|Place of origin||France|
|Body type||Usually portrayed as humanoid|
|Behind the Scenes|
|Universe||Beauty and the Beast|
|Created by||Gabrielle-Suzanne Barbot de Villeneuve|
|“|| I would die to save him from pain. I assure you it is not his fault that he is so ugly.||”|
— Beauty, Beauty and the Beast
The Beast was a human Prince transformed into a fearsome creature by a Fairy's magic, and cursed to remain in that form until someone could love him. He lived alone in a magical castle, completely isolated from the world, but was eventually freed from this curse by a young woman known as Beauty, who professed her love for him as she believed he was about to die. Despite his ferocious appearance, the Beast is actually a kindhearted soul.
Beauty (a.k.a. Belle) is the youngest daughter of a wealthy merchant who suddenly lost all his fortune. All her brothers and sisters felt miserable over their sudden life of poverty, having to work hard on the field to make a living. Only Beauty tried to remain cheerful and optimistic. When the merchant received news that one of his ships was not in fact lost and had safely arrived on port, he decided to travel to see if he could retrieve some fortunes. All his children enthusiastically asked for him to bring back fancy gifts, believing they were soon going to be rich again. But Beauty, aware that it wouldn't be wise to spend too much money so soon, only asked if he could bring her a rose. Sadly, upon arriving on port the merchant realized that his ship had brought nothing of good value, and wasn't able to buy any of the things his children had asked (in Andrew Lang's version, the merchant's former associates had believed him to be dead and divided the fortunes among them).
In his return trip, the merchant became lost in the forest during the winter and, desperate for food and shelter, found a large castle and ventured in. He didn't find anyone inside, but there was a fireplace and food, so he spent the night there and managed to recover his health. When he woke up he found a banquet had been prepared for him, and was very grateful for that. But though he searched in the entire castle, he could find no sign of his secret benefactor. Having regained his strengths, he was ready to saddle up and depart, but before that, he couldn't help but see that the castle had a vast garden with all sorts of plants growing, even though it was winter. Fascinated by this, he approached the garden and saw several roses, which reminded him of Beauty. As he picked up a rose for her, the terrifying Beast approached, calling the merchant ungrateful. As it turned out, the Beast was in fact the owner of the castle, and furious that he had given the merchant food and shelter, and in return the merchant had stolen one of his roses. The merchant begged for his life and told him about his family and their recent misfortunes. But the Beast said that he would only spare the merchant's life if one of his daughters agreed to take his place willingly. He also offered the merchant a chest full of preciousness to bring to his daughters, and told him that if none of them agreed to come, the merchant himself should return in three months to be killed for his crime.
The merchant was terrified, but figured that the opportunity would allow him to see his daughters again before death, and to leave something valuable to them. He had no intention of allowing them to take his place, and would return to the castle himself to die after that. However, the daughters did flood him with questions about the marvelous place where he had found his treasure, and he ended up revealing the whole story. Beauty decided that she would go to the Beast's castle to die in her father's place - as she felt guilty that her rose had caused this -, and once she made her mind about it, the merchant couldn't prevent her from doing so. Her brothers offered to go and slain the Beast, but the merchant was certain that the powerful Beast would kill them instead, so he forbade them. At the end, the merchant traveled back to the castle, with Beauty by his side, still trying to dissuade her from what she intended to do. The Beast received them with kindness, offering fine dinner, and asked Beauty if she had come willingly, which she had indeed. Pleased by this, he told them to spend the night at the castle, and that on the next morning, the merchant should go home and Beauty should stay with him. That night, Beauty had a dream in which a fairy told her that she had made a honorable choice in giving up her life to save her poor father.
After her father left, Beauty stayed in the castle, but was surprised to see that the Beast didn't intend to devour her. Instead, he gave her a comfortable bedroom and a huge library, and made every effort to make her happy. The castle had a magical mirror which would show images of whatever she wanted to see, and she used it to see how her father and the rest of her family were doing. Every morning the Beast talked to her, very humbly and politely, but without wit, and she concluded that the poor creature was very good-natured. Still, when he asked her if she would marry him, she refuse it, claiming she viewed him as a friend, but nothing more. The Beast accepted this answer and continued to treat her with all respect and kindness.
One day, after Beauty's sisters were all married and her brothers had all left for the army, Beauty saw that her father was sick and lonely, and asked the Beast if she could leave the castle to stay with him for some time. The Beast agreed, but lamented that without her company he would die of grief. Since she loved the monster enough to feel pity of him, she promised she would be back after spending some days with her father. Her sisters, who were unhappy in marriage, became jealous once they learned about how well Beauty was being treated in the castle, and figured that if they insisted enough and cried enough, they could convince Beauty to stay a week longer than she had planned. This, the wicked sisters hoped, could make the Beast angry enough to devour her when she returned. Beauty agreed to stay longer, but after dreaming about the Beast and how lonely he was, she used the magic ring he had given her to immediately return to the castle.
She returned to find the Beast almost dead, having starved himself in his depression. He was happy to see her, hoping she would keep him company as he died, but Beauty nurtured him and told him she loved him, and that she wanted to be his wife. As she made that declaration, the Beast vanished and in his place there was a handsome Prince (in some versions, the same Prince had previously appeared to Beauty in her dreams, telling her he was in the castle and asking her to find him). The Prince told her that an evil fairy had transformed him into a fearsome beast, and cursed him to stay in this form forever unless a woman, unaware of his condition, declared her love for him, as she had just done. They were married and lived happily together.
- In the original 1740 novel by Gabrielle-Suzanne Barbot de Villeneuve, a far more detailed backstory is given for both title characters. It's revealed that Beauty is not actually the merchant's daughter, but the daughter of a King and the good fairy, whose kingdom was threatened by the evil fairy. She was placed in care of the merchant to keep her safe. As for the Beast, he was raised by the evil fairy after his parents were killed when he was still young, but she transformed him after he refused her advances.
- The Beast appears, and plays a similar role, in the 1858 Russian fairy tale known as "The Scarlet Flower", which is inspired by Beauty and the Beast and has a very similar plot.
- In some versions, including Andrew Lang's version, Beauty dreams of a handsome prince who tells her that he is somewhere in the castle and asks her to try to find him, for he loves her. The fairy also appears in her dream to tell her that she shouldn't allow herself to be deceived by appearances. The next day, Beauty explores the magical chambers of the castle, assured that the Prince must be hidden somewhere, perhaps being kept prisoner by the Beast. She only finds a bracelet with his picture and a portrait of him.
- In some versions, including Jeanne-Marie Le Prince de Beaumont's version, the good fairy appears again at the end to bless the wedding and turn Beauty's evil sisters to statues, condemning them to stay on this form until they repent.