Anyway, I'm here to tell you about a really awesome thing.
Last year, I took a class called Literary Afterlives which was all about adaptation and how literally EVERYTHING is ADAPTATION!!!! Anyway...I wanted to write this paper about the process of adaptation and intentionality focusing on Beauty and the Beast and my own retelling, Beauty is Blind. Long story short, I had a hard time doing that since 1) my novel wasn't done yet and 2) I couldn't separate me the author of the novel from me the author of the paper and I got really confused and had a minor identity crisis and ended up just talking about Shannon Hale's Goose Girl instead, which was all fine and dandy.
But I needed to write that Beauty and the Beast paper. It sat and nagged at me all summer, and all of fall semester. I did my Lit 220 paper on a book called Cruel Beauty which was a sort of retelling of Beauty and the Beast (along with Paradise Lost, of all things) thinking that would satisfy me but it didn't. It wasn't enough.
Fast forward to this semester. I'm taking a class on the writing of women and the writing of women's stories, feminist criticism and whatnot. A thing I found super fascinating about BATB (I'm lazy and I'm not typing it out anymore) was the fact that the first three tellers of the tale were female (Villeneuve, Beaumont, and de Genlis). Not only that, but Villeneuve's version was the first literary fairy tale. All the others were oral tales, but Villeneuve's is a thing of complicated beauty. Beaumont's simplified version was the first children's book. And Stephenie de Genlis' 2 act play features Beauty (Sabina) the Beast (Phanor) and their best friend, Phedima, third wheeling it like a boss. Listen to me as the sassy Phedima in this Librivox recording:
Anyway, not only that, but Villeneuve's female characters kick butt. So it fits the assignment. Furthermore, for this project, we need to incorporate a creative element. *cough cough* Beauty is Blind: The Beginning *cough cough*
Okay, so here's Villeneuve's plot:
- So a merchant has 6 sons and 6 daughters, the youngest of which is Beauty
- He loses all his fortune and they move to the country, where the other five daughters spend most of their time whining, but Beauty and the boys help out
- He gets word that his ship has come in, goes off, Beauty asks for a rose when her sisters ask for fine dresses and jewels
- Ship doesn't have any money really, on his way home, the merchant is welcomed at the castle of the beast and steals a rose, Beast goes ballistic and says he will die if one of his daughters will not come willingly to take his place
- he decides not to tell his kids but does anyway. His sons are all like "dad I will save you!" and's like "no." and they're like, "okay, dad." The girls are like "we didn't ask for a rose; it's not our fault..." and Beauty's like, "I will take the rose to the castle!" and her dad's like "no." and she's like "Yes." and he's like "okay." (Who has the power in this scene? The males? No. Little 16 year old Beauty.)
- They go, blah blah blah, Beauty is well taken care of, Beast is nice if not a bit stupid and dull, every night they have dinner together, he asks her to marry him, she says no, she goes to bed and dreams about a beautiful fairy and a young man she calls her Unknown and falls in love with
- soon she gets homesick and begs to go home, she's allowed to for a time limit and warned if she doesn't come back on time, the Beast will die.
- She ends up coming back late (you had one job, Beauty, one job...) She finds the Beast on the brink of death and revives him with water, realizes she loves him and accepts his proposal at dinner that night. They go to bed (and just sleep...nothing happens, you guys. 1740...). Beauty dreams about a very happy Unknown and wakes up to find her Unknown in the bed with her instead of the Beast.
- But Sleeping Beauty won't wake so Beauty goes downstairs and meets his mom and the fairy from the dream.
So...betcha didn't know Belle was a fairy princess, huh?
- Queen: Thank you for saving my son! You're amazing! Now who are your royal parents that gave birth to so perfect a princess?
Beauty: Um, actually I'm not a princess
Queen: What?!!?! You can't marry my son!
Unknown: (who finally wakes up because he hears mommy dearest) No mom! I love her! I'd rather be a beast all my life if it meant marrying her.
Beauty: I love you, Beast, but I don't want to make any trouble...really we don't have to be married.
Unknown: Please mom don't make me marry someone else! I love Beauty!
Fairy: (FINALLY speaks up) Actually, Beauty is your equal. She's my niece. And your niece, too, Queen. She's my sister and your brother's daughter, the fairy princess of the Happy Isles.
There's a whole lot more backstory about how Beauty's fairy mom pissed off an older fairy who then cursed little Beauty to have to marry a monster one day and then another fairy got pissed at the Prince because he wouldn't marry her (never mind the fact that this fairy was basically his nanny growing up and he was still a boy and there were hundreds of years of age difference between them). Also the prince's mom is a badass warrior who goes around conquering kingdoms and Beauty's biological parents show up (she was basically a changeling hidden in the merchant's family when the real daughter of the merchant died as a baby and Beauty was the replacement because people wanted to kill her.)
Basically, everyone shows up and the castle and they're all somehow related and everyone's happy the end.
Beautiful, right? It's so amazing. Okay. Going to bed now.