The Beast: The Quest for Beauty

Today's post is part of a blog tour among a handful of Janeites who also love Disney heroes and movies. We call ourselves the TangledJaneites, and enjoy watching movies together via twitter - who cares if we're spread from East to West coast, and points in between? Technology makes miracles happen, my friends. For more reading fun, make sure you check out their blogs: Jess is tackling Prince Phillip @ Narnia Mum, Kaydee's covering Naveen @ For the Love of Austen, and Nancy called dibs on Flynn Rider @ Austen Aspirations!

If you're a regular visitor to this (sometimes eclectic) blog, you may have picked up on two things: My not-so-secret love of fairy tales, and my fondness for the sometimes-unexpected Hero. (If you haven't noticed, or are brand new, then consider yourself forewarned: it's all true!) And today? Oh happiest of First-Day-of-Summers! I get to combine the two and talk to you about my favorite Disney hero: The Beast!

I've always been a fan of Beauty and the Beast, ever since I was a little girl and got to see it in theatres when it released. ((Random interjection: I feel really, really old as all these Disney movies are hitting big anniversaries, and I can remember seeing them when they came out...)) But I didn't realize how much the story meant to me - as a girl, as a dreamer, as a reader and writer - until a few years ago. There's a beauty to the story 'Beauty and the Beast' that transcends what Disney was able to do. That's not saying I don't absolutely love their version, because I do. When I realized it was coming back to DVD in November, I was counting the days until I could buy it. And I got the soundtrack with Christmas money. Shoot, sophomore year in college, I learned and performed 'Beauty and the Beast' as my jury piece for Piano. So I am definitely a fan of Disney's production. There's a reason the Beast was my hands-down-favorite Disney Hero for decades! He reigned supreme and unchallenged until I saw Tangled for the first time - and then, even though Flynn Rider gave him major competition, the Beast still ranks first. (Flynn's a close second, but history equals extra points).

Lately, I've been thinking a lot about why I like - no, love - the Beast. Trying to look at it from the beginning, when the Disney version was the only one I knew. Finding it a little trickier than you'd think - in the last two years, I've read several versions of 'Beauty and the Beast', as well as several versions of 'East of the Sun, West of the Moon' (Nordic fairy tale which is very, very similar - it's awesome, you should check it out!). So there are a lot of "Beasts" hanging out in my head. Er, that sounds stranger than it should. Back to the topic at hand ... I've come to the conclusion that I cannot fully separate Disney's Beast from the other Beasts - the Beast is who and what he is because of his place in the story, and the story isn't just one simple version: it's a greater entity. That's why it's a fairy tale, and is revisited and rediscovered so often. There's a truth to it, a quest for beauty - and belonging - and love, that we all can recognize. The Beast just happens to be the amazing hero in our story. And while all of this is in my head, and heart, and I know it's the story that makes the hero - I do want to look today at Disney's Beast exclusively. Well, as exclusively as I can, of course.

So who is the Beast? Why do I love him? He's big and rough and hairy. Not human, but not really animal either. He's got a horrible temper and got in his predicament by being selfish and shallow. He lives in the middle of nowhere in a creepy castle that's full of inanimate objects with personalities and voices. By all accounts, this should be the Crazy Character or Villain, right? Especially when juxtaposed with the "Perfect Specimen" of Gaston. But the Beast is more than his circumstances. Yes, he started out as a spoiled brat Prince, but when he became The Beast, he was forced to learn to be human. He had to learn to love, but he also had to learn to appreciate and value beauty. True Beauty.

I think the Beast started changing the moment Belle said she'd stay in place of her father - she was giving him a real-time lesson in how to live and love. It was like nothing else he knew, and he was intrigued. He still had a long journey before him - they both did - but it started that moment. You can see it in his eyes: if Love like that really was possible, then maybe - just maybe - he stood a chance. Maybe this crazy-brave slip of a girl was the key. Sure, she tried his patience and provoked his temper. But in Belle, he had an adversary worth fighting for - she stood up to him, and he wanted to earn her trust, her respect, her love. Here's where I started falling in love with him as a Hero.

 If I started falling for the Beast when Belle decided to stay, then I was head-over-heels by the time he appeared at her side in the snow, risking everything to defend her against the wolves. Why? Why did he do it, why did he follow her, why would he put his own life (enchanted though it be) on the line for a girl who'd run away from their agreement? Because he recognized in her someone he wanted to be. Because he was somehow repaying the debt, evening the score, restoring the balance - and following her example. Belle gave her "life" for her father - the Beast offered his for hers. At this point, he's not really aware of how he feels about her, but something deep inside knows this is right - and he is rewarded by Belle's return to the castle, and another chance.

From here, the story plays out as you'd expect: they learn to trust each other, learn to communicate, learn to love - even though it's not confessed mutually, you can see it. Especially when he lets her go -  for years, those wiser than me have said that True Love is letting someone go when that's what's best for them. Even though Belle's departure - before the words were spoken - spelled his 'doom,' the Beast let her go. When she reaches up and touches his cheek in parting - my heart breaks a little. You can see the love in his eyes, and the effort the sacrifice cost him. He's reached the turning point, and his whole future lies in the hands of Belle. I love that as big, strong and powerful as he is - he is dependent entirely on the power of Love.

But I keep coming back to the question: Why? And the closest I can come to fully answering is - because he is. He is imperfect and 'horrible' and has a host of issues. But he fights back, he refuses to let his past determine his future, and he recognizes that he must change. When he finds a Lady worthy of winning, he does try - awkwardly at first, but practice makes perfect. Underneath all the fur and teeth and snarling, he has a heart of gold, waiting patiently for the moment it can be revealed. And yet, he wins the heart of his lady before his human magnificence is restored. He wins her trust, her respect, her love - as a Beast. I guess it's the ultimate fairy tale, really, showing the power of love to see beyond the appearance, and finding your heart's answer in an unexpected place. This is a fairy tale anyone can relate to, with a Hero who just may be waiting for you around the next corner - probably not a hairy animal-ish thing, but surprising? Definitely.

Why do I love the Beast? Because he reminds me that sometimes Heroes are not riding white chargers or tromping around in big boots looking Princely. Sometimes Heroes are right there, hidden behind a 'disguise of enchantment', and maybe - just maybe - I need to open my eyes to see past what I see. Plus, let's be honest, how can you not love a Hero so big, strong and furry? He'd totally keep you warm in the winter. And, he's got a sweet castle - I want the library, and the room they waltz in, 'k?thanks! Ahem. Not that those reasons are superior to his heart or character, I'm just sayin'.

This post has gotten long, but exploring the idea of the Beast, and why I love him so, is an interesting one ... Don't forget to check out the other blogs! We're each covering a different Disney hero!


  1. Love your point about a hero being hidden behind a disguise, and seeing past it.

    And of course, loving the Beast is right in line with your Chewbacca/Han ideal - it's like the got merged into ONE person!

  2. The moment in this movie that just melts me is his stammer when he tells her, "Then... then, you must go." That little hitch in his voice tells you exactly how hard those words are to say, but he stands aside and does what's best for her. That's a true hero--just as much as Flynn being willing to die rather than allow Rapunzel to stay in Mother Gothel's clutches.

  3. Yep Flynn is a hot second to the Beast.

    The thing that is so charming about him is that even when he is tempermental you can just see the desire to be nicer. Belle just makes him want to be better. Sigh!