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A Brief Discussion of Beauty and the Beast
Mostly, the characters of Beauty and the Beast exist outside the usual peasant and royalty standards of most fairy tales. Beauty comes from a once wealthy, now impoverished, merchant family and the Beast can be royalty, aristocracy or simply a wealthy and demanding land owner. Their positions within society are not important, it is how they come to view each other and society that matters.
For a quite different version of Beauty and Beast you can look at the classic Norwegian tale East of the Sun, South of the Moon or for a mythological look at the tale check out the Greek tale of Cupid and Psyche. Both are classified as Animal Bridegroom fairytales (425A) while Beauty and the Beast has been given its own subcategory (425C).
Some other tales in the Animal Bridegroom category include some familiar favourites: The Enchanted Frog, The Princess and the Pig and The Summer and Winter Garden.
This means that modern adaptations of the Animal Bridegroom stories can recreate a Beauty and the Beast story with a million possibilities.
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An Excerpt from SurLaLune's annotated Beauty and the Beast
ONCE upon a time, in a very far-off country, there lived amerchant1 who had been so fortunate in all his undertakings that he was enormously rich. As he had,however, six sons and six daughters,2 he found that his money was not too much to let them all have everything they fancied, as they were accustomed to do.But one day a most unexpected misfortune befell them.Their house caught fire3 and was speedily burnt to the ground, with all the splendid furniture, the books, pictures, gold, silver, and precious goods it contained; and this was only the beginning of their troubles. Their father, who had until this moment prospered in all ways, suddenly lost every ship he had upon the sea, either by dint of pirates, shipwreck, or fire. Then he heard that his clerks in distant countries, whom he trusted entirely, had proved unfaithful; and at last from great wealth he fell into the direst poverty.All that he had left was a little house in a desolate place at least a hundred leagues4 from the town in which he had lived, and to this he was forced to retreat with his children, who were in despair at the idea of leading such a different life. Indeed, the daughters at first hoped that their friends, who had been so numerous while they were rich, would insist on their staying in their houses now they no longer possessed one. But they soon found that they were left alone, and that their former friends even attributed their misfortunes to their own extravagance, and showed no intention of offering them any help. So nothing was left for them but to take their departure to the cottage,5 which stood in the midst of a dark forest,6 and seemed to be the most dismal place upon the face of the earth. - Read more HERESee my reviews of Firelight and The Merchant's Daughter.