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Topics: Fairy tale
Alyssa Teague-112901672
English 1213-022
5 October, 2012
Is the movie “Beauty and the Beast” a Fairy-Tale? At some point in our lives we are all charmed by the magic found in fairy tales. Beginning with Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs premiering in 1937, Disney set the standard for fairy tale movies that continue to entertain today. With Snow White’s love and connection with nature, being tricked by a witch, and then saved by a prince, there is no doubt this is a fairy tale. Cinderella seems to be one of the most recognized fairy tales with her fairy godmother, a pumpkin that turns into a carriage, and her marriage to the prince. Sleeping Beauty is another highly recognized fairy tale with an evil fairy that turns into a dragon and then prince charming saves the princess and her kingdom. While all of these movies are fairy tale’s they don’t include all of the same elements. The question becomes, what makes a fairy tale a fairy tale? I argue that the movie Beauty and the Beast is a fairy tale because the characters set out into the world alone, make abrupt physical and emotional changes, and there is death and resurrection involved. According to Max Luthi, the main character in a fairy tale “breaks away from his home and goes out into the world […] almost always alone” (141). For there to be a story full of magic and wonders, the character will need to go to a place, or many places, they have never been before. This will allow them to meet new people with special powers or objects that will help the main character on his or her journey. Referring back to Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, Snow White goes out into the forest and finds the little cottage where the dwarfs live. There she meets the dwarfs where they become friends and take care of each other. In Cinderella she leaves her home with the help of her fairy godmother and goes to the prince’s castle where they fall in love. Then in Sleeping Beauty the prince leaves his castle in search for an adventure only to find Sleeping Beauty’s castle, covered in thorns and everyone asleep. It is essential for the characters to leave their home so that there can be an adventure in the fairy tale which leads to growth in the characters.
Another criteria for a fairy tale are “processes of development and maturation” where “one and the same person can abruptly change” (Luthi, 138 & 139). Snow White physically changes after she is poisoned by the apple and socially grows when she begins living in the dwarf’s home by cleaning and working with them. In Cinderella she changes into a beautiful princess after dressing in rags and working for her evil stepsisters. Sleeping Beauty goes to sleep as a young princess and when she wakes up she has ‘grown up’ and gets married to the prince who saved her. Fairy tales are written to reflect on parts of life, such as maturation, so that the reader can connect to the story. In the essay “The Meaning and Form of Fairy Tales” by Max Luthi, he states that fairy tales “[tell] of death and resurrection” (24). Snow White is poisoned, dies, and is then brought back to life by the prince. Cinderella starts off with the death of her mother and then her father’s marriage to Cinderella’s stepmother. When Sleeping Beauty goes to sleep, everyone else in the castle falls asleep and thorns surround the castle. The thorns blossom into flowers allowing the prince to reach Sleeping Beauty, kiss her, and release the spell awakening everyone in the castle. Beauty and the Beast begins with Belle going into her town thinking that every day is the same; same people same situations, and would like to have something new and exciting. The villagers lead you to believe that Belle is seen as an outcast by calling her “odd” and “different than the rest”. Once her father goes missing she “breaks away from [her] home and goes out into the world […] alone” in search for the castle he is being held hostage in (Luthi, 138). As she gets deeper into the forest she begins to feel frightened due to the darkness and strange noises. Her body language changes as she is more alert and aware of what is happening around her now that she is in a place she has never been before. Once she reaches the castle she has hit the complete opposite of her home. The castle is large, dark, and secluded while her home in the village was bright, small, and near a little town. Belle definitely goes “out into the world” at this point in the movie forcing her to adapt to the changes and giving supporting evidence that Beauty and the Beast is a fairy tale (Luthi, 138). The deuteragonist, the beast, is also very alone. In the beginning he is changed into a beast from a prince by an enchantress so that his outside matched his ugly inside. Before he is changed into a beast he is beautiful but very selfish and rude, which secluded him from normal people. After being changed into this creature, he hides himself from the world physically and emotionally by being vicious and sloppy. Belle definitely goes “out into the world” at this point in the movie forcing her to adapt to the changes and giving supporting evidence that Beauty and the Beast is a fairy tale (Luthi, 138). Both characters go from one environment to the other very suddenly causing them to change how they act.
As mentioned before, the prince was turned into a beast so that his physical appearance matched his ugly inside. He went from having golden hair and blue eyes to a body of fur and massive claws. Belle helps him to soften up, develop manners, and control his temper. He begins to eat with utensils, say please and thank you, and even learns how to dance. At the end of the movie when Belle falls in love with the Beast, he “abruptly [changes]” back into the beautiful prince he once was, only this time he was beautiful on the inside as well (Luthi, 138). The beast shows complete “processes of development and maturation” in this movie (Luthi, 139).
After the enchantress casts a spell on the prince, she also cast a spell on the castle and everyone in it. The castle turns black, gargoyles replace angel sculptures, and the trees surrounding the castle loose all of their leaves and die. The people turn into objects inside of the castle such as the candlestick, clock, dresser, and teapot. All of these changes represent the ‘death’ in the “death and resurrection” that occurs in fairy tales (Luthi, 24). After the beast is released from the spell, so is the castle and everyone in it. The storm outside suddenly stops and the sun comes out, the castle turns white with vines and flowers growing on it, and the candlestick, clock, and teapot turn back into people. Everything is now light and happy instead of dark and dead. These changes represent the ‘resurrection’ in the “death and resurrection” that occurs in fairy tales (Luthi, 24).
While magical animals appear in many fairy tales, this is just an accidental criterion for a fairy tale. Snow White and Cinderella have animals that speak to the princess and help her clean. However in Sleeping Beauty while animals are present, they do not help the princess with any sort of task, she just sings with a bird. The same goes for Beauty and the Beast; while animals are present in the movie, no animal helps her to complete a task. Because of this, magical animals are only an accidental criterion.
Fairy tales are a part of every child’s life. They feed children’s imagination and give them a happy ending to look forward to. While there are different elements in each fairy tale, some are critical: the characters setting out into the world alone, making abrupt physical and emotional changes, and death and resurrection. According to these criteria, the movie Beauty and the Beast is a fairy tale.

Works Cited

Beauty and the Beast. Dir. Gary Trousdale and Kirk Wise. By Linda Woolverton, Paige O 'Hara, and Robby Benson. Buena Vista Pictures Distribution, Inc., 1991. DVD.

Luthi, Max. Once Upon A Time: On the Nature of Fairy Tales. Trans. Lee Chadeayne and Paul Gottwald. New York: Frederick Ungar, 1970.

Cited: Beauty and the Beast. Dir. Gary Trousdale and Kirk Wise. By Linda Woolverton, Paige O 'Hara, and Robby Benson. Buena Vista Pictures Distribution, Inc., 1991. DVD. Luthi, Max. Once Upon A Time: On the Nature of Fairy Tales. Trans. Lee Chadeayne and Paul Gottwald. New York: Frederick Ungar, 1970.

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