Beauty and the Beast was a fairy-tale published in 1740 by French author Gabrielle-Suzanne Barbot de Villeneuve. Many historians and authors believe that this fairy tale existed long before Gabrielle-Suzanne sat and wrote it down since so many variations of this story exist around the world.
This kinda reminds me of how many fairy-tales existed via word of mouth until the Brothers Grimm wrote them down. But Gabrielle-Suzanne actually took the time and wrote down her own version. So for the sake of this article, we’re going with her version.
Since then because the work is in the public domain, there have been many renditions of this amazing story. But did you know that beauty and the beast might have been influenced by a real life couple?
The Story Behind Beauty and the Beast
In 1537 in Tenerife, Spain a child, named Petrus Gonsalvus, was born with hypertrichosis which means when hair grows all over your body more than usual, as a result he was covered with hair “like a beast” and considered a curiosity.
As a result of his condition, Henry the II, King of France took him in his court, and sent him to Margaret of Parma, regent of Netherlands, while there he got married off (in an arranged marriage) to a noble woman named Catherine. Petrov was in his mid-twenties at the time.
They went on to have seven children but only four had Petrov’s condition. One of their grandchildren also had hypertrichosis.
Sadly, he and his family were never seen as human, even though they lived a life of nobility. His life has been well-documented even though he lived in the 1500’s because of his condition.
Themes in Beauty and the Beast:
There are many themes in Beauty and the Beast that still resonate to this day.
Sacrificial Love: In Gabrielle-Suzanne’s version, Beauty sacrifices her freedom so that her father can go free. How many of us would do this for our loved ones? If you were caught in a situation where either you were held captive or your children, spouse, or friend, would you sacrifice yourself in order to save them? This is definitely worth thinking about.
Beauty is in the Eye of the Beholder: Throughout history societies have had different ideas of what beauty means. Things that people did in the past would horrify us today, and true love is more than just appearances.
We live in a very judgmental society when it comes to looks. This includes not just looks but also body types. People are judged weather they are too fat, too thin, what they wear and the list goes on.
Fact is, beauty is in the eye of the beholder. People whom I find attractive you may not find attractive. Steven Tyler, Jack Nicholson (the actor) or Jay Leno anyone? I think my husband is gorgeous and I’m sure not everyone would agree. And that’s okay. The point is, everyone has someone who finds them attractive and as my grandma on my mom’s side used to say, “There is a lid for every pot.” I’m sure Catherine thought Petrov was handsome and not all of us would agree.
As you age, looks generally disappear, and you need more than lust to make a marriage work. Marriage is not all romance and roses, it’s something you have to work on constantly. It takes good communication, working as a team, and compromise. This is why it’s crucial to be best friends with someone and love them for who they are on the inside. Especially early on in your relationship, even before getting married.
More Themes From This Beloved Story
Money isn’t everything: Money and luxury can make life easier, and money is a fantastic tool, but it’s not everything. The beast is a recluse in his castle, and for all his wealth he is cursed, and the curse can only break free if he falls in love and his love is returned.
We live in a fast paced, money hungry society. It’s always go, go, go and achieve. How much is your raise going to be? How much money will X make for the company? Will this grow my business to make more money? Money is fine and good but not when someone is obsessed with it. That’s when money becomes a curse.
Don’t Judge a Book by It’s Cover: In the Disney version of this story, the beast was very angry and scary. However, Belle wasn’t perturbed, she kept working until she broke through his heart and taught him how to love.
We need to keep this principle in mind today. There are all kinds of people in this world who have gone through all kinds of things and are dealing with all kinds of things. If you meet someone and they are on the gruff side or are angry or act in ways that make you wonder, don’t judge them. They may have gone through something horrible like a scathing divorce or losing a loved one. They may have an illness (physical or mental) that they manage on a daily basis and may be having an off day.
Seeing People as They Are.
If you take the time to get to know them, you may find that they are a really nice person. You may find you have a lot in common or have gone through a similar experience that you can share. You may even be the person that breaks through to someone when no one else could. Caring words and acts of kindness go a long way.
For example, I recently saw a segment on CBS Sunday Morning about a guy named Kevin Hines who suffers from bipolar disorder and tried to commit suicide off the Golden Gate Bridge when he was nineteen. Miraculously, he survived and now travels the country giving talks on suicide prevention. Years ago a doctor named Jerry Motto did some research and found out that sending a kind word to someone with mental health makes all the difference. The base premise is that if you know you can make a connection and you communicate that you care that’s all that matters.
The point is, a kind word or deed is all that it takes to turn someone’s day or even life around. This can transform a person’s life in unspeakable ways. So don’t judge a book by it’s cover, your best friend could be hiding in there somewhere.
There are many themes in Beauty and the Beast that still hold true today. We should keep these lessons in the back of our minds as we go through life so that we can remind ourselves of what really matters and help others as well.
What is your favorite theme in Beauty and the Beast and how has it impacted your life? I would love to know in the comments.