Findlay, Kerstetter Changes in a Tale as Old as Time

Modern Tales of Beauty and the Beast

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Modern Tales of Beauty and the Beast

The story Beauty and the Beast has changed over the years due to culture influences. As the independent role of women became more acceptable, the character of "Beauty" became more strong willed and assertive with her thoughts and opinions. These changes are evident in modern retellings, such as Robin McKinley's Beauty, Walt Disney's Beauty and the Beast, and Alex Finn's Beastly.


Robin McKinley's Beauty takes place in a little town set outside of a port. The father, a merchant, owns a shipping company. When his company goes under the family—including the merchant's daughters Grace, Hope and Honour—go from living a life of luxury to a life of hard work and struggles. They move to a little town called Blue Hill. Honour is the youngest of the merchant's daughters. After not understanding the reason behind her name she requests that she be called Beauty. Over the years she grows to hate her nickname. She says, “I was thin, awkward, and undersized, with big long-fingered hands and huge feet" (4).

Beauty's father takes a trip into the city and returns with a tale of a magical castle, a fearsome beast and a horrible promise he has made. The beast requires one of the merchant's daughters and in exchange he'll spare the merchants life, "I will spare your miserable life on one condition that you will give me one of your daughters" (73). Beauty is a strong, independent, well-learned young woman although she doesn't have her sister's looks; she has a tremendous amount of courage. Beauty's courage is evident when she volunteers herself to go to live with the beast in her father's place (75).

McKinley shows through the merchant's actions towards his daughters that they are his pride and joy. We can see this through their names: Grace, Hope, and Honour (3). When Beauty volunteers to take her father's place, the merchant won't stand for it. The family gathers around the fire to listen to the father's tale. When Beauty volunteers herself to go in her father's place, her father says, "We can't spare you child" (75). Through this we learn how much the merchant values his daughters, especially Beauty.

Robin McKinley's Beauty portrays the beast as a gentleman. He waits on the father's needs and takes care of him when he stumbles into his castle (71-72). The beast lives in fear and lets his outer appearance control him. He isn't able to see that "Beauty is not in the face; beauty is a light in the heart" (Gibran). Beauty's kindness shown towards him helps him to realize that beauty isn't always on the outside; sometimes it's skin deep.

The sisters play a minor role in the story; their purpose is to make Beauty feel inadequate, therefore creating an opposition that Beauty must overcome in order to love the Beast. Beauty is always comparing herself to her sisters and because of this she isn't able to see her own beauty. "As I grew older, my hair turned mousy, neither blond nor brown, and the baby curl fell out until all that was left was a stubborn refusal to cooperate with the curling iron; my eyes turned a muddy hazel" (4). By helping the Beast find the good inside of himself Beauty is able to accept herself for who she is, find her self-worth, and learn that beauty is more than a person's outward appearance.

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