Read a full summary of Beauty and the Beast by Gabrielle-Suzanne Barbot de Villeneuve right here! This page is full of spoilers, so beware. If you are wondering what happened in Beauty and the Beast, then you are in the right place!
Special thanks to Sarina Byron, a BSR contributor who wrote this great recap! Sarina is a British Author and Contributing Writer living in California. Sarina enjoys bringing forth a different perspective and encouraging a different way of thinking through her writing. Visit her blog to read her reviews, and check the end of the review for a link to her Instagram.
***** Everything below is a SPOILER *****
What happened in Beauty and the Beast?
There lived a rich merchant with six sons and six daughters in a land where trade flourished plentifully. His sons and one daughter were model children but his other five daughters were intoxicated with their wealth and could not see beyond that. In an unfortunate turn of fate, he lost all his wealth save one country house where the family was forced to move. Two years after the downturn, he heard one of his ships had survived and was coming to shore, so he set off for the port. By the time he arrived there, however, his partners, assuming him dead, had sold all of the wares. Disheartened, he headed home, but the weather turned ghastly and he was forced to seek refuge in the hollowed bark of an old tree.
Hunger forced him out of his hiding spot, and in his wandering, found himself at the gates of a beautifully opulent palace. He readily entered the palace, where he found everything he needed for his comfort, including food, warmth, and hospitality, but he did not see a single person. Morning broke, and he regretted he could not express his gratitude to his host.
As he was heading out, he saw the gorgeous rose bushes that lined the periphery of the palace, recalling how one daughter, instead of asking for beautiful outfits and jewellery, had asked for a single rose. Keen to oblige his favourite daughter, the merchant helped himself to a rose. A most ferocious Beast materialised out of thin air and berated the merchant for repaying him with such ingratitude by stealing a rose. The Beast then told the merchant he is now required to return in a month’s time with a daughter who will willingly come to a Beast in order to save her father.
The merchant told his children of his meeting with the Beast and his demand that one of his daughters be brought to him. The brothers all offered to fight the Beast, but the girls unanimously agreed since Beauty’s request had brought this upon them, it was only fair she should bear the consequences. At the appointed hour, the merchant and his youngest daughter headed to the Beast’s palace. On arriving there, they were welcomed with an opulent display of fireworks. The Beast met them at the palace and informed the merchant he could fill two trunks with as much wealth as he could and then leave the palace at dawn.
The merchant and his daughter spent the night in each other’s company, convinced that once the father left, the daughter would be devoured. With much heaviness in his heart, the merchant departed with two trunks full of wealth, enough to give him an opportunity to reclaim some of his former status. In the meantime, Beauty found herself alone but surrounded by everything she needed for her comfort, including beautiful clothes and enchanted rooms where she could watch the opera, attend performances around the world, and walk in markets that exist across oceans. She would only see the Beast once a day when she had dinner with him.
Something strange began to happen, though. She started seeing a handsome stranger in her dreams. She fell in love with him and spent her waking hours in eager anticipation of going to bed so she could be reunited with her dearest. A mysterious Lady also appeared in her dreams, giving her consolation and nuggets of wisdom, which she did not understand at the time.
Every night at dinner, the Beast asked Beauty to marry him, and every night she refused him. Her dream lover, also called The Unknown, tried to kill the Beast and Beauty in one dream. Beauty saved him, saying she could not show such ingratitude to one who had looked after her so well. Since she was sorely missing her family, the Beast granted her two months leave to visit them, cautioning her that if she did not return at the two-month mark, she would be endangering his life. Beauty was given four trunks to fill with gifts and wealth to take with her, and her mode of transportation would be an enchanted ring which would take her home and back when she turned it.
Her brothers and father were overjoyed to have her back, but her sisters were not all too happy at her presence. As people around got to know her, they all grew to love the merchant’s youngest daughter. Her sisters’ beaux all clamoured for Beauty’s attentions and almost gave up on her sisters. She stayed well past the two-month mark and felt guilty every day as she was aware of her sister’s resentment towards her, but her father and brothers caused her to stay behind with their showers of love.
One night, Beauty had a distressing dream where she saw the Beast dying and the Lady urging her to return to the the palace. Beauty did so and looked everywhere for the Beast but could not find him. Heeding an instinct, she went into the garden and found him lying on the ground, nearly dead. Her mournful cries and attempts to revive him brought him back to life, and he asked her to marry him. This time, she followed her father’s and the Lady’s counsel and accepted his proposal.
When Beauty awoke the next morning, she found The Unknown next to her. He appeared to be under a spell, so she started her day waiting for him to wake up. She saw two ladies arrive with much fanfare in a fantastically beautiful carriage driven by white horses. One was obviously a lady of noble birth, and the other was the lady from her dream. Upon their arrival, the Prince awoke from the spell and told Beauty his story.
When he was a toddler, his father passed away and his mother was constantly fighting off attacks on their kingdom. A fairy offered to help her raise the Prince whilst she travelled to the battlefields. When the Prince was grown up, the fairy asked him for his hand in marriage. Not wanting to offend a fairy, he told her he could not make this decision without consulting his mother. They travelled to a battlefield where the Queen was camped, and the Prince, who was blessed with warfare expertise, helped the Queen’s army win the war.
After the war, the Prince brought up the fairy’s proposal to the Queen, who reacted with shock. She was immensely proud of how handsome her son was, and the thought of him marrying an old fairy caused her to forget everything the fairy had done for her. Upon realising the Queen hesitated on account of her appearance, the fairy cursed the Prince by turning him into a Beast. She placed impossible conditions on the Prince: He would only revert to his original form if a beautiful girl willingly came to live with him and agreed to marry him. With this, the fairy, who was also the Mother of Seasons in fairyland, departed the country palace of the Queen.
As the Queen and Prince were about to kill themselves of despair, another much younger fairy showed up. She told them if they employ patience, she would help them break the spell. This was the fairy who had appeared in Beauty’s dreams and the one who had arrived with the Queen. Before she told them the story of events that led to the curse of the Beast, the Queen expressed despair that Beauty was not of noble birth and offered for her to marry her highest nobles but not her son. The fairy asked her to rest her mind as she would tell everyone Beauty’s true identity.
It turned out the kind fairy’s sister had fallen in love with the King of Fortunate Island. She married him much before she was of the age when she was allowed to marry a mortal. She had a daughter with him and tried to keep up her visits to the fairy realm three times a year. Her secret was discovered, however, when a question was raised at a fairy meeting about all her favours being bestowed in one spot. The old fairy, Mother of Seasons, encouraged them to look into the fairy book, which contains a written account of each fairy’s activities. In there, they saw an account of the fairy’s marriage and birth of her child. She tried to defend herself by describing the love she had for the King, but it served no purpose and she was imprisoned in middle air.
Upon hearing her entreaties, the Mother of Seasons desired to meet the King. Soon after the fairy meeting, she set off for Fortunate Island. She realised the Queen of a neighbouring kingdom was waging war against her enemies. The Mother of Seasons helped the Queen win the war, placed her in deep slumber, and donned her appearance. She met the King of Fortunate Island in that disguise, trying to win his heart; however, he was focused on his daughter and mourning the loss of his wife.
The Mother of Seasons understood if the child somehow went away, the King would marry her. She conspired with two of her courtiers to take the child into the woods and kill her. The sister of the Queen of Fortunate Island fairy, however, was watching over the child and snatched her from the courtiers in the guise of a bear. She also killed them to make the Mother of Seasons believe the attack was indeed by a wild animal.
As she was looking for a safe place to leave the baby, she entered a modest cottage which had a beautiful baby bassinet in the corner. Three women were sleeping in front of it, indicating the child was probably ill. As soon as the kind fairy touched the baby in the hope of curing it, the baby died. She then placed Beauty in the bassinet and went away to bury the other baby. She returned in disguise and woke up the occupants of the hut, asking them for food and shelter for the night. They gladly obliged and then told her they worked for a rich merchant who had sent them into the country with his youngest daughter, who was ailing. When they took Beauty back to the merchant, the fairy donned another disguise as a fortune teller and told him to take special care of his little one.
This is how they all found out that Beauty was the princess of Fortunate Island. In the meantime, the King of Fortunate Island arrived along with the merchant and all his children. They all heard the story and were still processing how they felt when the trapped fairy Queen of Fortunate Island joined them. She then related that she earned her freedom by bestowing a favour on the Queen of Fairies. The fairies also revealed the efforts by the Mother of Seasons to marry the King were revealed by the kind fairy who had been helping Beauty and the Beast. The Mother of Seasons was imprisoned for attempting to marry a mortal much before she was allowed to.
The merchant and his sons were given high ranks in the Prince’s court, and her sisters’ suitors readily married them on account of their elevated status. Beauty and the Prince wanted to live in the forest with all the invisible Genii who had helped the Prince through his difficult years, but they settled on splitting their time between court and the woods with the Genii.
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