Beauty & The Beast: Fairy Tale: Summary & Characters

Instructor: Erica Schimmel

Erica has taught college English writing and literature courses and has a master's degree in children's literature.

Jeanne-Marie Leprince de Beaumont's ''Beauty and the Beast'' teaches us it's important to value the good inside rather than a pretty face. Find out how she does so in this lesson, which summarizes the story and notes important characters.

Looking Beyond

Have you ever been told not to judge a book by its cover? Jeanne-Marie Leprince de Beaumont tackles exactly this lesson in her fairy tale ''Beauty and the Beast.'' In her tale, a young girl looks past a hideous outer appearance to see someone's good nature. Let's find out what happens in this summary of the story. As we go, we'll identify important characters.

Family Life

Our heroine, Beauty, is the youngest of six children. While all three of the girls are pretty, Beauty blows her elder two sisters out of the water. But there's more to this girl than just a pretty face. She's also kind and gentle, and just a better person overall than the elder two sisters. These sisters are full of themselves, stuck up about their family's wealth, and jealous that Beauty is more well-liked than they are.

You can imagine how hard it hits these stuck-up girls when their father's business takes a huge hit, leaving him practically penniless. The family has no choice but to move to the country. As you might expect, Beauty has a far better attitude than her sisters. Beauty keeps house and works while her sisters sit around moaning about their fate.

Changing Fortunes

A ray of hope comes about a year later when a letter arrives saying their merchant father might not be broke after all! One of his ships just turned up with all the goods intact. The elder sisters waste no time asking for expensive gifts and clothing. But when the merchant asks Beauty if there's something she'd like, she only asks for a rose.

Unfortunately, there's a legal dispute over the goods. To make matters worse, the merchant gets lost in the forest during a blizzard while heading home. So, he's pretty relieved when he comes across a castle stocked with food and a warm bed. Things are looking up, until he goes to leave and remembers Beauty's rose. No sooner does he pick one from the garden than a ''frightful beast'' appears. Beast is pretty unhappy that the merchant would pay him back for the shelter by stealing a rose. Beast likes people to say what they mean and mean what they say, so he isn't impressed by the merchant's attempts at flattery. He makes the merchant a deal: within three days, either the merchant or one of his daughters has to come back to die.

In His Place

Naturally, Beauty insists on taking her father's place with Beast, an offer that makes her father and brothers cry but delights her elder sisters. But no matter how hard her father and brothers try, she is determined to go and her father has no choice but to escort her there. That night, Beauty has a dream where a woman tells her not to worry because the woman is impressed by Beauty's good heart. Beauty starts to feel better, but she's still afraid when she first sees Beast. He quickly calms her fears: he knows how ugly he is, but he doesn't mean her any harm. Just as she starts feeling comfortable with him, though, he asks her if she'll marry him! She has to turn him down, but she feels sorry for him when she sees how sad he is.

Growing Relationship

Every night for three months, Beast asks Beauty to marry him. Even though their friendship is growing, she finally asks him to stop, promising they'll always be friends. She also promises she'll never leave, even though she misses her father so much she feels like she could die. They arrange for Beauty to visit home for a week. But, if she stays longer, Beast says he will die of grief.

Beast proposes to Beauty every night.

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