say what we mean and be what we are. I am a beast. My name is Beast. You will call me Beast. Beast by nature, Beast by name. Beast! Beast! Beast!.”

He is terrible and beautiful when he acquiesces to Beauty’s request that he no longer ask her to marry him again.

The Beast was silent for a time, his head bowed. “I would not hurt you for any price,” he said at last. “Forgive me.” He raised his eyes to Beauty, and for a moment she feared that she had wounded him beyond repair, so broken and hopeless did he seem. But then he seemed to find courage and somehow she knew what he would say even before he spoke. “I will not ask you again–I promise…I ask only one thing: if you are happy to be my friend, please promise that you will never leave me alone.”

And he is just plain beautiful once Beauty’s love has turned him into a prince again.

“Now you see me as I really am,” he said. “Your love has saved me from a terrible spell. I was turned into a beast, and only a heart who loved me for my self could set me free.”

I enjoyed this retelling immensely–partly for the beauty of the retelling, partly for the loveliness of the illustrations, and partly for my own identification with Beauty’s dreams and with the Beast’s dreadful pain.

I highly recommend either tale.

Reading My LibraryFor more comments on children’s books, see the rest of my Reading My Library posts or check out Carrie’s blog Reading My Library, which chronicles her and her children’s trip through the children’s section of their local library.

Memorable Movie Meme

Joyce recently snatched this little movie meme from a Facebook friend–and I decided to snatch it from her!

The idea is to list fifteen memorable movies you’ve seen. You shouldn’t take too long–list the first fifteen you can remember in no more than fifteen minutes.

Grabbing my timer…

And Go!

  1. The Lord of the Rings Trilogy
    Saw TTT and ROTK at midnight showing opening night. Watched all three extended editions through straight multiple times. Am true nerd.
  2. The End of the Spear
    Seen in theatre. Understood nuances of plot better than others. Never happens. Figured out why–subtitles, of course!
  3. Amazing Grace
    Remember crying when I realized who the old blind man was.
  4. Ben Hur
    Endless rewatching of the chariot races, watching for ketchup squirting. That great little hug thing and “hunting jackals and lions. But now we have become too dignified!” [Chortle, chortle]
  5. The Taming of the Shrew
    The tongue and tail dialogue. The angry exchanges. Liz Taylor’s flashing eyes, Richard Burton’s mischievous smiles.
  6. Pride and Prejudice
    I can never decide who I like better: Elizabeth, Darcy, or the dad?
  7. Seven Brides for Seven Brothers
    “That is a movie of sex and violence!” my Grandma says. Yes, but I so badly wanted to be Dorcas, with her flowing long black hair and beautiful white undergarments.
  8. That one Shackleton documentary whose name I can’t remember
    Chills up and down my spine as I hear the survivors’ children speak of the fourth man on the mountain. Set me off on a binge of Shackleton reading (particularly two great books, both named The Endurance, although with different subtitles. One by Caroline Alexander and another by Captain F.A. Worsley himself.)
  9. Beauty and the Beast
    Disappointed me so much when the beast turned ugly at the end. But Belle was beautiful–and a bookworm too!
  10. My Fair Lady
    I could have danced all night, I could have danced all night… And how could I NOT love this musical?
  11. Fiddler on the Roof
    For some reason, I never managed to take Tzeitel’s caution about the matchmaker–and still sing “Matchmaker, matchmaker, make me a match, find me a find, catch me a catch….For papa, make him a scholar; for mama, make him rich as a king; for me, well, I wouldn’t holler if he were as handsome as anything…”
  12. Les Miserables
    Do I even need to explain? Most compelling story of redemption ever put to screen. Or something like that.
  13. Stalag 17
    I can’t pinpoint what exactly makes this as great as it is. But it is.
  14. Some Like It Hot
    Our video-taped copy ended abruptly after the cross-dressing lead tells her (his) admirer that she’s a man–to which the admirer responds, “That’s okay, nobody’s perfect.” After many years and several rewatchings, we rented it so we could see the ending–only to discover that that WAS the ending.
  15. The Court Jester
    Who can resist a purple-pimpernelled baby’s bottom, a wily fox in jester’s garb, and a beautiful maiden with unexpected skill in seduction (despite the horrible disease she may or may not have… the disease named after her father, who died in excruciating pain… the disease that can be transmitted by, well, just about anything–the brush of a hand…)?

Whew–that was hard. I feared that I might run out of time–and ended up answering with some, yes, rather frivolous family favorites. In this case, memorable might just mean “movies I’ve watched so many times over I can probably retell them in my sleep.”

May I reiterate that I am NOT a movie person?

What about you, are YOU a movie person? What are your most memorable movies?