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Aside from The Courtship of Mr. Lyon, this is another Beauty and the Beast short story retelling by Angela Carter under The Bloody Chamber novel. A warning, though, this is not intended for younger readers.
The story begins with the main character narrating her journey from Russia to Italy (North to South). Coming from the North, she is expecting that the South would be warmer, but then, winter comes with them, so they have to endure the cold again. As they do so, the main character watches her father play a game of cards with the Beast.
Eventually, her father loses everything to the Beast up to the point of even betting his own daughter in the gamble that ended with him losing her to the Beast as well. The father is left empty-handed while the main character is asked to live in the Beast’s estate.
The Beast, as the girl observed, is clothed like a man and wears a mask faced like a man as well. The main character notices that the Beast attempts to act human despite the awkwardness it shows while trying to avoid staying down on all fours. Moving on, the main character is frightened of what the Beast might do to her, as she recalls the peculiar stories about half-men-half-beast her nursemaid would tell her about. Upon entering the Beast’s home, everything’s a mess. She sees frames with portraits faced on the wall instead of the other way around. The horses live in the living room, and the windows and doors are broken, too.
Later on, the Beast summons the girl, and the valet explains that the Beast’s only wish is to see her naked. If this happens, the girl is free to go. Unfortunately, the girl declines the offer, also bravely telling the Beast that it’s up to him how much he’d give her in exchange of her nakedness. The Beast feels ashamed and she is led to a windowless room that resembles a prison cell. Afterwards, the valet gives her a diamond earring, but she throws it into the corner.
Then the valet invites the girl to go for a ride, so the three of them ride horses around the vicinity. When they take rest, the girl still doesn’t want to expose her body to the Beast; thus, the valet dares her to see the Beast naked instead. The Beast obliges and exposes himself as a tiger. Afterwards, the girl shows the top portion of her body. The Beast immediately leaves together with the valet to hunt. Upon returning home, the girl sees her father through the mirror that his fortunes are back. And marking his word, the Beast lets the girl go. The girl ponders and realizes that she doesn’t want to leave, so she once again strips naked and goes to the Beast’s room. The story ends with the Beast licking off the skin of the girl that soon replaces into fur.
Okay, before I start, I would like to say that this is just a rough summary of the story to give you guys an idea what it is about. To be honest, I don’t think my summary would do justice to what the complex story really intends to convey, since I haven’t been able to include all the details that might have been crucial to the story. Therefore, it’s still better to read the original one than solely base your understanding on my summary.
I can confidently say that The Tiger’s Bride is the most complicated, darkest, mature retelling of Beauty and the Beast I’ve ever read. Admittedly, I had a bit of a hard time comprehending the story that after reading it, I had to do a little research online and read a longer version of the summary to confirm my understanding of the story.
Moving on, Angela Carter pretty much veers away from the original Beauty and the Beast tale in that she chooses to create something of her own while she utilizes a wide range of symbolism throughout the story to portray the dark reality of humanity. But of course, she still retains the rose, the girl, the Beast and his castle/home.
Angela Carter evidently gives emphasis on the dehumanization of women in the society we often choose to ignore. This is shown when the main character’s father sold her like an object to the Beast when he loses in the gambling, also referring her to a pearl of great value. This situation doesn’t just happen in books as the reality offer us a darker truth where women are treated as objects and are sold in ordinary transactions or for the purpose of satisfying one’s sexual desire.
Moreover, the main character has just entered the stage of adulthood that the idea of being naked in front of the Beast and imagining having (pardon my word here) sex with him give her the shudders. The white rose tainted with her blood which she gives to her father before she leaves symbolizes purity and virginity that will soon be destroyed by lust and she hates her father for what happens.
However, as the story progresses, she soon realizes that to be strong and to break the stereotypical society, she needs to face her vulnerability and weakness. Therefore, she slowly exposes her body to the Beast, revealing everything she’s afraid of. I guess this act strengthened her individualism more and with the help of the Beast, both of them begin to accept their new own stronger selves with equality.
At a glance, this story might seem a bit boring to some, but overall, if we choose to look at it in a different light and discuss and analyze it deeper, The Tiger’s Bride will surely offer us a unique story relevant to our lives as well as to the society.
**Illustrations created by Joanna Barnum on DeviantART**