Findlay, Kerstetter Changes in a Tale as Old as Time

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Findlay, Kerstetter

Changes in a Tale as Old as Time

Jessa Findlay

Jessica Kerstetter

March 23, 2012

Prepared for

Dr. Karen C. Holt

Brigham Young University-Idaho


Changes in culture have influenced the development of the story “Beauty and the Beast.” This story originated in a culture that emphasized specific gender roles of the fragile, protected female and the dominating male. Since then, the role of the female has developed into a stronger more independent idea. These changes are evident in modern retellings of Beauty and the Beast.

Madame Le Prince de Beaumont in her story of Beauty and the Beast, included by Jack Zipes in The Great Fairytale Tradition, illustrates Beauty's first encounter with the beast:

After they had finished supper, they heard a loud noise, and the merchant said good-bye to his daughter with tears in his eyes, for he knew it was the Beast. Beauty could only tremble at the sight of this horrible figure, but she summoned her courage [to stand and courtesy with civility]. The monster asked her if she had come of her own accord, and she responded yes and continued to shake. “You are, indeed, quite good,” said the Beast, "and I am very much obliged to you. As for you, my good man, you are to depart tomorrow, and never think of returning here . . .” Suddenly the beast disappeared (809-810).

In Robin McKinley's Beauty, a modern retelling of Beauty and the Beast, we are given a more detailed, emotional perspective of this first meeting:

"Good evening, Beauty," said a great harsh voice.

I shivered, and put a hand to the door-frame, and tried to take courage from the fact that the Beast—for it must be he—had not devoured me at once. "Good evening, milord," I said. My voice was misleadingly steady.

"I am the Beast," was the reply. "You will call me that, please." A pause. "Have you come of your own free will to stay in my castle?"

"I have," I said, as bravely as I could.

"Then I am much obliged to you."

"Obliged! Milord, you gave me no choice. I could not let my father die for the sake of a silly rose."

"Do you hate me then?" The rough voice sounded almost wistful . . .

"You have nothing to fear," the Beast said, as gently as his harsh voice allowed.

After a moment I looked up again he was still standing, watching me with those eyes. I realized that what made his gaze so awful was that his eyes were human. (113-116)

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