Beauty and the Beast Summary

Madame Gabrielle-Suzanne Barbot de Villeneuve

Beauty and the Beast

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Beauty and the Beast Summary

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Beauty and the Beast is a traditional fairy tale first published by Madame Gabrielle-Suzanne Barbot de Villeneuve. However, the best-known written version was abridged from Villeneuve’s work 1756 by Jeanne-Marie Leprince de Beaumont.

The story begins with a widower merchant who lives in a mansion with his six children, three sons and three daughters.  All his daughters are very beautiful, but the youngest, Beauty, is the loveliest, as well as kind, well-read, and pure of heart. Her two elder sisters are wicked, selfish, vain, and spoiled.  They secretly taunt Beauty and treat her more like a servant than a sister.

The merchant eventually loses all of his wealth at sea, which sinks most of his merchant fleet.  He and his children are then forced to live in a small farmhouse and work for their living.  Years later, the merchant hears that one of the trade ships he had sent off has arrived back in port, having escaped destruction.  He then leaves on a journey, and before he leaves, he asks his children if they want him to bring gifts back for them.  The sons ask for weapons and horses to hunt with.  His oldest daughters ask for jewels and fine dresses.  Beauty is satisfied with the promise of a rare rose.

Unfortunately, the merchant discovers his ship’s cargo has been seized to pay his debts, leaving him penniless and unable to buy his children’s presents.  During his return home, the merchant becomes lost during a storm.  Looking for shelter, he enters an elaborate palace.  A hidden figure opens the giant doors and invites him in.  The merchant finds tables inside with food and drink, which seem to have been left for him by the palace’s invisible owner.  The merchant accepts this gift and spends the night there.

The next morning, as the merchant is about to leave, he sees a rose garden and remembers that Beauty wanted a rose.  He picks the loveliest rose he can find, and the merchant is confronted by a hideous “Beast” who tells him that for taking his most precious possession after accepting his hospitality, the merchant must die.  The merchant begs to be set free, explaining that he had only picked the rose as a gift for his youngest daughter.  The Beast agrees to let him give the rose to Beauty, but only if the merchant or one of his daughters will return.  The merchant is upset but accepts this condition.  The Beast sends him on his way, with wealth, jewels and fine clothes for his children, and stresses that Beauty must never know about the deal they made.

Upon arriving home, the merchant tries to hide the secret from Beauty, but she gets it out of him.  Her brothers say they will go to the castle and fight the Beast, but the merchant dissuades them.  Beauty then agrees to go.  The Beast receives her graciously and informs her that she is now mistress of the castle, and he is her servant.  He gives her lavish clothing and food and enjoys lengthy conversations with her.  Every night, the Beast asks Beauty to marry him, but she refuses him each time.  After each refusal, Beauty dreams of a handsome prince who pleads with her to answer why she keeps refusing, to which she replies that she cannot marry the Beast because she loves him only as a friend.  Beauty does not make the connection between the handsome prince and the Beast and becomes convinced that the Beast is holding the prince captive somewhere in the castle.  She searches the castle but never finds the prince from her dreams.

For several months, Beauty lives a life of luxury in the Beast’s palace, having every desire catered to, but she eventually becomes homesick and begs the Beast to allow her to go see her family.  He allows it on the condition that she returns exactly a week later.  Beauty agrees and sets off for home with an enchanted mirror and ring.  The mirror allows her to see what is going on back at the Beast’s castle, and the ring allows her to return to the castle in an instant when turned three times around her finger.  Her older sisters are surprised to find her well fed and dressed in beautiful clothing.  Beauty tries to share the magnificent gowns and jewels the Beast gave her with her sisters, but they turn into rags the moment her sisters touch them they touch her sisters, and are restored to their magnificence only when returned to Beauty, as the Beast meant them solely for her.

Her sisters are envious of her happy life at the castle, and, hearing that she must return to the Beast on a certain day, beg her to stay another day, even putting onion in their eyes to make it appear as though they are crying.  They hope the Beast will be angry with Beauty for breaking her promise if she stays.  Beauty’s heart is moved by her sisters’ false show of love, and she agrees to stay.

Beauty begins to feel guilty about breaking her promise to the Beast and uses the mirror to see him back at the castle.  She is horrified to discover that the Beast is lying half-dead from heartbreak near the rose bushes from which her father plucked the rose, and she immediately uses the ring to return to the Beast.  Beauty weeps over the Beast, saying that she loves him.  When her tears touch him, the Beast is transformed into the handsome prince from Beauty’s dreams.  The Prince informs her that long ago a fairy turned him into a hideous beast after he refused to let her in from the rain. Only by finding true love, despite his ugliness, could the curse be broken.  He and Beauty are married and they live happily ever after.