Monday, April 10, 2017

What Beauty and the Beast Means to Me


I’m just going to start out and say this post has nothing to do with the new live action Beauty and the Beast movie. So if you’re groaning thinking, “Another post about that movie?” No fear! This is about the ORIGINAL FAIRYTALE. I’ve actually been meaning to write this post for, honestly, a couple of years now. And I thought since Beauty and the Beast is on everyone’s mind, this would be a great time to finally get around to it. Secondly, I want to make it clear that this is an OPINION post, not a FACTS post. As in, this will be about my personal opinions on the original B&B fairytale, not in any way straight up facts about it. So do feel free to disagree!

Alrighty, now that that’s out of the way, onward to the actual post!

As I think all of you know at this point, I’m currently (or supposed to be) going through my second round of edits on my Beauty and the Beast retelling, Burning Thorns, in hopes to pursue publishing with it. Because of that, I thought it might be good to explain why I’m putting my heart and soul into a Beauty and the Beast story.

Long story short: It’s hands down my favorite fairytale. “But WHY?” you may be asking. OR some of you may be saying, “Why not? It’s a good story!”

The magical thing about fairytales is that they can be interpreted in dozens of different ways, and mean a hundred different things to each of us. And I love that! These short stories pretty much always have a life lesson (or 20) woven into them. Albert Einstein himself was a great advocate for fairytales and had this to say about them:

If you want your children to be intelligent, read them fairy tales.”

Sure, they’re often weird and dark and creepy, but isn’t life weird and often dark as well? Fairytales (and fiction in general) help us press through the darkness and find the “happily ever afters”. They teach us how to deal with the crazy, hard things that happen in our life, and learn good vs. evil. As G.K. Chesterson said:

Fairytales are more than true; not because they tell us dragons exist, but because they tell us that dragons can be beaten.”

We have so many “dragons” in our lives—those hardships and darkness that seem undefeatable. But fairytales teach us we can defeat the darkness and spread the light.

And what is the greatest source of light? LOVE. Because love is the key to all the good in the world. As I said in this post about love, it is the very thing that put Jesus on the Cross and paved the way to His waiting, open arms. Love is everything.

Which brings us back to Beauty and the Beast.

Many, many people see Beauty and the Beast as a story that merely glorifies Stockholm syndrome (which is what they call it when a hostage grows feelings toward their captor) and claims it’s okay to marry an animal (which, obviously, is anything but okay).

Now, again I’ll say, fairytales can be interpreted in so many ways, which is one of the reasons I love them so much. So if you think these things about B&B and  don’t like it because of that, THAT’S OKAY. Like I said in the disclaimer, this post is about my personal feelings toward Beauty and the Beast. And, obviously, we can’t all feel the exact same way about every story in the world. And why would we want to? That’d be boring! I love it when people interpret stories differently. It makes the story fascinating and deep, which is GOOD. That’s how we want stories to be. But because a lot of people feel this way about Beauty and the Beast, I wanted to explain how *I* feel about it since I am hoping to try to have my own B&B retelling published one day.

So let’s look at the Stockholm syndrome and animal-Beast problems.

Firstly, Stockholm syndrome. In the tale, the Beast actually does let Beauty go. And it is when she is free, that she realizes she loves him. Besides, it was always, always her choice if to marry him or not. And, on that subject, she was never forced into anything, never manipulated into loving him. She fell in love with the Beast because he was actually a total sweetie. Maybe he had his grumpy moments, but who wouldn’t when they’re cursed into being a hideous beast forever and isolated because of it, hmm? The Beast’s natural personality was actually virtuous and sweet tempered, which Beauty quickly realizes. He gave Beauty all the comforts in the world, and when she told him she desperately missed her father, he let her leave, knowing very well that she may not come back. Stockholm syndrome, I think, often arises as a form of survival. Hostages form a bond with their captors to avoid further harm. But in Beauty and the Beast, Beauty learns, within her first days of being in the Beast’s castle, that the Beast is by no means going to harm her. She realizes she need not fear him. She simply falls in love with him because he is kind. I don’t think it was ever the original author’s intention to pen a tale on Stockholm syndrome.

As far as the Beast being an animal, I personally believe that’s more how the person pictures him. Disney’s version of the Beast has actually bothered me for years. His appearance is far too animalistic for my comfort. (Though the original Disney animated movie is one of my favorites, but still.) Let’s not forget, the Disney version is a retelling itself. It drives me batty when people base fairytales off Disney’s movies of them. Disney’s versions are retellings just as much as any other. In fact, their movies pretty much never, in any form or fashion, resemble the original fairytales. (But that’s a rant for a whole ‘nother time.) The Beast we see in the movie is simply Disney’s own interpretation. And yes, there are a lot of illustrations picturing him as animal-like. But that doesn’t mean he has to be. The story never actually gives us details on his appearance besides calling him a “beast” and “monster”. But that can be interpreted into a million different ways. Now, some much more knowledgeable than me history buff may come in and comment that the original tale very much meant the Beast as having an animal appearance (and if that’s the case, do tell! I love learning the origin of fairytales), but I will say that the Beast is, in fact, human by the end, and was always originally a human. He was just cursed. So no, I don’t think this story is in any way claiming that it’s okay to marry animals. Still, I don’t like the versions that make him out to look animalistic, which is why in Burning Thorns my Beast is still very much human, just with deformities.

But now that I’ve told you my opinions on what I think Beauty and the Beast IS NOT, the question is: What do I think Beauty and the Beast IS? And why did I wrote a retelling in the first place?

A lot of you already know Burning Thorns originally came about as a novella for Rooglewood Press's fairytale contest, and then I later decided to expand my novella into a full length novel. BUT, truth be told, I’ve been meaning to write a Beauty and the Beast retelling for, oh, probably over half my life. No joke. I adore retellings, and it’s my favorite fairytale, so it was inevitable I’d write one eventually. The contest was merely the shove for me to finally do it. And as I wrote a rendition of my favorite fairytale, I grew to love it even more.

Because, to me, Beauty and the Beast isn’t some weird story about Stockholm syndrome. For me, Beauty and the Beast is a powerful redemption story. I see it as an allegory about Jesus and us. We are all “ugly” beings, beasts in our own right, before Jesus’s redemption. No matter our unloveableness, He loves us anyway, and when we accept Him, He takes away our beastliness and makes us beautiful.

In the original fairytale, the Beast becomes the beautiful form he was always meant to be when Beauty gives him her love. BUT, Beauty does not, nor ever, love him for his appearance. She loved him before he turned back into a handsome prince.

As I said earlier, fairytales can have so many meanings. Beauty and the Beast both teaches me the beautiful love our Savior has for us, and that beauty is in the heart, not appearances.

It’s a beautiful story and, unlike many, many fairytales, actually not super dark and creepy. For me, personally, it’s simply a tale about the most powerful, important, magnificent thing in the world: Love.

So yes, I love Beauty and the Beast and have loved being able to create my own version of it. Burning Thorns is about love and sacrifice and redemption and forgiveness. Because, even though it’s vastly different from the original fairytale, it still has the core themes that the simple little tale of Beauty and the Beast has taught me.

I’ll leave with you another quote by G.K. Chesterton (bless him). His single sentence encompasses everything I’m trying to say about Beauty and the Beast and are my exact feelings toward it:

There is the great lesson of Beauty and the Beast, that a thing must be loved before it is lovable.”

Whew! I know that was long and opinionated. But I’ll say this one more time: This is my opinion. Some of you may know all about Gabrielle-Suzanne Barbot de Villeneuve (the author of the original novel) or Jeanne-Marie Leprince de Beaumont (the one who condensed the novel into the short, children’s story we know now) and what their original intentions for the story were. (And why they have the longest names on the planet.) But, again, this is just what the story means to me, and what I have taken away from it.

If you haven’t ever read the original Beauty and the Beast story, or are just in the mood for it, you can read it HERE. I highly recommend it. It only takes about five minutes and, well, it’s my favorite fairytale. Obviously I recommend it. *grins*

~ ~ ~

Okay, guys, it is finally your turn! I am hushing now and handing over the mic…er, the comment section, to YOU. What are YOUR thoughts on Beauty and the Beast? (If you have opposite thoughts from mine, don’t hesitate to share!) What do you think of fairytales in general? Which one, if any, is your favorite??? I NEED TO KNOW. Let us discuss!


  1. I love the way you interpreted the story here! You have a beautiful way of wording things. I agree with you completely! <3

  2. Christine, if you are into documentaries, Smithsonian Channel did a great 45 minute documentary on the real couple that inspired the tale of Beauty and the Beast, especially going into the genetic disorder that the "Beast" had. I'll post the link here:


    1. Oh! Thank you!!! This looks fascinating! I bookmarked it, and hopefully I can find some time to watch it. I don't watch documentaries much (shamefully) but I'm all over this one!

      I have seen that a lot of people believe the Beast was inspired by that disorder where the person grows hair everywhere. Which more confirms my belief that Beauty, in fact, did not fall in love with an animal.

      Thanks so much for the link! This is great! ^_^

  3. There is nothing for me to say. You took all the words, Christine. This is beautiful. I love it. I don't really have a favorite fairy tale - probably this one? I love your writing style. It's so PRETTY. :D

    1. Oh my goodness gracious. *clutches heart* YOUR COMMENT. You love my writing style? That is one of the sweetest, most encouraging things I've ever been told. Thank you, thank you, THANK YOU! Day = MADE.

      I'm so happy you enjoyed this post! <3

  4. "For me, Beauty and the Beast is a powerful redemption story."- Yes, I'm with you on this one! Such a well made post, Christine, and that last quote by Chesterton wraps it up nicely.

    - and thanks for making it about the original story, not the new movie. All these posts about the new move may be interesting, but this right here is refreshing!

    1. Thanks so much, Blue! It makes me happy you liked my post. ^_^

      Awww, glad to hear it! Yeah, posts about the movie are perfectly fine, but I figured some people might be tired of hearing about it. XD And I wanted to be clear that I do NOT base my fairytales off of Disney's versions. Lol. Disney may think they have a say-so on how fairytales are done but...they don't. XD (Don't get me wrong, I pretty much always love Disney's movies, I just get annoyed when people think Disney is the know-all, go-to for all things fairytales.)

  5. EEP, CHRISTINE! I was so excited when this post popped up in my dashboard - I loved reading your thoughts on what Beauty And The Beast means to you! I've always wanted to try to do a retelling of that story - maybe after I finish Killing Snow? *has plot bunnies* I read the original (thanks for the link!) and now I want to do it even more than before xD.

    I LOVE fairytales, mostly because each one makes a million story ideas appear. It's so fun! I would say that my favorite is Snow White, seeing as I'm writing a retelling of it ... but I've never actually read the original? *hides* Retellings are one of my favorite things to write, so I REALLY need to read more of the originals so that I can pen some more xD.

    THANK YOU for this lovely, beautiful post, Christine! <3 <3 <3

    ~ Savannah

    1. *beams* THANK YOU, SAVANNAH!!! That just makes me ALL the happy! ^_^
      OH, OH. YOU SHOULD TOTALLY DO A RETELLING OF IT. I think B&B is one of the most appealing stories to do retellings for because the possibilities are SO. ENDLESS. could just be ANYTHING. And how fun you read the original and want to do it even more now! :D YOU TOTALLY SHOULD.

      YESSSSS. Basically every time I read a fairytale I want to write a retelling of it. Or multiple retellings. XD They're just so inspiring! You know...I'm trying to remember if I've read the original Snow White. I'm not sure! I maaaay have? At one point in my young life I went on a fairytale reading streak, and sometimes I read one here and there. So I really can never keep up with which ones I've read and haven't. I need to be more organized about it... >.> But yes! They're all so fun to read and the BEST for story inspiration!

      Thank YOU for your sweet comment! <333

  6. I'm pretty sure that the "Beast" was originally a boar with tusks??? :/ So... Disney's version may have been more of an improvement than otherwise! ;)

    It doesn't really matter, though... Enchantments that turned people into animals were extremely common in folklore back then. I think what we have to remember is that the story is intended to be symbolic - not taken literally (I'm looking at YOU, Disney!!!!)!!


    1. Haha, yeah! That is one of the earliest and most used illustrations. I'm not 100% sure that's how the author intended him though? It could just be how the illustrator imagined it...? Some people think the Beast was inspired by this genetic disease that makes people grow tons of hair all over their bodies. But who even knows! Either way, yes, the boar illustrations are quite disturbing...

      You make a good point! People get turned into animals a LOT in fairytales. It's a bit of a trend. XD But sooooo much yes to it being SYMBOLIC. People take things too literally sometimes. XD

      AAAAAHHHHHHH!!!!! THANK YOU!!! YES I TOOK THEM. :D We had a bouquet of roses and I just HAD to steal them for book photos! *grins*

    2. Ahhh! I wasn't sure if it was "canon" or not! ;)

      Right, I think it was... I don't know, a metaphor people understood at that time more than we do now??? Personally, I feel Disney took it TOOOOO literally. :) It was the PRINCIPLE, the IDEA that was important - redemption. And they kind of made it all about this animal-guy... it's kind of weird, is all.

      Wow!! They are so gorgeous!!

  7. I love Beauty and the Beast. It's my favorite fairy tale. The Stockholm syndrome thing drives me up a wall. Like you said she didn't love him until he let her go. I also read the original Grimm's fairy tale and the Disney version did retain a lot of the original elements, though I feel like the live action brought in more Grimm's like the fact that Maurice was imprisoned for stealing a rose. Anyway good discussion. Love this story! And I love your quotes. ^ ^ G.K. Chesterton was amazing!

    1. Yay! Another person who loves it. ^_^

      Yes, it does rather annoy me when people claim it glorifies Stockholm syndrome, which is why I've been wanting to write this post for a long time.

      Disney did keep some elements, yes! The stories are quite different, but when you read the original you see where Disney got its inspiration, which is fun! I actually love that with ALL retellings. Before I read a retelling of a fairytale, I like to read the original fairytale first, and then see how the author got inspired by it and what little tidbits of the fairytale they left. It's too fun! (I LOVE retellings. I'm not mad at Disney for making fairytale retellings, they're the best! I just don't like it when people think Disney's versions are the basis for what fairytales are. Because they're often quite the opposite. XD)

      Thanks so much, Tori! Your comment made me smile. ^_^

  8. I love this post. *huggles it* Hearing you talk about fairytales is like one of my favorite things. ^_^ I absolutely love that B&B is so precious and special to you! I think it's stupid that people find all sorts of things they think are bad in it -- it's a fairytale, people, and they have no imagination if they're going around turning it into something it's not! Ugh. Ahem. :P I think it does have a beautiful message, and I LOVE those quotes you have from Einstein and Chesterton--some of my favorites!! I definitely find a redemption story and all sorts of good things in the B&B idea too. :) I didn't grow up on the Disney version or anything, but the general fairytale has always been one of my top two favorites, and I love retellings of it--even very vague ones about a "beastly" type of character who finds redemption and love. And yes, about being loved to be lovable. :) We need to love even the people who are flawed, and if we love everyone enough (not for their flaws, but despite them) we can change the world. Aren't we called to love our neighbors and our enemies? I think it's a beautiful story, one of the best fairytales, and I so agree that the Disney retellings are absolutely RETELLINGS and not the originals! That drives me up the wall as well. XD Don't retell the Disney version, people! Ahem. Aaaanyways, all that ramble to say, B&B is awesome and I greatly enjoyed this post! ^_^

    1. Hearing me talk about fairytales is one of your favorite things? That...that...THAT'S THE SWEETEST!!!! <3 I'm so glad, because I blabber about fairytales a LOT. XD

      I agree! It's like people go out of their way to find something wrong with things. It frustrates me... >.> I'm just sure the author simply meant to give a good message about love in B&B. It seems pretty obvious to me.

      I know what you mean about stories with "beastly" characters who find redemption! That's the lovely thing about Beauty and the Beast--threads of it can be found EVERYWHERE. It's constantly "retold" in stories even when it's unintentional, because redemption is so powerful and important.

      What you said about love--loving our neighbors and enemies--was beautiful and I 100% agree! It CAN change the world! Another reason I love B&B so much. It really strikes that message home.

      Sooooo much yes to Disney being RETELLINGS. Please do not base your story off Disney's versions, people. That's almost plagiarizing. o.o

      Your comment made me happy! Talking fairytale stuff with you is the BEST. Thanks so much, Celti! <333

  9. Gahh, I've been so behind on things this week, I only just got to this post! Beauty and the Beast is my favourite fairy tale, and largely because it's such a story of redemption. I heard or read somewhere that "the story of Beauty and the Beast is the whole history of the world." And of course you can't go wrong with Chesterton quotes. There's a chapter in Orthodoxy, "The Ethics of Elfland", all about fairy tales, that's really good.

    And I'm off to an exam.
    [Exit, pursued by a bear.]

    1. Oh, I understand that! Keeping up with blog posts (and...everything) can be challenging sometimes. But that's okay! Life is busy, we can't always help it.

      OH. I loooove that quote--"the story of Beauty and the Beast is the whole history of the world." :O I don't think I've ever heard that one, but it's so true! Threads of the B&B story can be found absolutely everywhere. It's such a powerful tale. Because love and redemption is the foundation of the world. GAH. I just love Beauty and the Beast! (Which isn't obvious at all, right? ;D)

      I hope your exam goes well! (And I loved your exit. Classic. XD)

  10. Beauty and the Beast has to be my favorite fairytale, so this post is awesome! And your book sounds wonderful!!
    -Gray Marie

    1. Your comment just put a smile on my face! It's so fun finding those who share my love for Beauty and the Beast! And THANK YOU!!! That is the nicest of you to say! ^_^

  11. Once again I am soooo behind on all these lovely Christine posts! I have managed to read most of them when they're published, but I must have skipped this one--maybe I was saving it for later because it looked so scrumptious??

    Anyway, I LOVE IT. EVERY WORD. I was actually going to mention favorite parts but it turns out it was all my favorite. <3333 You know how I feel about fairy tales, and more specifically Beauty and the Beast, as well as Burning Thorns! And I loved getting this look into how much B&B means to you.

    I've heard the Stockholm syndrome argument before, but not the animal one! I think I always just interpreted it as an acceptable thing because of the genre. It's fantasy, and in fantasy you can create different rules for some things, and stuff like curses and transformations are just part and parcel. (Reminds me a tiny bit of Clefspeare and Marilyn Bannister, come to think of it. What do you do when your husband is a dragon?)

    I see Beauty and the Beast as a beautiful story of redemption as well! Thanks for sharing your heart and passion! <3

    P.S. Those quotes! So good! I'm always amused when I remember that Einstein was also a fairy tale advocate. XD

    1. It always makes me happy to see a Tracey comment pop up! ^_^ And girl, it's not like you're trying to write an entire novel in like a month and had college and graduation and work and things. I can't imagine WHY you've been so busy. :P A.K.A It's OKAY you're a little behind! Life is so crazy right now. Haha.

      D'awwwwww!!! *all the happy feels* Thank you!

      You make a WONDERFUL point about the animal thing and it being fantasy. With fantasy does come a set of new rules. I mean, we still want to keep things within the moral range, but it's also all made up and set in the realm of "what ifs". And with B&B, I think it's fine because the Beast isn't an ACTUAL animal. He was originally human. Besides, fairytales tend to have people turning into animals right and left. It just kind of comes with the genre. XD And YES. Clefspeare and Marilyn, you're right! It all really makes one think.

      I'm so happy you liked my post! I feared it was too long and rambly. XD I can go on and on about fairytales. *cough* But thank yooouuuu!!! And yes, isn't it the greatest that Einstein himself love fairytales? That tells you something about the power of them!

    2. Likewise! ^___^ HA, no, I can't imagine why either...! XDDD I guess I'm too hard on myself and think that somehow I should be able to keep up with everything no matter how full life gets. :P

      Oh definitely, morality doesn't change based on the genre, but the rules of what's possible do--and where those two things intersect can make for some great discussions on ethics and whatnot. (Which always fascinates me.) You're right, he was originally human, so his cursed animalistic self isn't really HIM. #somanythoughts

      Never too long or rambly! It was really well thought out! You have this way of being firm and passionate about your stance on something, but still gentle in the way you present it--you never slammed people who think differently, but you still laid out your thoughts clearly and decisively. Which is a pretty fantastic skill to have. <3
      (And I could go on and on and onnnnn about stuff like this too! XD)

    3. You should NOT be hard on yourself. You already do soooo much! You're a rockstar.

      I 100% agree! Thinking about these things is so fascinating. (A little headache-inducing, but fascinating! XD)

      Awwww, TRACEY. I...I don't even know how to RESPOND. That makes me feel so good! It's hard to tell how yourself comes across these type of discussion posts and things, you know? So THANK YOU SO MUCH for the confidence boost. You're such a blessing to me! <333


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