Fairytale Features: Beauty & the Beast

fairytale features

The tale of Beauty & the Beast (originally called La Belle et la Bête) is probably familiar to most people: One night, a merchant gets lost in a forest during a terrible storm, and finds shelter in a great palace, where he is offered food and drink and a warm place to sleep. The next morning, on his way out, he picks a flower for his daughter, Beauty – only to be set upon by a terrifying Beast, who accuses the merchant of stealing his most precious possession. The merchant is allowed to leave, but only after promising that he will send his daughter to the palace instead. Over time, Beauty ends up falling in love with the Beast, and through her love, the curse that had transformed him into a monster is broken.

This story was originally written in 1740 by the French author Gabrielle-Suzanne Barbot de Villeneuve, and was influence by many different stories, including Cupid & Psyche (Apuleius; late 2nd century A.D.) and the Italian fairytale The Pig King (Giovanni Francesco Straparola; c. 1550-53), and may also have been partially inspired by the life of Petrus Gonsalvus (1537-1618), a Spanish man who became famous during his lifetime because he suffered from hypertrichosis, which made him abnormally hairy.

A more complete list of adaptations and retellings of this story can be found here, but these are a few of my favourites:

RECOMMENDATIONS

Robin McKinley//BeautyBeauty by Robin McKinley is a straight-up retelling of the original fairytale – by which I mean that the plot deviates very little from Villeneuve’s original story, though naturally both Beauty and the Beast are considerably more fleshed-out as individual characters. McKinley’s writing, however, is beautiful, and I really loved the slow, realistic relationship development in this book.

Christine Pope//Dragon RoseDragon Rose by Christine Pope is another reasonably straight-up retelling, but it’s also mixed with elements of legends such as St. George & the Dragon, where a maiden must be sacrificed every year in order to appease a terrible monster. In Dragon Rose, Rhianne (i.e. Beauty) offers herself up in the place of her friend, and is sent off to become the latest in a long, long line of brides to the cursed Dragon Lord, none of whom have ever been seen again after setting foot in his castle. Pope’s writing is not the best I’ve ever read, but I enjoyed the unpretentious nature of this story, as well as the way it played with the princess-and-the-dragon trope. It’s actually the second book in the Tales of the Latter Kingdoms series (many of which are fairytale retellings), but all the books in this series can be read as standalones.

Andrzej Sapkowski//The Last WishA Grain of Truth by Andrzej Sapkowski is a short story from The Last Wish (which is, in turn, part of the Witcher series), and manages to completely turn the tale of Beauty & the Beast on its head: Women come to the Beast willingly, enjoying their chance to flirt with danger, while their families are given a generous payment – and after a time, they leave. The Beast, for his part, is not particularly interested in breaking the curse that makes him a monster, as he fears that companions will be harder to find if he becomes less of a curiosity. Beautifully written, and fascinatingly re-imagined, this is probably one of my favourite re-tellings of this fairytale.

Rosamund Hodge//Cruel BeautyCruel Beauty by Rosamund Hodge imagines Beauty (this time called Nyx) as a young woman who – promised to the Beast (Ignifex, the kingdom’s evil and immortal ruler) at birth due to a bargain struck by her father – has been raised as an assassin, trained to kill Ignifex, and break the curse he’s held over the kingdom for the last 900 years. This was a fast-paced, exciting retelling, with a dark bent to it that I really enjoyed. Hodge also managed to blend the tale of Beauty & the Beast seamlessly with a whole load of Greek mythology – something that really appealed to the Classicist in me!

Sarah J. Maas//A Court of Thorns & RosesAnd of course, I couldn’t possibly leave out A Court of Thorns & Roses by Sarah J. Maas – the book which pushed me to start writing this post (at long last)! In this book, the Beast (a.k.a. Tamlin) is a High Lord of Prythian, the kingdom of faeries, and “Beauty” (this time called Feyre) is a human huntress, struggling to support her impoverished family after her merchant father lost everything. One day, while hunting, she kills a Fae disguised as a wolf – but although she expects to be killed as punishment, instead she’s taken away to the Spring Court, where the High Lord is labouring under a terrible curse… and running out of time to break it.

There’s a lot going on in this series beyond the retelling that it starts with; in the second book, it breaks away from the fairytale almost entirely. The more epic tone of the story – the intrigue and politics and the looming threat of war – is the main thing that sets this apart from other retellings, and is probably its main selling point, but its also unusual in that it has a considerable cast of (well-developed) characters beyond Feyre and Tamlin, all with significant roles to play. [You can find my spoiler-free reviews of A Court of Thorns & Roses, and A Court of Mist & Fury here.]

[Navigation: INTRODUCTION | BEAUTY & THE BEAST | (More to come)]

Advertisements

October Haul

October seems to have turned into another crazy month for book-buying, for which I have no defence, except that there’ve been a lot of new releases recently that I’ve been really looking forward to – and I also got really into The Witcher video games, and decided that I needed to read the books that they’re based on, too. 😳 In fact, every time I look at this stack of books, I’m almost paralysed with indecision over which one to pick up next; I’m so excited for all of them!

On a less positive note (was that first paragraph even a positive note? Perhaps, partially), my book-buying ban definitely needs to be re-implemented, which unfortunately means I won’t be getting my hands on Gemina (the other new release that I’ve been wanting) for a little while yet… 😦
october 2016 haul

1) Goldenhand by Garth Nix. The fifth book in the Old Kingdom series, which I know absolutely nothing about, and don’t want to know anything about, since I still haven’t read Clariel

2) Empire of Storms by Sarah J. Maas. The fifth book in the Throne of Glass series, which seems to have been on everyone’s most-anticipated lists… I’m excited to read this, though I’m also quite nervous about it, as I wasn’t a huge fan of some of the decisions that were made in the last book. Hopefully this one will be better, though!

3) Crooked Kingdom by Leigh Bardugo. The sequel to Six of Crows, which I read a couple of months ago and absolutely loved. This is probably going to be the first book I read once I’ve finished my mini-marathon of the Andrzej Sapkowski books that I currently own; my insides have been twisting with anticipation every time I catch sight of it in my TBR pile… Obviously, I have very high hopes. XD

4) Magnus Chase & the Hammer of Thor by Rick Riordan. The second book in the Magnus Chase & the Gods of Asgard series. Of all the books I picked up last month, this is probably the one I could most have done without, as I still haven’t read the first book. I do, however, have faith that this series is going to be just as amazing as Riordan’s other books that I’ve read, so I don’t regret it, and I also wanted to make sure that I remembered to get it while it was still available in hardback. The paperback is still a long way off, but I tend to forget about things if I put them off for too long… ^^’

5) The Last Wish, Sword of Destiny, Blood of Elves, Time of Contempt & Baptism of Fire by Andrzej Sapkowski. The first five books in the Witcher series, which inspired the aforementioned video games! Interestingly, the first two books in the series are short story collections, while the main saga actually begins with book three (Blood of Elves). I’ve already read the first three of these books (which I’ve talked about in my October wrap-up), and am currently about mid-way through Time of Contempt – so far, they’re really great, and they only seem to be getting better as they go on!

6) A Certain Slant of Light by Laura Whitcomb. An apparently quite spooky paranormal romance featuring ghosts, which I first heard about on a youtube video by ChapterStackss, about her favourite romance novels. I was intrigued, but not enough so to go looking for it… but the very next day I came across a copy at work, and knew that I had to have it. 🙂 Hopefully I’ll be able to get to this before Halloween is too distant a memory. 😛

7) Among Thieves by Douglas Hulick. Another book that I stumbled upon at work, though I know even less about this one than the last. It’s a dark fantasy, and the first book in the Tales of the Kin series, but I can’t tell you any more than that… ^^’

8) Harry Potter & the Chamber of Secrets (illustrated edition) by J.K. Rowling. This book needs no introduction. I’ve been looking forward to it all year, and I’m definitely impressed with what I’ve seen of it so far! I’ve already started this, but I’m going to be taking it quite slow, and reading along with the Harry Potter & the Sacred Text podcast, which quite coincidentally started on book 2 around the same time that this was released! XD

October Wrap-Up

Well, I’ve did a terrible job of keeping to my blog schedule in October! Don’t worry – I’m still alive! 😛 I’d like to blame work, but although things are still pretty hectic on that front (though not as bad as a few weeks ago), the actual reason for my long absence is that I’m trying to write a review for The Lumatere Chronicles, and every time I decide to work on it, my brain goes blank and my fingers freeze up. ^^’ So, writer’s block, I guess. But – review or no review – I’ll try to do better this month.

On a more positive note, I have managed to do quite a bit of reading, and most of what I’ve read lately has been really great! 😀 Here’s what I thought of them all:

Holly Black & Cassandra Clare//The Copper GauntletThe Copper Gauntlet by Holly Black & Cassandra Clare. The follow-up to The Iron Trial, which I read a couple of Christmases ago. This sequel follows Call and his friends in their second year (or their Copper Year) at the Magisterium, where they’re trying to find out about a mysterious magical artefact called the Alkahest. I enjoyed The Copper Gauntlet, though I didn’t feel that it was quite able to live up to my expectations after reading The Iron Trial (which was fantastic); it just felt too rushed. The entire book seems to take place over the course of a few weeks, whereas the first book took an entire year to build up to the climax… I’m still having a lot of fun with this series, but I’m not quite as excited for the third book as I might otherwise have been.3 starsRae Carson//The Shadow CatsThe Shadow Cats by Rae Carson. A novella set in the Fire & Thorns universe, and telling the story of Alodia – Elisa’s older sister, and heir to the throne of Orovalle – on an official visit to a region on the border of the kingdom, where the locals have been being terrorised by a creature that they call Espiritu… An interesting insight into Alodia’s character, since she was a bit of a mystery in the main series, and it was odd to be reminded of where Elisa started, considering how much she’s grown by the end of the series. The story itself was good, too, though it was lacking the thing that I like most about the Fire & Thorns series – Elisa’s fully-realised self! 😉3 starsRae Carson//The Shattered MountainThe Shattered Mountain by Rae Carson. A brief but powerful look at Mara’s life just before she was introduced in Fire & Thorns, as she tries to lead a group of children to safety after her village is attacked by Inviernos. This story was incredibly intense and emotional, which is particularly remarkable when you consider how short it is. I became very attached to all the children in Mara’s group, and the one major character death that I already knew about (because it’s mentioned in the main series), was agonisingly built-up to, and then heartbreaking when it finally occurred. 😥 A must-read for anyone who liked the main series.5 starsRae Carson//The King's GuardThe King’s Guard by Rae Carson. The last of the three novellas in The Girl of Fire & Thorns Stories, which follows a teenage Hector as he begins his first year in the Royal Guard, and has to prove himself all his superior officers and his fellow recruits, who believe he’s only been allowed into the Guard because he’s friends with the new king. This story wasn’t as emotional as The Shattered Mountain, but it was much more plot-driven – and that plot was excellent! I won’t say too much about it for fear of spoilers, but it was truly shocking in places, and it sheds a really interesting light on some of the events of the main series (which I believe I may be re-reading soon, now that I have this new perspective. 😀 ).4 starsLesley Fairfield//TyrannyTyranny by Lesley Fairfield. A short graphic novel about a girl with an eating disorder. This was my Library Scavenger Hunt pick for the month, and again (and this seems to be becoming a disappointing trend), I wasn’t hugely impressed by it – but you can read my mini-review of the book here. 🙂2 starsAndrzej Sapkowski//The Last WishThe Last Wish by Andrzej Sapkowski. The first book in the Witcher series, which is actually a collection of short stories – not usually the greatest way to be introduced to a new world or protagonist, but in this case it really worked; the way that the stories tied together made them read very much like a single novel (though admittedly one with several different storylines). As for the stories themselves, a couple of them were a little confusing (but still enjoyable), and all the others I really loved, especially A Grain of Truth and The Witcher. I wasn’t a huge fan of Yennefer, which surprised me, since I’ve really liked what I’ve seen of her so far in the game-verse, but I guess I’ll have to wait and see how she’s developed in the later books…4 starsRae Carson//Fire and ThornsFire & Thorns by Rae Carson. A re-read of the first book in the Fire & Thorns trilogy, which lived up to, and even surpassed my first experience of reading it. I remember finding the first part of the book quite slow before, but this time I was able to enjoy spending time with Elisa’s more naive side, since I wasn’t so impatient for the story to develop. Otherwise, my feelings haven’t changed much; this is still a brilliantly-written book, with wonderful characters and a fantastic story to tell.5 starsAndrzej Sapkowski//Sword of DestinySword of Destiny by Andrzej Sapkowski. The second book in the Witcher series, and another short story collection, though this one was a bit more of a mixed bag; I really enjoyed the final three stories in the collection – A Little SacrificeThe Sword of Destiny, and Something More – but I found that the first half of the book dragged quite a bit… This is probably partly because the first couple of stories concentrated more on Geralt’s relationship with Yennefer, which I’m not entirely on board with (I still don’t like Yennefer much, and nor do I really like the way Geralt acts when he’s around her/moping over her). On the whole, this was an interesting collection of stories, but they didn’t flow together in the way that made The Last Wish so enjoyable, but instead felt quite disconnected from each other (with a couple of exceptions). This is obviously not entirely unexpected, but it’s one of the main reason I don’t get on that well with short stories in general – they’re just too short for me to really get invested in them! ^^’3 starsAndrzej Sapkowski//Blood of ElvesBlood of Elves by Andrzej Sapkowski. The third Witcher book, and the first full novel in the series, in which Geralt finds out that there are dangerous people looking for his adoptive daughter, Ciri, and sets out to find them – and to stop them, while Ciri herself begins training in magic with Yennefer. As I expected, I’m beginning to like Yennefer (and also Dandelion) more, now that she’s a more prominent character, and Ciri only got more and more wonderful as the book went on, though I would’ve liked to have seen more of her and Geralt together. The plot was a bit disjointed in places; it jumped between characters and story-threads a lot, and there was a very abrupt time-skip halfway through the book (in which Triss disappeared from the story completely, without explanation), but overall, this was a really enjoyable novel, and I’m looking forward to reading more of this series.4 stars