Beauty and the Beast, Marie Le Prince de Beaumont

Beauty and the Beast

Beauty and the Beast is a traditional fairy tale written by French novelist Gabrielle-Suzanne Barbot de Villeneuve and published in 1740 in La Jeune Américaine et les contes marins (The Young American and Marine Tales). Her lengthy version was abridged, rewritten, and published first by Jeanne-Marie Leprince de Beaumont in 1756 in Magasin des enfants (Children's Collection), and by Andrew Lang in the Blue Fairy Book of his Fairy Book series in 1889, to produce the version(s) most commonly retold. It was influenced by some earlier stories, such as Cupid and Psyche, written by Lucius Apuleius Madaurensi in The Golden Ass in the 2nd century AD, and The Pig King, an Italian fairytale published by Giovanni Francesco Straparola in The Facetious Nights of Straparola. Variants of the tale are known across Europe. In France, for example, Zémire and Azor is an operatic version of the story, written by Marmontel and composed by Grétry in 1771, which had enormous success well into the 19th century; it is based on the second version of the tale. Amour pour amour (Love for love), by Nivelle de la Chaussée, is a 1742 play based on Gabrielle-Suzanne Barbot de Villeneuve's version. According to researchers at universities in Durham and Lisbon, the story originated around 4,000 years ago. A wealthy, widowed merchant lives in a mansion with his six children, three sons and three daughters. All his daughters are very beautiful, but the youngest, Beauty, is the most lovely, as well as kind, well-read, and pure of heart; while the two elder sisters, in contrast, are wicked, selfish, vain, and spoiled. They secretly taunt Beauty and treat her more like a servant than a sister. The merchant eventually loses all of his wealth in a tempest at sea. He and his children are consequently forced to live in a small farmhouse and work for their living.
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Beauty and the Beast, Marie Le Prince de Beaumont
Beauty and the Beast

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