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Beauty And The Beast By Mme Le Prince De Beaumont

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Beauty and the Beast

by

Mme Le Prince De Beaumont

The fairy tale Beauty and the Beast opens with the characters of a rich merchant and his six children, three boys and three girls. "The two eldest girls were vain of their wealth and position" (22), but the youngest girl, the prettiest of the three, had a more pleasing personality, humble and considerate. This youngest daughter was so beautiful even as a child that everyone called her Little Beauty. She was just as lovely as she grew up so that she was never called by any other name, a fact that made her sisters extremely jealous. All three girls had numerous marriage proposals - the two eldest always turned their suitors away with the declaration that they had no intentions of marrying anyone less than a duke or an earl. Beauty too always turned her proposals down, but with kindness, answering that she thought herself too young and would rather live some years longer with her father.

"Then through some unlucky accident the father lost all of his fortune and had nothing left but a small cottage in the country"(22). When the father told his children that they would all leave town and move to the country cottage the two eldest daughters replied that they would not leave and go with him. They thought they had plenty of gentlemen who would marry them but soon found out that the men they had turned down so harshly now had no pity for them. On the other hand, many still had feelings for Beauty and several men offered to marry her yet she still refused, stating she could not think of leaving her father along in his troubles.

At first Beauty would sometimes cry in secret over their misfortune, but in a very short time she decided, "All the crying in the world will do me no good, so I will try to be happy without a fortune" (22). After settling into their cottage, the merchant and his three sons began plowing and sowing the fields and working in a garden. Beauty did her part to help out; rising at four o'clock every morning to light the fires, clean the house, and fix breakfast for her family. When all her work was done, Beauty would amuse herself reading, playing her music, or singing while she spun. The two eldest girls, however, did not know what to do with their time; each day they had breakfast in bed, not rising until ten o'clock, and then they spent their days pitying themselves and grieving for the loss of their carriage and fine clothes. They could not understand Beauty's acceptance of their new station in life, "What a mean-spirited, poor, stupid creature out younger sister is, to be so content with this low way of life!" "But their father thought differently; and loved and admired his youngest child more than ever" (22).

About a year after they had moved to the cottage, the merchant received a letter informing him that one of his richest ships, one he had thought was lost, had actually just come into port. When the two eldest girls found out that their father would have to travel to the ship they begged him to bring them back all kinds of trinkets and gifts. Beauty asked for nothing so her father asked her what he could bring back for her and she responded, . . . "Since you are so kind to think of me, dear father, . . I should be glad if you could bring me a rose, for we have none in our garden."(23) When the merchant got to port to the ship there were unforeseen difficulties and, in the end, he headed back to his cottage as poor as he had left it. Less than thirty miles from his home, the merchant became lost in a dense fog. It was raining and snowing and the winds were blowing so fiercely the merchant was twice thrown from his horse. He feared that he would either die or cold, hunger, or be attacked by the wolves he could hear around him.

Suddenly the merchant saw a long avenue with a light at the end. Making his way towards it, he "found that it came from a splendid palace, the windows of which were all blazing with life. It had great bronze gates, standing wide open, and fine courtyards, through which the merchant passed; but not a living soul was to be seen."(23). There were also stables where the merchant's horse was able to take a good meal of oats and hay. Leaving his horse, the merchant entered the great hall of the palace and found a dining parlor with a blazing fire and a table elegantly set with one place setting. The merchant was soaked from the rain and snow so he went to the fire to dry off, saying to himself, "I hope the master of the house or his servants will excuse me, for it surely will not be long now before I see them" (23). When the clock struck eleven o'clock the merchant, being very hungry, helped himself to dinner though he was still trembling with fear. When the clock struck twelve o'clock, he began looking around and opening doors. Through a door at the end of the hall he found a great room with a fine bed; he shut the door, removed his clothing, and went to bed.

When the merchant awoke the next morning, it was already ten o'clock and he was surprised to see a handsome new set of clothes laid out for him in place of his old ones. After dressing, he looked out the window and saw the most beautiful arbors, covered with all kinds of flowers. Returning to the hall where he had supper, he found a breakfast table prepared and ate heartily. Afterwards he headed to the stable to see about his horse; on the way he passed under one of the arbors that was loaded with roses. He recalled what Beauty had asked him to bring to her so he gathered a large bouquet of roses. "At the same moment he heard a loud noise, and saw coming toward him a beast, so frightful to look at the he was ready to faint with fear." "Ungrateful man!" said the beast in a terrible voice. "I have saved your life by admitting you into my palace, and in return you steal my roses, which I value more than anything I possess. But you shall atone for your fault - die in a quarter of an hour." (24).

The merchant begged for his life, explaining that he only picked the roses because one of his daughters had asked him to bring her back a rose from his journey. The beast told the merchant he would let him go home, but in return he must either send back one of his daughters to die in his place or he must himself return in three months. Even though the merchant had no plans to send one of his own daughters back to the beast, he agreed to the deal thinking he could at least go home and see his children before returning to his death. The beast told the merchant to go back to the bedchamber where he would find a chest; he was to fill the chest with all it could hold so that he would

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