History of Beauty & the Beast


Beauty and the Beast is one of the most popular tales in oral storytelling and many variants can be found in most areas of the world. Perhaps the most common for Americans is the tale by Gabrielle-Suzanne Barbot de Villeneuve or Walt Disney.

Here's a look at even more tales from the world:

  • France | Two tales entitled "The White Wolf" and "Belle Rose" different slightly form the well known version by Jeanne-Marie Leprince de Beaumont.
  • Italy | Multiple tales from Italy are variants of the Beauty and the Beast as well. From Trentino the story titled "The Singing, Dancing and Music-Making Leaf." From Palermo "The Empress Rosina," from Montale and Abruzzo "Bellindia," from Rome "The Enchanted Rose-Tree," and from Sardinia "The Bear and the Three Sisters."
  • Spain | "The King's Son, Disenchanted" and "Lo Trist" from Gatalan. Another is entitled "The Bear Prince."
  • Portugal | A Bella-Menina
  • Belgium and the Netherlands | Four tales are variants of the story with the titles "Rose Without Thorns," "Van het Schoon Kind," "Wuustwezel," and "Rozina."
  • Central Europe | The Brothers Grimm isolated a variant entitled "The Summer and Winter Garden." Others are called "Little Broomstick," "The Little Nut Twig," "Clinking, Clanking Lowesleaf," "The Cursed Frog," "The Bear," "The Bear Prince," "The Enchanted Bear and the Castle," and "The Speaking Grapes, The Smiling Apple, and the Tinkling Apricot."
  • Scandinavia | The Danish version and Faroe Island tale is almost exactly like the Beaumont tale with minor exceptions.
  • Russia and Ukraine | "The Enchanted Tsarevich" and "The Scarlet Flower" are the most common versions of these countries.


Did you know there are places online where you can read version of the tale? One such place is the Internet Archive, which is an American digital library providing free access to collections of digitized materials. Feel free to look up the suggested titles below and experience them for yourselves on the Internet Archive.
"The Blue Fairy Book" 
by Andrew Lang
"Beauty and the Beast"
by Gabrielle-Suzanne Barbot de Villeneuve
"Beauty and the Beast"
by Charles Perrault
"Beauty and the Beast"
by Walter Crane


Beaumont greatly pared down the cast of characters and pruned the tale to an almost archetypal simplicity. The story begins in much the same way as Villeneuve's version, although now the merchant has only six children: three sons and three daughters of which Beauty is one. The circumstances leading to her arrival at the Beast's castle unfold in a similar manner, but on this arrival, Beauty is informed that she is a mistress and he will obey her. Beaumont strips most of the lavish descriptions present in Beauty's exploration of the palace and quickly jumps to her return home.

She is given leave to remain there for a week, and when she arrives, her sisters feign fondness to entice her to remain another week in hopes that the Beast will devour her in anger. Again, she returns to him dying and restores his life. The two then marry nad live happily ever after.
A variant of Villeneuve's version appears in Lang's "Blue Fairy Book." Most of the story is the same, except at the beginning where the merchant himself is not at sea, but his ships are. His mansion is burned in a fire, along with his belongings, forcing him and his family to move to their country home in the forest. His ships are lost at sea, captured by pirates, etc., except one, which returns later. Unlike the other two versions, the sisters in Lang's story are not jealous of Beauty. Also, Lang maintained the lavish descriptions of the Beast's palace. This version in particular is one of the most commonly told, along with those of Villeneuve and Beaumont.

This version was written between 1889 and 1913, some time after the original version, and so should be considered as a later version of the story.

A widowed merchant lives in a manor house with his 12 children. All six daughters are beautiful, but the youngest is the most attractive and nicknamed "Little Beauty," making the older sisters jealous. Their father loses his wealth when his fleet of ships sinks in a storm. The family must live in a small cabin in the woods and work to survive.

Eventually, one of the merchant's ships makes it back to port and so he plans a trip to see what is left of his fortune. He asks the children what they want and they all want jewels, clothing, and expensive items. He asks Beauty and she only wishes for his safe return, so he promises her a rose. Once he gets to his ship, he finds that the tax collector and the bill collector have already been there and he still is penniless. He is unable to buy his children gifts.

On his return home, he gets caught in a storm and takes shelter in a castle. He finds that there is plenty to eat and drink but no one is home. He then claims it as his own and cuts a rose for "Little Beauty." A Beast appears out of nowhere and tries to kill him for stealing his precious roses. The merchant tells him it is for his youngest daughter and the merchant and the beast come to an understanding that the merchant can give the rose to Beauty but she would have to take his place. The Beast insists that Beauty know the truth about living with the beast in the castle.

He agrees because there is no other choice. The Beast sends him home with presents for his children, and stresses  he must not lie to his daughters. The merchant hands Beauty the rose she requested and informs her that one of his daughters must take his place. Her brothers say they will go and fight the Beast, while his older daughters refuse to leave, blaming Beauty. She willingly decides to go to the castle and the following morning she and her father set out atop a magical horse that the Beast provided. The Beast receives her with great ceremony. He gives her lavish clothing and food and carries on lengthy conversations with her and she notes he is inclined to stupidity rather than savagery.

Every night, Beast asks Beauty to marry him, only to be refused. After each refusal, Beauty dreams of a handsome prince with whom she begins to fall in love. Despite the apparition of a fairy urging her not to be deceived by appearances, she does not make the connection between the prince and the Beast and becomes convinced that the Beast is holding him captive somewhere in the castle. She searches and discovers many enchanted rooms containing sources of entertainment ranging from libraries to aviaries to enchanted windows allowing her to attend the theatre.

For several months, Beauty lives a life of luxury. Eventually, she becomes homesick and begs the Beast to allow her to see her family again. He allows it on the condition she returns exactly two months later. Beauty agrees and is presented with a ring that allows her to wake up in her family's new home in an instant when turned three times around her finger. Her older sisters are surprised and their old jealousy quickly flares even though she bestows lavish gifts on them. However, Beauty's heart is moved by her father's overprotectiveness, and she reluctantly agrees to stay longer.

When the two months have passed, she envisions the Beast dying alone on the castle grounds and hastens to return despite her brother's resolve to stop her. Once she is back in the castle, Beauty's fears are confirmed, and she finds the Beast near death. Seeing this, Beauty is distraught, realizing she loves him. Despite this, she remains calm, fetches water from a nearby spring, which she uses to resuscitate him. 

That night, she agrees to marry him, and when she wakes up next to him, she finds that the Beast has transformed into the unknown Prince from her dreams. This is followed by the arrival of the fairy who had previously advised her in her dreams, along with a woman she does not recognize, in a golden carriage pulled by white stags. The woman turns out to be the Prince's mother whose joy quickly falters when she finds out that Beauty is not of noble birth. The fairy chastises the mother and eventually reveals that Beauty is her niece with her actual father being the Queen's brother from Fortunate Island and her mother being the fairy's sister.

When the matter of Beauty's background is resolved, she requests the Prince tell his tale, and so he does. The Prince informs her that his father died when he was young and his mother had to wage war to defend his kingdom. The queen left him in the care of an evil fairy, who tried to seduce him when he became an adult; when he refused, she transformed him into a beast. Only by finding true love, despite his ugliness, could the curse be broken. He and Beauty are married, and they live happily ever after together.


by: Emma Theriault
Series: The Queen's Council

Continues the story of Belle and Adam, once known as the Beast, who, soon after their marriage, must take on heavy responsibilities as rulers of Aveyon during the French Revolution. This is Book 1 of the Queen's Council series.
by: Kaycee Browning, et al
Call Number: F FIVE

Five fantastical stories based loosely on the Beauty and the Beast fairy tale which are titled, "Esprit de la Rose," "Wither," "Stone Curse," "Rosara and the Jungle King," and "The Wulver's Rose."
by: Mahlon F. Craft
Call Number: J 398.2 CRA

In a glorious castle set deep in a mysterious forest, the tale of a father's fate-filled promise and a daughter's courage unfolds. This story, themed on Jeanne-Marie Leprince de Beaumont's version first published in France in 1756, is filled with sumptuous paintings and ornamental detail.
by: Jennifer Donnelly
Call Number: YA F DONNELLY

Hidden in the Beast's library is a very mysterious book. Belle is about to discover it and visit a glittering new world. But is everything in that world what it seems? And will Belle be able to find her way home? Or will the story take hold of her - and never let her go?