Tales, Then and Now: More Folktales as Literary Fictions for Young Adults

By Anna E. Altmann; Gail De Vos | Go to book overview
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CHAPTER 1
BEAUTY
AND THE BEAST

Throughout this historical buffeting, the literary tale
thrives, sometimes in its simplest form, sometimes vastly ex-
panded, but always as recognizable as it seems malleable.

(Hearne 1989, 57)

"Beauty and the Beast" began as a literary folktale for adults and then made its way into the oral tradition. From its first appearance in 1740, it has always been popular with both adults and children. The Opies called it "The most symbolic of the fairy tales after Cinderella, and the most intellectually satisfying" (1980, 179). There is, of course, no Perrault version of it, because it didn't exist at the time that Charles Perrault wrote, although a related story, "Riquet with the Tuft," appeared in his Histoires, ou contes du temps passé, published in 1697. The Grimms did not include it in their collection, undoubtedly because of its known French literary origin, but a number of their tales, including "The Lilting, Leaping Lark," the "Frog Prince," and "Snow White and Rose Red," are close relatives. A very useful short overview of the history of the tale and of its relatives may be found under "Beauty and the Beast" in The Oxford Companion to Fairy Tales (Zipes 2000). Anyone interested in learning about "Beauty and the Beast" is in luck. Betsy Hearne's Beauty and the Beast: Visions and Revisions of an Old Tale (1989) traces the history of the tale in folklore and literature, analyzing its structural elements and representative examples from different historical periods. Hearne's book is a very rich resource, and this chapter owes a great deal to her work. She introduces the tale as follows:

This is a story with levels of meaning for all ages. Its audience has
always fluctuated between children and adults. Children absorb
the symbolic dimensions through the literal,
while both aspects
offer possibilities for elaboration that attract sophisticated
adults. Although some versions clearly are created for children

-1-

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