Beauty and the Beast
We come now to Beauty and the Beast. I must confess I have a fondness for the more direct, reconstructed version of the story by Jacobs, but we’ll go with the classical story. Also, I want to point out that none of these stories has Gaston, which is a true tragedy (No one fights like Gaston. No one. . . .)
The Beast is obviously physically grotesque, as is commented by Beauty several times in the story, but that is the only physical description. The story leaves it up to the imagination of the reader as to what the (a?) Beast truly looks like. But the most interesting idea is that the nature of a beast is in dispute within the story. The sisters are actually beastly in their behavior and pride. Their husbands are likewise beastly. Beauty’s behavior sets the standard for beautiful behavior, which is universally attractive, despite financial conditions. Likewise, the Beast has beautiful behavior but not appearance. The readers are encouraged to draw the inference not only about the nature of what is beautiful, looking beyond physical appearance, but that true beasts are reflected in actions.
The fairy responsible for the curse is simply wicked. No reason is given as to why the prince was cursed, which is very odd. Fairies are not known for randomly handing out curses—especially ones with a loophole to get out of it. This feels like a great oversight on the part of the taletellers as the most ready explanation at hand is that the prince once had the same beastly qualities as the sisters, and was being punished for them until he could set aside his beastly nature to become loved by a beauty. Of course, all of this is reported through the prince, so it is quite possible that there was a cause for the curse, it simply goes unsaid by the prince.
The Value of The Rose
The Beast is quite clear that he values his roses “beyond any thing in the universe,” but no explanation is given as to why. He also does not mind the merchant’s presence until the roses become threatened. There’s not enough evidence to say whether the roses are magical (as the one is in the Disney version), but the Beast has strong ties to them. They are, universally, a physical representation of beauty, which the Beast is obsessed with until the arrival of Beauty, whose beauty surpasses that of the roses. Even after she leaves, he returns to these roses over and over again, proving that the Beast has an obsession not just with Beauty, but the concept of beauty.
Without Beauty, the beast wastes away. He is literally sick and dying because she is not near him. This is most likely an emotional attachment rather than a magical one. As far as can be determined, there are no magical connections that the story shows us, so instead we have this as a truly lovesick moment. The Beast has emotionally tied himself to Beauty so strongly, that now he cannot live without her.
Though the Beast turns out to have noble qualities, he is ultimately selfish, exchanging the roses and the merchant’s life for Beauty. He knows that she is his chance to rid himself of the fairy’s curse. Every move he makes is calculated to induce her into marrying him, which he asks her to do every day. The curse does not stipulate that Beauty must love him, only that she consents to marry him. The entire time, Beast was attempting to kindly coerce Beauty into marrying him so he could get out of his curse.