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Ah, the heartwarming Disney is famous for retelling folktales. For decades Disney reimagined old oral tales that circulated the world, reshaping them for its audience. The Beauty and the Beast is no exception. Many cultures around the globe have their versions of the tale, and it is virtually impossible to track where the story originated. Researchers claim that the tale is at least four thousand years old! The story of a young girl who falls in love with a prince, unknowingly that he was cursed and turned into a beast only to be saved by true love has adaptations in most of the cultures. Let us look at how cultures around the world imagined the story, and see how a fairy tale sprouted out in a collection the Beauty and the Beast games, merchandise and a show to remember.
French author Gabrielle-Suzanne Barbot de Villeneuve wrote the version that you most probably know and love in 1740. The story spanned more than two hundred pages. Imagine having to tell that to kids before sleep! It contained many subplots and side characters that didn’t make into the Disney’s musical animated movie released in 1991. It is the only version that suggests the Prince inside the Beast’s body is the son of a mighty king, who had died when the Prince was young. Later the Prince is seduced by a fairy, who persuades him to marry her. The Prince refuses the proposal, stating that she is too ugly for his taste. Deeply offended, the fairy reveals her true, beautiful self and curses the prince for judging a book by its cover.
In a Russian adaption of The Beauty and the Beast, the beauty is named Nastenka (shortened for Anastasia), in contrary to the French-sounding Belle. Having heard the story from his housekeeper, Serghei Aksakov writes a somewhat different story. The primary distinction is in the way he imagined the Beast. In the Russian version, the Beast bears characteristics of a wood-dwelling creature – a tall, covered in fur creature – which if fed bread crumbles can show travelers the way out of the woods.
Disney’s Beauty and the Beast takes place in a French village. One can tell it’s France by the name of the characters – Belle’s father Maurice and Beast’s nemesis Gaston. Clearly, Disney had a preference for the French version of the story, yet there are elements strictly added by Disney. The original story puts a lot of emphasis on women’s servility, as she doesn’t have much freedom of choice when marrying. In other words, when the story originated women did not choose their husband, instead it was selected for them by their father. In the musical, however, Belle is depicted as an emancipated, independent woman. Unlike in the original story, she fights back and promptly refuses Gaston’s persuasions to marry him, which makes the story more child-friendly and eliminates the blatant inequality between women and men.
Unlike the famous Disney princesses line-up, Belle is the first Disney major character who was not born royal but instead managed to earn the royal title. She wasn’t eager to become one though. It all rather happened naturally. As she entered Beast’s domain, she starts to learn how to become royal. The Beauty and Beast games show Belle’s path to becoming royal. Princesses love dresses, and in The Beauty and the Beast games, you step in as Belle’s dress up coach. Dancing is another form of high entertainment. But since Prince Phillip has been trapped in Beast’s body by Enchantress, he forgot to dance. You are the one to remind him of the royal ways. Remember that Gaston doesn’t like to give up that easily. On your quest on turning Belle into a new Disney princess, at times Gaston will try and force castle’s walls. Beware of his attacks!
Belle’s stay at Beast castle changes both characters. While Belle learns to see more than meets the eye, Beast is finally bestowed with humanity. He learns compassion and patience. He had come a long way from that memorable first feast together when Beast’s anger scared Belle away. The two bond as the story spans over a period of a year. Watch this heartwarming story on a cozy winter night with your family and plunge into childhood nostalgia with this Disney classic.