There was a merchant who had three daughters. The youngest was called Beauty because of the kindness of her eyes and the warmth of her smile.
One day the merchant talked to his three daughters, saying, ‘The business is not going well. I must go to the big city to see if I can find more business there.
‘Father, that is wonderful! You are going to the big city! said the eldest daughter, ‘Make sure you buy some beautiful clothes and hats and shoes, for us!’
‘All in the latest fashion, of course!’ added the other older daughter.
‘I’ll do my best!’ the father said. ‘And Beauty, what would you like me to bring for you?’
‘Just yourself, dear father! Have a good and safe journey!’
‘Something Beauty!’ ‘Then bring me a rose, father!’
The businessman rode slowly, for many days to the city. He tried to find more business but he had no success. At last he decided to return home. As he rode home through a great forest, the sky became dark and the first drops of rain fell. He heard the crash of thunder and saw the flash of lightening and soon he was in the middle of a great storm. He lost his way but his horse seemed to know the path and he let the horse decide which way to go. He pulled his coat around him and pulled down his hat against the rain and the cold.
Then, he saw in front of him, a high wall and a wrought iron gate glistening with every flash of lightening. He reached forward and downwards from his horse, and turned the heavy foliate handle of the gate. It turned easily and the gate swung slowly open.
A stable was nearby, the door open, a yellow light burning. He climbed stiffly down from the horse and let it go into the stable. In the stable, he called out but nobody was there. It was quiet and warm in the stable, away from the storm.
Outside the night was quiet, the storm had blown away. He walked over to the big house and knocked on the front door. He knocked several times. Noone came. Slits of warm light shone through every shutter. Were there no servants? He opened the door, and called, ‘Anyone there?’ But noone came.
He went into the hall. The lights were burning and the hall and the curving staircase were bright. He called but noone came.
He looked into the first room on the left and saw a log fire and in front of it a high, comfortable chair. In the middle of the room was a long table with a single chair and plates with a roasted chicken and roasted potatoes and cheese and bread and fruit and a carafe of wine.
He called out, again, ‘Anyone there?’ He looked back into the hall and called out. Noone came. He took off his wet cape and hat and sat down in front of the fire and felt warm again. Later, he went into the hall and called out again, ‘Anyone there?’ But noone came, so he returned to the room and ate the chicken and potatoes and finished his meal with some of the bread and cheese and drank a glass of wine. He sat in front of the fire and soon fell asleep. He slept well and long and when he woke he saw the sunlight through the shutters. The lights in the room were out and fire was no longer burning. He put on his cape and hat, now warm and dry and went, once more into the hall. There was noone there but the lights were no longer burning.
Outside, the sun was shining. The storm was forgotten. From the steps he could see the gardens of the house. The grass was neat and the flower beds weeded and tidy but there were no gardeners. As he walked towards the stable he saw a rose. He remembered Beauty and he picked the rose. As he did so a great monster roared from above him, ‘How dare you take my rose? I looked after you. I gave you food. You have slept in my house. Now you take my rose! Tell me why I should not kill you!’
‘But Sir! Please do not kill me! I must go home to my daughters. They need me….’
‘Your daughters? Promise to bring one of your daughters to me and you can go free!’
The poor man immediately agreed. He wanted to see his daughters again.
The horse found its way through the great forest and the poor man arrived home. The eldest daughters came running, ‘Father! Where are our dresses and hats and shoes? Nothing? Father!’
Beauty came, ‘Father! I am so happy to see you. But Father are you alright, are you well, are you happy?’
‘Beauty, dear daughters. I am sorry I was not lucky in the big city. And then on the way home…’ and he told them the story about the storm and the great house and the rose and the monster and finally he told them about his promise.
‘It was your fault Beauty! It was you that asked for a rose!’ screeched the older sisters.
‘Father, I am so sorry. Of course I will go to the monster.’
‘Father, I must. You promised.’
The next day, Beauty and her father went to the great forest and the horse found the high wall and the wrought iron gate. Beauty and her father went to the door of the great house. Once more, noone came to their knock.
Once more noone came when they entered the house and called out, ‘Anyone there?’ In the room on the left there were two chairs and plates and food for two. Beauty and her father waited.
At last the great monster came, bending to squeeze his body through the doorway. He stood breathing deeply for some time, looking at the two of them. Then, at last, ‘So you have come. Good. Now you can go.’ said the monster, pointing at Beauty’s father. ‘Go!’
‘Go Father.’ whispered Beauty, her eyes still on the monster. ‘Go now. Look after yourself. Look after my sisters. Go now.’
‘Go now dear Father.’
They embraced and kissed and Beauty’s father left the great house. The monster left the room and did not reappear. Beauty waited expecting him to return and to kill her. When it was late in the evening she went into the hall and climbed the staircase. She followed its curving steps. On the first floor she saw a door with her name on it: Beauty’s Room. She went inside. It was a beautiful bedroom. On the bed were night clothes and towels. She washed and went to bed and slept well.
In the morning she found silken clothes waiting for her and jewelled necklaces. She put them on. Outside her door she heard distant music, it was a harpsichord. She went down the stairs and back to the same room on the left and found breakfast waiting for her. There was no monster and there were no servants. In the garden, there were no gardeners although the lawns were perfectly cut and the flower beds were smiling with colours.
In the afternoon, Beauty tried to find who was playing the music. She walked through the great house but she saw noone. There were paintings and sculptures in the corridors and a great ballroom shone with gold leaf.
She found a library and loved the books. She read a book about the planets.
In the evening she returned to the room downstairs. The table was laid for two. She couldn’t eat. She waited. She expected to die.
The monster arrived, squeezing through the doorway, ‘May I stay and see you have your supper?’
‘Yes.’ What else could she say?
The monster sat down opposite her at the table.
‘You were very brave to come.’ he said.
And then he asked, ‘What did you do today?’
She told him.
There were long moments of silence. She ate a little, picking at the food, but she was waiting to die.
‘I am very ugly. Don’t you think?’ asked the monster.
‘Yes, you are. I am sorry to tell you.’ said Beauty. ‘But I believe you have a good heart and I know you are kind and gracious.’
‘Beauty this is your palace. Everything you see is yours. I hope you will find happiness here.’
He stood up, breathing deeply, his eyes glinting through boar’s bristles. He wished her good night and left the room. Some time later Beauty too left the room and went upstairs to her bedroom.
Day after day followed the same pattern. Beauty heard music in the great house, she wandered from room to room, sometimes reading, sometimes playing musical instruments herself and finding food whenever she needed it on the table in the room on the ground floor. And every evening the monster came, squeezing through the door and sitting opposite her and talking about what she had been doing, and thinking and feeling.
Beauty liked the house and the garden, she loved the beautiful dresses chosen for her, and the books to read and the music to play. But she was lonely; the monster became a friend for her. He was always gentle and thoughtful and he seemed to care about her. She was frightened. He was huge, ugly and so powerful. But he didn’t hurt her and it seemed to her that his face, covered with boars’ bristles, softened when he looked at her.
The weeks passed. Gradually Beauty became confident. The monster did not want to eat her. He only wanted to look after her. As Beauty became more confident she began to think about her father and her sisters and she began to miss them. She imagined her father believing that she was dead, killed by the monster. She wanted to see her father and her sisters and to tell them that she was well and even happy.
One evening Beauty said to the monster, ‘I miss my father and my sisters. You are kind to me but I miss them. May I go to see them? I promise to return.’
The monster looked at her intently for many minutes and at last he said, ‘Yes, you can go if you promise to return in one week.’
And he gave her a ring and told her to turn it when she wanted to go and to turn it when she wanted to return.
The next morning Beauty turned the ring and found herself in her own room at home. A maid was cleaning and dropped her brush, ‘Miss Beauty! Miss Beauty! You have come back to us!’ And she threw open the bedroom door and shouted for the whole house to hear, ‘Miss Beauty has come back!’
Beauty’s sisters came and then Beauty’s father. Beauty embraced her father and tears ran down his face.
Her sisters looked at her silken clothes and her jewelled necklace and her satin shoes. ‘My! Oh, my!’ they said.
Her sisters were pleasant to her. They wanted to know where they could find a man who might buy such beautiful clothes for them. Her father was so happy to have Beauty back home again. So happy she wasn’t dead. So happy she seemed happy and at one with her experience of the monster and the great house.
The sisters were not happy with Beauty but they decided to pretend to be happy. They wanted her to stay longer than one week and then they thought the monster would be angry and kill her.
Beauty felt so happy with her father and her sisters at home she let the days go by. Eight days went by.
Beauty knew she must leave. She knew she should have left. She knew she had promised. Suddenly she turned her ring and found herself in the great house. She called out. Noone came. She ran upstairs and along the corridors which she had come to know so well. She saw noone. She ran into the garden. She ran into the rose garden and then she found him, stretched out, lifeless.
Beauty dropped to her knees beside him. She was so sorry. She embraced his great back. She stroked his bristled face. She kissed his eyes and she cried, ‘Forgive me! Forgive me, please!’
He stirred. He stirred and turned and slowly changed into a young man lying beneath her.
He was a prince. He explained about the magic spell. He explained that he had to wait for a woman to kiss him with love. He had expected to wait for eternity.
The origin of Beauty and the Beast
This must be one of the oldest stories in the world. There are many versions of the story which are well known which range from popularised texts in supermarket cheapo books to the original written texts from the eighteenth century in France by Villeneuve and Beaumont.
The first literary fairy tale was ‘Cupid and Psyche’ found in ‘The Golden Ass’ by Lucius Apuleius in the second century AD. This is undoubtedly an earlier version of the Beauty and the Beast stories written in France 1600 years later. Scholars say it is also equally clear that Apuleius drew on Greek sources for his version of the story.
The idea that there is a ‘correct’ version of the story is thus nonsense.
I have written the story as I might tell it, orally; my text is not a literary rendering of the story. Furthermore, my text is one which has a chance of engaging the modern listener…I want to tell the story without dwelling for too long on descriptions and extra thoughts.
You may notice that I could not bring myself to say that Beauty was beautiful in the sense of being physically attractive. I really do not want to promote the importance of physically beauty over what are, for me, vastly more important ways of being a person. Does that mean that I do not rejoice in physical beauty? You must be joking!
Using Beauty and the Beast in class
Age and proficiency level
Any age group.
I would feel comfortable telling this story to elementary proficiency level students upwards. It invites the use of pictures, mime and drama.
You may want to tell the story in bits of about 5 to10 minutes
1 Up to the father promising to bring back one of his daughters.
2 Up to the father leaving having brought Beauty to the monster.
3 Up to Beauty going home.
4 Up to the end of the story.
Activities you might do with the students
Please see my articles on ways of using stories under ARTICLES.
Suffice it to say that Beauty and the Beast is rich in moral issues and that it invites application into anybody’s life.
Activities which invite the expression of feelings and ideas can naturally be linked with Beauty and the Beast.