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What is Beauty and the Beast?

"Beauty and the Beast" is a timeless tale of love transcending appearances, where a young woman, Belle, sees beyond a fearsome Beast's exterior to his kind heart. This enchanting story, originating as a French fairy tale, has been retold through books, films, and musicals, captivating audiences with its message of true beauty's depth. What version has captured your heart?
Mary Elizabeth
Mary Elizabeth
Mary Elizabeth
Mary Elizabeth

“Beauty and the Beast” is a story that has been developed in a number of different genres and is a frequent allusion. “Beauty and the Beast” is the title of a number of songs, including one by David Bowie for his 1977 album Heroes, as well as a lengthy poem, a ballet, a play, a pantomime, an opera, two television show—one in the US and the other in Australia, and two video games. There is also an ice skating version called Beauty and the Beast on Ice. Most famously, it is a fairy tale first published in French in the Eighteenth Century, and a number of films, including a noted one from Jean Cocteau and one from Disney, based on the fairy tale, and also a Broadway musical based on the Disney film.

The Fairy Tale

There is an ice skating version of Beauty and the Beast called Beauty and the Beast on Ice.
There is an ice skating version of Beauty and the Beast called Beauty and the Beast on Ice.

With variants across Europe, the core of the “Beauty and the Beast” story is very like the Cupid and Psyche story, which is similarly developed in multiple genres and variants, including a Twentieth Century novel by C. S. Lewis called Till We Have Faces: A Myth Retold. What most of the versions of “Beauty and the Beast” have in common is a basic story like this:

David Bowie wrote a song titled "Beauty and the Beast" in 1977.
David Bowie wrote a song titled "Beauty and the Beast" in 1977.

A formerly wealthy merchant with three daughters, leaving to meet the last of his trading ships, offers to bring his daughters gifts. The two eldest request signs of status—clothes and jewels, while the youngest — Belle or Beauty — asks only flower: a rose. The cargo of this ship is used to pay his debts, so he is returning home empty-handed, when he becomes lost. Spotting a castle, he enters to find a meal spread, apparently for him, but no living soul.

Gratefully, the merchant eats, and then — as he is leaving — he passes a rose garden, where he picks a rose for Beauty. He is immediately accosted by the castle’s owner, the Beast, who upbraids him for stealing the rose particularly after accepting his hospitality, the punishment for which is permanent imprisonment. The merchant begs for his freedom, and the Beast agrees if one of the merchant’s daughters is willing to stay in his stead. It is, unsurprisingly, Beauty, who offers to yield her own freedom to secure her father’s.

Beauty finds the Beast not unpleasant, but turns down his periodic requests for her hand in marriage. When she becomes unbearably homesick, the Beast permits her to visit her family on condition that she return in a specified period of time. At home, Beauty’s sisters cajole her into breaking her promise to the Beast, and when she finally returns to the castle, she finds the Beast in the garden, dying of a broken heart. Beauty realizes that she loves the Beast, and when she tells him so, he is transformed back into a handsome prince. He explains that he had been transformed into a Beast for behaving in a bestial manner, and only by finding someone who loved him in spite of his appearance was the curse broken.

The Disney Version

The Disney 1991 movie of Beauty and the Beast, with songs by Alan Menken and Howard Ashman, was the first full-length animated feature film to receive a nomination for the Academy Award for Best Picture. Beauty and the Beast did win Academy Awards for Best Music, Original Score as well as Best Music, Song for the title song, “Beauty and the Beast.”

The musical version of Beauty and the Beast is based on the Disney film and on a short live synopsized performance that was performed at Disneyland and Disney’s Hollywood Studios theme park, but with adaptations. It had a Broadway run of 5,464 performances, and in 2007 had the distinction of being Broadway’s sixth-longest running show.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the story of "Beauty and the Beast" about?

"Beauty and the Beast" is a classic fairy tale that tells the story of a beautiful young woman named Belle who becomes the prisoner of a fearsome Beast in his enchanted castle. Despite her initial fear, Belle befriends the castle's magical inhabitants and learns to look beyond the Beast's exterior to recognize the kind heart and soul of the true Prince within. The story is a timeless tale about the transformative power of love and the importance of looking beyond superficial appearances.

Who wrote the original "Beauty and the Beast" fairy tale?

The original "Beauty and the Beast" fairy tale was written by French novelist Gabrielle-Suzanne Barbot de Villeneuve and published in 1740. Her lengthy version was later abridged, rewritten, and published by Jeanne-Marie Leprince de Beaumont in 1756, which is the version most commonly known today. Beaumont's rendition was intended for a younger audience and emphasized the moral lessons of the tale.

How has "Beauty and the Beast" been adapted over the years?

"Beauty and the Beast" has been adapted into various forms of media and entertainment over the years. It has inspired numerous books, theatrical productions, television shows, and films. The most notable adaptations include the 1946 French film directed by Jean Cocteau, the 1991 animated Disney film, and the 2017 live-action Disney adaptation. Each version brings its own creative interpretation to the story while maintaining the core themes of love and inner beauty.

What are some of the themes explored in "Beauty and the Beast"?

"Beauty and the Beast" explores several themes, including the redemptive power of love, the importance of inner beauty over physical appearance, and the transformative potential of compassion and understanding. It also touches on themes of sacrifice, freedom, and the societal expectations of women. The story encourages readers to look beyond the surface and to value character and virtue over looks.

What impact has "Beauty and the Beast" had on popular culture?

"Beauty and the Beast" has had a significant impact on popular culture, influencing countless works of fiction and becoming a staple in the fairy tale genre. The Disney animated film, in particular, was a critical and commercial success, earning an Academy Award nomination for Best Picture, a first for an animated film. The story's enduring popularity is a testament to its universal themes and its ability to resonate with audiences across different cultures and generations.

Mary Elizabeth
Mary Elizabeth

Mary Elizabeth is passionate about reading, writing, and research, and has a penchant for correcting misinformation on the Internet. In addition to contributing articles to MusicalExpert about art, literature, and music, Mary Elizabeth is a teacher, composer, and author. She has a B.A. from the University of Chicago’s writing program and an M.A. from the University of Vermont, and she has written books, study guides, and teacher materials on language and literature, as well as music composition content for Sibelius Software.

Learn more...
Mary Elizabeth
Mary Elizabeth

Mary Elizabeth is passionate about reading, writing, and research, and has a penchant for correcting misinformation on the Internet. In addition to contributing articles to MusicalExpert about art, literature, and music, Mary Elizabeth is a teacher, composer, and author. She has a B.A. from the University of Chicago’s writing program and an M.A. from the University of Vermont, and she has written books, study guides, and teacher materials on language and literature, as well as music composition content for Sibelius Software.

Learn more...

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Discussion Comments

chrisinbama

@dega2010: Celine Dion and Peabo Bryson did the ballad “Beauty and the Beast”. The single was released on November 16, 1991 in Canada and on December 30, 1991 for the United States. It was written by composer Alan Menken and lyricist Howard Ashman. “Beauty and the Beast” was one of Ashman’s last works before he died in 1991.

dega2010

Does anyone know who sang the main song from Disney's Beauty and the Beast?

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    • There is an ice skating version of Beauty and the Beast called Beauty and the Beast on Ice.
      By: Galina Barskaya
      There is an ice skating version of Beauty and the Beast called Beauty and the Beast on Ice.
    • David Bowie wrote a song titled "Beauty and the Beast" in 1977.
      David Bowie wrote a song titled "Beauty and the Beast" in 1977.