Fiction: “Beauty” by Robin McKinley

I think I decided I wanted to reread this sometime during the time I was reading the Fables graphic novel compilations. I know I’ve read this at least once before in my lifetime, and I greatly remember attempting to complete the book at least three times prior to that first completion. I figured Hey, it should be easier to read this time around, right?

Well, in terms of reading level, yeah. I think I got my original copy of Beauty back when I was eight or nine? Maybe? I got as far as the end of the second part, and then gave up. Each time.

I did take a pause in Beauty this time around, but only for a couple of days (homework got in the way). And the impression I am left with is twofold: 1) Why did I try so hard to finish reading this the first time around, and 2) What’s with the Beast?

Oh right: Beauty is listed as “A Retelling of the Story of Beauty & The Beast.” Now, maybe it’s because I’ve kind of grown towards stories that have the plot but in a different setting, or, different characteristics. But this story is pretty much the same story everyone knows: Family with a rather plain daughter lives/moves to the country; father gets lost in the woods one day, comes home and says that because he took something that seems worthless (but was worth a lot), he must now send his daughter to live in this abandoned castle with a beast for the rest of her life. Father agonizes – No! Not my daughter! -, but she goes nearly willingly. The Beast is scary, but they overcome. Daughter returns to her father when she finds he’s been sick, Beast hopes she’ll return but doesn’t hold hope. She does return, but Beast is dying, and when she professes her love for him, he turns into a prince.

Here’s the problem I have rereading this particular retelling: The Beast? Not scary! He isn’t even described as being all that hideous. He speaks pleasantly, is very polite with Beauty, and she takes a shining to him very quickly. When she goes back to visit her family to tell her sister that her sister’s fiance has returned from being presumed dead, he lets her go with nary a fight. When she comes back in a week, he’s nice about the fact that she took her damn time and he almost died, and then finally, she admits that she loves him, and he turns into a prince.

I dunno – maybe I’m totally used to the Disney version of Beauty and the Beast (which I totally need to watch again, I’m not even kidding – and I will, as soon as this friggin’ rewatch of Lost is over, and, sidebar, aren’t you guys supposed to tell me when my ideas are stupid?), but the Beast is supposed to be scary. He’s supposed to have descended into animal-dom, not act like a man in a really big fur suit. Beauty is supposed to be able to make him want to be a man again.

Overall, I was rather … disappointed. For once, Disney did something right and made a movie better than the book. I know; I’m shocked, too.

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