The rose from Beauty and the Beast

The tale as we know it

A vain young prince is cursed by a witch disguised a beggar seeking shelter in his castle. He is cursed with becoming a ‘beast’, fearsome, ugly and covered in fur.

Let’s skip ahead a few years…A merchant has three daughters. The older two, proud and mean as they tend to be in fairytales, while the youngest, ‘Belle’ is beautiful and kind.

The merchant’s wealth disappears with a boat which is lost at sea. Now facing financial ruin, he sets off to find more information and hope that there is something which has been saved. His two elder daughter request that he brings them home fine gowns but Belle only requests a single rose.

On his return home he seeks shelter unknowingly in Beasts garden, sees a rose growing in a garden and picks it for his youngest child. Beast springs forward and tells the merchant that he will kill him unless he brings a daughter in exchange for his life. He returns home not planning to share the news but Belle finds out and returns to the palace (as she had requested the rose). Beast treats her well but asks her to marry him every day. She gets on with him as she believes he has a good heart but thinks him ugly.

She returns home to visit her father and is gone longer than planned. When she gets back to the palace she finds Beast unconscious on the floor and says that she does love him and will marry him. Beast wakes up, transforms into a handsome prince and they all live happily every after.

History and Trivia

The original version of the story, printed in 1740, was written by Gabrielle-Suzanne Barbot de Villeneuve a French novelist who claimed she had heard it from a chambermaid. It has had many rewrites and later ones are said to be influenced by Ancient Greek stories such as Cupid and Psyche. This would make the actual original version over 4000 years old!

It is rumoured that Villeneuve was inspired by the story of sixteenth century gentleman Petrus Gonsalvus and his wife Catherine who was a royal court servant. Gonsalvus was a gentleman that suffered from hypertrichosis which caused thick hair to grow all over his face and body.

In a Norwegian fairy tale, ‘East of the Sun, West of the Moon, a young girl is taken and hidden in a castle and looked after by invisible servants. She cannot see the bear by night who has promised to make her peasant father rich.

Beauty and the Beast was a relative latecomer to the panto scene (no pun intended) first opening as a musical in 1994 on Broadway, three years after the iconic Disney film had been released.

Earlier in 1949 the first known ballet of the story was performed by Sadler’s Wells Theatre Ballet.