7 Variants of Beauty and the Beast Fairy Tales – A Tale as Old as Time
The well-loved tale of Beauty and the Beast has a fascinating history, first starting with Madame Gabrielle-Suzanne de Villeneuve (1695 – 1755). Villeneuve’s La Belle et La Bête was an original piece of storytelling, first published in 1740. The tale has many variants from all around the world but remaining constant are the themes of envy unrewarded, of learning to love what may at first appear a ‘beast’ and the benefits which virtue and selflessness will bestow on the individual.
1. Cupid and Psyche (A Roman / African Tale)
An ancient Beauty and the Beast story first told by Lucius Apuleius Madaurensis (c. 125 – 180 CE). Its similarities with later versions of ‘Beauty and the Beast’ are striking; particularly Psyche’s curiosity, her subsequent banishment, the role of her deceptive sisters, and true love eventually ensuring the pair’s eternal union.
2. Beautmont’s La Belle et La Bête (A French Tale)
This story was first published in 1756 by Jeanne-Marie Leprince de Beaumont as ‘a tale for the entertainment of juvenile readers’. It first appeared under the title of La Belle et La Bête in response to the earlier, much longer version of the story by Gabrielle-Suzanne Barbot de Villeneuve. Although similar in the overall plot, Beaumont changed many aspects of Villeneuve’s original, making it more suitable for younger readers.
3. Zelinda and the Monster (An Italian Tale)
‘Zelinda and the Monster‘ was recorded in Thomas Frederick Crane’s Italian Popular Tales, published in 1885. This tale differs from the classic Beaumont version, in that the father is depicted as a poor man, with only three daughters instead of six children. The ‘Beast’ is no ordinary beast in this version either, but a fire-breathing dragon who requests the presence of his daughter.
4. The Maiden and the Beast (A Portuguese Tale)
This tale comes from an anthology of Portuguese Folk-Tales, compiled by Zófimo Consiglieri Pedroso (1851 – 1910). ‘The Maiden and the Beast’ differs from most other ‘beauty and the beast’ tales in that the youngest daughter does not ask for a rose, but merely wishes for her ‘dear father’s health.’ Pressured, she then asks for ‘a slice of roach from a green meadow’ – a request which spells disastrous consequences.
5. Beauty and the Beast (An English Tale)
‘Beauty and the Beast’ was written down by the Scottish folklorist Andrew Lang (1844 – 1912), in The Blue Fairy Book (1889). Lang’s tale is a complex mixture of Beaumont and Villeneuve’s stories, but encompasses more of the fine details, and character development of Villeneuve. Lang was determined to collate as much original folkloric storytelling as possible.
6. The Fairy Serpent (A Chinese Tale)
‘The Fairy Serpent’ was published in Adele M. Fielde’s Chinese Nights Entertainments a text which appeared in 1893. Her version of the Chinese tale of ‘The Fairy Serpent’ most likely derives from the ancient Indian text, the Panchatantra. The original Sanskrit work, contained the narrative of ‘The woman who married a snake’ – of which obvious parallels are seen in this narrative. In all early societies, young girls were given in marriage by their fathers, and would have very often had to ‘learn to love’ men who first appeared as ‘monsters.’
7. The Enchanted Tsarévich (A Russian Tale)
‘The Enchanted Tsarévich’ was written down by Leonard Arthur Magnus (1879 – 1924) in Russian Folk Tales, 1916. In this version, similarly to the story of ‘Zelinda and the Monster’, the father is a merchant with three daughters. This time though, the monster is a winged snake, as usual requesting the father’s youngest daughter after catching him picking a beautiful rose. When the young girl is living in the castle, each night the snake asks her to draw his bed a little closer; outside her door, in her room – and finally in her bed.
You can read more about Beauty and the Beast here – History of Beauty and the Beast.
This wonderful collection of Beauty and the Beast Stories can be found in our Origins of Fairy Tales from Around the World Series. It focuses on the phenomenon that the same tales, with only minor variations, appear again and again in different cultures – across time and geographical space. The tales included in these collections are enhanced by the addition of stunning illustrations by talented artists from the Golden Age of Illustration.