Timeless Tales : Beauty and the Beast

Retold by Tana Reiff; France [setting].

Beauty and the Beast*

*There are many versions of this old French folktale. Some say the story was told to help young women accept the fate of arranged marriages to old men.

Once upon a time, a rich man lost his wife and was left with three daughters. The two older daughters only thought of themselves and who their husbands should be. The youngest daughter put others before herself. She was beautiful because the heart inside her was so good. Everyone called her Beauty.

The family lived in a beautiful house in the city. The father lost all his money, so they moved to a cottage out in the country. The two older daughters moaned and whined about their new life. Beauty, on the other hand, kept a smile on her face. She was happy to cook and clean for the family. At night, she did not long to go to grand balls. Instead, she would read, play the piano, or sing.

One day, the father heard about a ship coming in. It was full of things that he could sell to make some money. So he made plans to go meet the ship. Before he left, he asked each daughter what she wanted him to bring her. The two older daughters asked for dresses, hats and shoes. Beauty asked only for one red rose.

As soon as the father made his money, he lost it again. As he headed back to the cottage he ran into a heavy storm. When he believed he could not go on, he saw a light in the gloom. He followed the light, which led him into a fine castle.

He walked inside. A bright fire heated the great dining hall. Dinner was laid out on a long table. But no one came to eat it.

The father waited for hours. At last, he was so hungry that he ate the dinner himself. Then he walked upstairs, found a bedroom, and went to sleep.

The next morning, a big breakfast was laid out for him. Still, he saw no people in the castle.

The father decided to set out on the road again. As he walked down the lane, he picked a rose for Beauty.

All of a sudden he heard a loud voice behind him saying, “You will die for this!” He looked around. He saw a monster, an ugly beast covered with fur.

“The rose is for one of my daughters,” said the father.

“Go, then, and send me one of your daughters,” said the beast. “If she will die for you, then you may live. Do not betray me, or you will die.”

Terrified, the father went back to the cottage. He told his family about the beautiful castle and what the beast had said.

“I will die for you, Father!” Beauty said. “I would rather die at the hands of a monster than of a broken heart over my father.”

And so, three days later, Beauty rode off to the beast’s castle. The two older sisters rubbed their eyes with onions to make themselves cry. They didn’t really care what happened to their sweet little sister.

When Beauty saw the beast, she shook all over. She couldn’t believe how ugly he was.

“Did you come here of your own free will?” the beast asked her.


“That is good,” said the beast.

“Are you going to kill me now?” asked Beauty.

“Get some sleep first,” said the beast.

Beauty didn’t believe she could sleep. But as she did, she had a dream. A lady came to her. “Your kindness will be repaid,” said the lady in the dream.

The next morning the beast was nowhere in sight. All alone, Beauty took a look around the castle. To her surprise, she found a door with her name on it. She opened it. The room beyond was full of all her favorite things. The walls were lined with books. There was even a little piano. There was also a sign. It said, “Wish and it will be yours. You are the lady of this house.”

All beauty wanted was to be with her family. She didn’t even say that out loud. But as she was thinking it, a large mirror showed her family at the cottage. Her father was crying for her. Her two older sisters wiped away fake tears. They laughed to each other when their father wasn’t looking. Beauty cried as well.

That evening a fine dinner was set out for Beauty. As she sat down to eat it, she heard the beast’s voice. “May I watch you eat?” he asked.

“This is your house,” said Beauty. “Do as you please.”

“No, this is your house,” said the beast. “You may tell me to go away. Don’t you think I’m ugly?”

“Yes,” said Beauty. “But when I think of how kind you are, you do not seem so ugly.”

“Will you marry me?” the beast asked.

Beauty did not expect to hear this. At first, she couldn’t speak. Then she said, “No.” That was all.

The beast took a deep breath. It shook the house. “Then good night, Beauty,” he said.

The months went by. The beast did not kill Beauty. He was kind to her. During the day she did as she pleased. Each night at dinner the beast came and asked her the same question, “Will you marry me?” And each night Beauty answered, “No.”

Even so, she began looking forward to his visits. One night she asked, “Why must you always ask me to marry you? I am your friend. Isn’t that enough?”

“Please say you will never leave me,” said the beast.

Beauty said nothing, but she did not leave.

One day Beauty saw her father in the magic mirror. He was very sick. “Please,” she asked the beast. “May I go and see my father?”

“You may go for eight days,” said the beast. “Take this ring. When you are ready to return, leave it on the table.”

Beauty went to sleep in the castle that night. The next morning, she woke up in her father’s cottage. A chest full of fine clothes was waiting there for her. “The beast must have sent these,” she said. “How kind of him.”

Beauty’s two older sisters came to visit with their new husbands. One husband was good looking, but his looks were the only thing on his mind. The other was very smart, but he used his brains only to think of mean things to say.

Her sisters didn’t like seeing Beauty with the nice clothes from the beast. They decided to get her to stay more than eight days. That way, they hoped Beauty would get into trouble with the beast.

“It’s so nice to have you here,” said one sister. “Why don’t you stay a little longer?”

“We love you so much,” said the other.

Beauty was happy to hear such nice words from her sisters. “Perhaps the beast won’t mind if I stay a little longer,” she said. And so she did.

The night of the tenth day, Beauty had a dream. In it she saw the beast. He lay in the grass by his castle. He looked almost dead.

Beauty woke up with a start. “How could I have stayed away from that dear beast?” she asked herself. “I must get back to him.” She laid her ring on the table and fell back to sleep.

When she woke up in the morning, she was in the beast’s castle. Right away she went outside. Sure enough, the beast lay in the grass just like in the dream. “The poor thing!” she screamed. “He is dead! Oh, what have I done?”

She laid her head on the beast’s chest. She could hear his heart beating very slowly. “You are alive!” she cried.

Hearing Beauty’s voice made the beast feel a little stronger. He began to speak. “You did not come back in eight days,” he said. “I was so sad that I began to die.”

“Don’t die, my dear beast!” cried Beauty. “You must live so I can marry you! I cannot live without you!”

Just as Beauty said that, the castle lit up like the sun. Music rang out. Sparks flew into the sky. And there beside her was not the beast, but a fine-looking young prince!

“Who are you?” she asked the prince.

“It is I, the beast,” said the young man. “A fairy put a spell on me. She turned me into a beast. She said I would stay ugly until a young woman would marry me of her own free will. That woman is you, Beauty. Thank you.”

Beauty and the prince were married. They had the biggest and best wedding the land had ever seen. He became king and she his queen. And their love stayed strong and true for the rest of their long lives.