Comments on "Beauty and the Beast"


It's interesting to see how much the Disney renditions of classic fairy
tales have infiltrated our perceptions of what fairy tales are, and how
the plots of these fairy tales should unfold. I'll admit that when
beginning to read "Beauty and the Beast," I drew on my already establish
knowledge of the story and drew comparisons between that version and the
classic tellings. The two versions I found particularly interesting were
"The Pig King" as told by Giovanni Straparola and "The Tiger's Bride" as
told by Angela Carter.

What struck me about "The Pig King" first was the role the pig's mother
played in the pig's matrimonial pursuits. Did anyone else find it
intriguing that the mother of the girls the pig found infatuating didn't
protest after the pig murdered her first daughter. The second daughter
met the same fate as the first and it was only the difference in the
third daughter's countenance that allowed her to be shown the pig
without his swine hide. What I can't figure out, and I don't know if I
just misread, is why the pig chose to be a pig if he knew that he could
shed that skin. Why would he choose solely to appear as a man to his
wife and keep it secret from the rest of the world? So while the spell
was cast on him in the womb, the difference between this and the other
versions of the tale is that the beast character is capable of changing
between his human and beast forms at will.

The end of "The Tiger's Bride" is what struck me most. Where in most
stories, the prince takes the form of a human because someone loves him
for who or what he is on the outside, in "The Tiger's Bride," the
narrator ends up as a tigress, and doesn't seem too disturbed by this
change. What actually caught my attention was the way she became a
tiger. For cats, licking is the process by which they bathe themselves,
and sometimes each other. The narrator's transformation is a result of
being licked by the tiger, or bathed if you will, cleaning off her human
form such that she can exist in her true form.

Tatar, M. (1999). The Classic Fairy Tales. New York: W. W. Norton
& Co.

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