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1. Beauty and the Beast
The version you know
In the Disney version of Beauty and the Beast a young woman disguised as an old beggar knocks on the castle door asking for sanctuary in exchange for a rose, when the prince arrogantly refuses she turns him into a beast and the servants to household items. She gives him the enchanted rose telling him he must find someone to love him before the last petal falls or he will remain a beast forever, she also gives him a magic mirror enabling him to see far off lands.
Years later a salesman named Maurice on his way to a fair is chased by a pack of wolves and hides in the beast’s castle and by the time his daughter Belle arrives, his horse having found Belle and brought her to the castle, the beast has found Maurice and decided he will keep him prisoner. Belle is a young bookworm with nonconformist ideas and offers to take her father’s place and live in the castle with the beast. Her father returns to the village but is unable to convince the other villagers to help him rescue Belle.
At first Belle and the beast do not get along, and she seeks companionship with the servants who are now household objects. One day the beast chases Belle and she encounters a pack of wolves, he saves her and as she nurses him back to health they begin to grow closer, and he delights in showing her the castle library.
One night over dinner Belle confesses that she misses her father so the beast gives her the magic mirror so that she can see him, and she sees he is on the verge of dying in the forest trying to rescue her and the beast allows Belle to leave the castle to go save her father. When Belle and Maurice get back to the village Gaston, who is determined to marry Belle despite her repeated rejection of his advances, is planning to have Maurice put away in the insane asylum. But when Belle shows him the beast using the magic mirror, proving her father’s sanity, he realises Belle is in love with the beast so he locks both Belle and Maurice away and leads an angry mob to the castle.
Chip, one of the servants who was turned into a cup, hid in Belle’s bag as she left the castle and frees her and her father, who then race back to the castle where the servants are holding off the villagers but Gaston has found the beast. At first the beast is too depressed to fight back but when he sees Belle return he fights Gaston beating him but offering to spare his life if he leaves, however when Gaston sees Belle reunite with the beast he stabs him but falls off the roof and dies. Belle proclaims her love for the beast and he dies just as the final petal falls from the rose, but Belle’s love has broken the spell and he is revived in human form. The servants are also restored to their human forms and they all lived happily ever after.
The original version
There are a few different folk tale versions of Beauty and the Beast from all over Europe, but one of the most interesting perhaps is the Russian version The Enchanted Tsarévich. Tsarevich was the title given to the sons of Russian Tsars.
One day a merchant leaves his three daughters to buy new wares from a far off land, he asks his girls what they would like him to bring back for them, the eldest replies that she would like a new coat, the second asks for the same, but his youngest daughter draws a flower and says she would like her father to bring her back a flower the same as the drawing.
Whilst away the merchant happens upon a castle surrounded by flowers and trees, there seems to be nobody around so when he saw a flower the same as the one his youngest daughter had asked for, he attempts to retrieve it from the castle grounds. No sooner has he plucked the flower from the ground when an angry winged snake with three heads appears, the merchant fell to his knees and begged forgiveness, so the snake offered a compromise, he would release the merchant unharmed but the first to greet him when he returns home must be given to the snake for eternity.
When he returns home his youngest daughter is the first to greet him, he explains the snake’s deal and she agrees to go without complaint, saying she may fair well at the castle. When she arrives there are no other humans to be found, so she wanders around and eventually begins to feel hungry when suddenly food appears on the table. When she feels tired she goes to her bedroom when the snake finds her and asks that she move his bed so it is the other side of her door. The next day not a soul is to be found but the girl finds whatever she wishes for comes true, that night the snake demands she move his bed so it is next to hers, which she does, on the third night the snake claims he will share her bed, which she lets him.
The next morning the snake allows her to visit her father and sisters but she must return by nightfall, if she is late he will die from a broken heart. The merchant’s daughter returns home and tells her family all about the castle and how her every wish is fulfilled, filled with envy her sisters persuade her to stay the night. When she returns to the castle the next morning she finds the snake has flung himself from the tower and died, she runs up to him and weeps and takes one of the snakes heads and kisses it. As soon as she has kissed him the snake transforms into a handsome prince and the two live happily ever after.