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Aside from the three (3) novel retellings of Beauty and the Beast I chose for Project: Fairy Tale, I also included two short story retellings by Angela Carter, as recommended by Amanda @ Late Nights with Good Books. For now, I’ll be discussing The Courtship of Mr. Lyon first. This short story is part of Angela Carter’s novel, The Bloody Chamber.
To give you a brief background, the story begins with Beauty staring out the window anxiously waiting for her father to come home. Then the scene shifts to her father who gets stuck on the middle of the snow far from home, who couldn’t even contact Beauty of his situation. He just comes from the meeting with his lawyers with regards to his lost fortune. He also feels dismayed that he couldn’t get a single white rose for his daughter’s request.
And then he stumbles upon an enchanted house with no servants but a King Charles spaniel dog who accompanies him throughout his stay. After his needs are provided, he soon leaves for home. On his way out, he sees a single white rose and when he plucks it, a creature with the head of a lion appears. The father explains and shows a picture of Beauty to the Beast. The Beast agrees to let the father go, but asks to bring Beauty to his home for dinner.
Everything goes well, but the Beast’s stature still frightens Beauty, so he decides to help her by gaining their fortune back. The Beast lets the father go to London in exchange for leaving Beauty behind to stay with him.
As Beauty spends her time in Beast’s house, she slowly begins to enjoy the Beast’s company, conversing with him like she’s known him for a long time. And every night as their talk ends, the Beast would walk up to Beauty and kiss her hand.
The time comes when Beauty receives a call from her father, telling her the good news that their fortune is back. The Beast agrees to let Beauty go, accepting her promise that she’ll be back before winter is over. So Beauty leaves and since then, begins to live her life in luxury once again. She sends the Beast some white roses, but more often, she enjoys her current state of living.
Then one day, the King Charles spaniel visits her but looking far from what it did before and then she suddenly remembers her promise as spring comes, so she immediately leaves for Beast’s place. Upon arriving, she finds the Beast on the bed, on the verge of death. Beauty, then, confesses her feelings for the Beast and kisses his paws. When her tears fall on his face, the Beast transforms to a man, still resembling the face of a lion. And they live happily ever after.
There you have it. Fascinating, isn’t it? I included some pictures to better illustrate the story. It’s a bit different, but Angela Carter retains the basic elements found in the original tale. I love how Carter incorporates the story to the modern setting and it just flows naturally until the end. Even the setting gives out a dark feel to it – with the snow and everything.
Aside from the modern setting, one can also observe that only Beauty and her father are mentioned as a family. Their fortune is also lost, but no details are mentioned on how and why they lost it. Moreover, as compared to the other retellings, as well as to the original tale, the Beast in the short story is given a vivid description of his appearance. In this case, he is likened to a lion. I believe Angela Carter decides to do this in order for us to better understand the frightened feeling of Beauty towards the Beast. If you’ve read the story, there’s a part where Beauty paralleled herself in the situation as the lamb.
If I’m not mistaken, symbolism is also vastly used in the story as well. For one, the lamb itself perfectly depicts Beauty’s appearance we clearly know that the lamb’s fleece is as white as snow. At the beginning, Beauty is also described as someone with the skin as white as snow. Moreover, the season not only shows changes in weather, but in the story, it symbolizes a change of life, too. As winter changes to spring, so has Mr. Lyon’s life changed and perhaps Beauty’s life as well. I also mentioned Beauty because despite the fact that she’s a good person, she clearly wouldn’t accept to let go of her past life of luxury. This is evident in the part where after learning that their fortunes have returned, Beauty is more willing to be indulged in it than spend time with the Beast.
Overall, I enjoyed reading this story even though it’s just short. It’s nice to read something different once in a while for a change. If this will be made into a novel, I’d definitely be buying it. I’m eager to know the story behind Mr. Lyon’s transformation into a beast and how enchantment is involved, since it’s not explained well in the story.
**Illustrations created by Hazel Fisher on DeviantART**