The Beauty and the Best is truly a story as old as time. Disney has produced the story multiple times: first as an animated film, then as a Broadway musical, and now as a live-action film. And with each ensuing production, Disney finds is necessary to twist the plot around just a smidgen more. Before we go any farther, let’s take a look back at the original story and see how the Disney productions compare to Gabrielle-Suzanne de Villenuve’s narrative.
1 Gaston, LeFou, or Monsieur D’arque are not in the original story.
Belle has multiple suitors because she is pretty, good natured, and comes from a wealthy family. Although flattered by the offers, Belle turns all of them down because she “thought herself too young to marry,” especially given her tight relationship with her father (p.4).
Consequently, there is no outlandish Gaston admiring himself in the mirror in the original fairytale. As would be expected, LeFou is also absent from the original story. (The story does however feature a plethora of foolish people.) Consequently, Disney choose to create and then to give LeFou a homosexual background for its own purposes. The children’s company redesigned LeFou to help children embrace the sexual revolution. Disney is not bending back toward to the original narrative. The company is increasingly bending the narrative to fit their story.
2. Belle is not an only child.
She actually has two older sisters and three brothers. The two older sisters are extremely vain and openly chase after wealth and prestige at the expenses of their family. Belle’s brothers are decent people. They work faithfully to support their father and volunteer to fight the Beast when they first hear of the Belle’s predicament.
3. Cogsworth, Lumiere, and all their other friends are not in the original.
Yes, these popular and quintessential characters did not make the original story. Things like oats being in the stable, food on showing up on the table, and new clothes being laid out on the bed appear to happen magically. But, all these magical happenings are the work of a fairy and not animated household items.
4. There is no magical rose.
The crux of the Disney plot does not exist in the original story. Rather as he prepares to leave the Beast’s castle, Belle’s merchant father grabs a bunch of roses for Belle from the Beast’s garden.
Up to this point, the Beast had been secretly caring for the Belle’s father. But when the Beast sees the merchant taking the roses, the Beast angrily shows himself for the first time. The he claims that the Belle’s Father has repaid hospitality with theft. The Beast demands that the merchant or one of his daughters must die in three months’ time to atone for the merchant’s sin. The merchant returns home with his horrible news in a fright, fully intending to return to the Beast’s castle. But Belle has other plans. And thus, the story of the Belle and the Beast begins in earnest.
5. True love equals self-denial.
Both Belle and the Beast have to deny themselves to find true happiness. In addition to his ugliness, the Beast also has to act dumb or be punished again by the evil fairy. And Belle has to get to the point where she is willing to look past the Beast’s ugliness.
This takes a good deal of time. Belle turns down multiple marriage offers from the Beast because he is so hideous. Finally when the beast is at the point of death, Belle relents and realizes that true beauty is found in the heart. She ignores her impulses and pledges herself to the man who had shown, “me so much kindness.” And the rest is history!
Belle’s vain, selfish sisters who almost destroyed Belle’s relationship with the Beast are turned into statues by the good fairy. And, Belle? She lives happily ever after with the Beast (now turned prince) and her father.