Once again – I assure you I shuffled this deck very well! But I can’t really complain to get another fairytale, and what could be more appropriate for Valentine’s weekend than this story?
The original “Beauty and the Beast” was written in the 18th century by Jeanne-Marie LePrince de Beaumont. According to the endnotes of the online version I read, Beaumont in turn based her story on a folktale retelling by Gabrielle-Suzanne Barbot de Villeneuve.
It’s interesting that in both cases the author was female, because I’ve always felt that Belle (to use her Disney name!) was one of the best fairytale heroines. In this story, she is completely unselfish and quite honest in her feelings for the Beast, which are initially just those of friendship. The Beast himself is more melancholy than sinister, and even for a short story the romance is developed enough to make sense and bring closure at the end.
I would say one thing Disney did right was to make the antagonist Gaston, the sleazy suitor, instead of keeping Belle’s selfish sisters, which is already done in other fairytales. Also, as I’m reading the synopsis to Villeneuve’s version on Wikipedia, it seems that Beaumont chose to omit the Beast’s backstory, thereby omitting some of the depth to the tale. On the other hand, the benefit of it is that Beaumont’s story is Belle-centric, and you feel that she has finally found happily-ever-after through her own virtues and endeavors.