Beauty And The Beast by Carter and Schroeder

Beauty and the Beast is a strongly mythic tale: A girl goes on a journey and ultimately finds her true self.

Beauty and the Beast front cover Beauty and the Beast back cover

 

See: What Is Mythic Structure?

Beauty and the Beast is a tale featuring multiple levels of misogyny and much has already been said about that. For example, Was Disney’s Beauty and the Beast Re-Tooled Because Belle Wasn’t Enough Of A Feminist? Angela Carter has rewritten the tale in a way that feminists may find cathartic. It’s called The Courtship of Mr. Lyon and can be found in Carter’s collection of feminist fairytales retold: The Bloody Chamber.

The Bloody Chamber Angela Carter includes Beauty and the Beast revisioning

In this version, intelligently illustrated by German artist Binette Schroeder in the mid 1980s, the coincidentally similarly named Anne Carter retells a tale which — I was surprised to learn — dates only so far back as the mid 1700s. This is a ‘literary fairy tale’, meaning that unlike a ‘true’ fairy tale, it did not originate from any oral tradition (unlike a tale such as Little Red Cap, for instance). It was written by a French governess who had the most erudite sounding name it almost sounds fictional in its own right: Mme Jeanne-Marie Leprince de Beaumont.

That said, Anne Carter explains in the afterword that this tale is quite similar to a Greek myth about Cupid and Psyche called The Golden Ass. This dates from the second century A.D. Both stories feature:

  • the palace
  • nasty sisters
  • the return home

The main differences:

  • In the Greek myth the monster turns out to be merely invisible
  • Psyche’s is a journey towards intellectual/spiritual love; Beauty’s is a journey towards understanding the difference between the superficial and the real.

The main differences between the original tale by Mme LePrince de Beaumont and many modern retellings is that the original author

  1. Wrote the tale for adults, not children
  2. Emphasised that what makes for a good partnership is respect, understanding and the ability to see past your partner’s superficial charm and into their deeper soul. Modern retellings tend to sensationalise the romance.

Anne Carter’s retelling is not in any way subversive, but the afterword is definitely worth a read because it puts the story in historical context.

STORY STRUCTURE OF “BEAUTY AND THE BEAST”

WEAKNESS/NEED

With a modern reading, Beauty is indeed a flawed character. She is far too willing to please. But to a contemporary audience, Beauty was perfection itself. A model of feminine virtue, sacrificing herself to the needs of the men around her and acquiescing to her older sisters in the family hierarchy.

It’s possible that Beauty’s mother died in childbirth. I think that because she is the youngest in a large family and because women often died in childbirth in the 1700s. Perhaps Beauty’s ‘ghost’ or backstory, is that she feels guilt for bringing this misfortune upon the family, and why she feels she needs to be her father’s stand-in female companion in his old age.

DESIRE

Beauty wants to stay with her father and be his loyal companion.

OPPONENT

Beauty’s opponents are her older sisters.

Below, we see how psychologically separate the sisters are from the heroine. There are not one but two frames (doorways) between them; the sisters are from another world entirely.

beauty sewing with dog
Notice how the dog — its eyes, its colouring and its open mouth — look very much like the Beast when we meet him in the night garden. If this dog can love Beauty, so can the similar-looking Beast, apparently. Note also the bird, depicted in the same pink and greys as Beauty — who chooses not to fly away even though the cage is open.

The Beast appears to be an opponent but we find out he is a false-enemy ally.

Here's the Beast, looking very much like Beauty's little dog. He is depicted in this story as a chimera. Even more terrifyingly, his castle is full of chimeras -- most startlingly, the table with leopard legs.
Here’s the Beast, looking very much like Beauty’s little dog. He is depicted in this story as a chimera. Even more terrifyingly, his castle is full of chimeras — most startlingly, the table with leopard legs.

table chimera

PLAN

When Father returns with the news that one of his daughters must marry a terrifying Beast, Beauty offers herself as sacrifice, feeling that the rose incident, too, is her fault.

It’s worth remembering that Christianity in the 1700s looked a bit more like modern-day fundamentalist Islam in the respect that the devout really, truly believed that if they lived their lives according to the word of God, they would find themselves in a Heavenly paradise. When Beauty sacrifices herself to the Beast it is clear that she believes she is going there to die. But she also believes she will end up in celestial Heaven due to having been good all her life.

The Hans Christian Andersen tales are based on the same belief. That’s why the ending of The Little Match Girl, who dies from hypothermia and goes to meet her grandmother in Heaven, was written to be a ‘happy ending’, and the evolution of Christian belief is why modern young readers usually fail to find it so.

The atrium with its glass ceiling gives the characters a direct view of the Heavens. The stairway symbolises Beauty's ascent to Heaven. That's where she thinks she's going, after all.
The atrium with its glass ceiling gives the characters a direct view of the Heavens. The stairway symbolises Beauty’s ascent to Heaven. That’s where she thinks she’s going, after all.

BATTLE

The Battle is a Christian-like test. The Beast (in god-like fashion) is testing Beauty when he allows her to go home to visit her natal family. Will she come back or not?

It is the Beast who goes to the edge of death rather than the beautiful and noble Beauty.

SELF-REVELATION

As Anne Carter says in the afterword: ‘for Beauty the challenge is to move from the superficial to the real, to see through the loathsome outward appearance to the goodness within. Only then, when Beauty knows and loves the virtue of her Beast, can the transformation take place.

Dreams and revelations are prominent in this tale. Self-revelation is delivered via dream.
Dreams and revelations are prominent in this tale. Self-revelation is delivered via dream.

NEW EQUILIBRIUM

Beauty and the prince were married in great state and lived together throughout the length of their lives in the most perfect and deserved happiness.

 

See Also

Even going by the most generous estimates, Mrs. Potts, the Beast’s faithful housekeeper, is clearly way too goddamn old to have given birth to her “son,” Chip. […] 

A Theory That Will Change How You See Beauty And The Beast

Honest Movie Trailer for the Emma Watson adaptation

The Beauty and the Beast. Illustrator – Margaret Evans Price

Beauty and the Beast taught me that I can be just an awful shitmongrel and still expect a beautiful woman to find and save me if I accidentally start doing the least. Am I doing this right

Studio Glibly

Stockholm syndrome is often mentioned in relation to Beauty of Beauty and the Beast, but Pop Culture Detective makes an argument in favour of avoiding that term, because it heaps undue blame on the female victim, assuming she has been brainwashed. In fact, these characters show great resilience in the face of extreme abuse.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t8xL7w1POZ0

Rules Of Summer by Shaun Tan Story Structure

On the surface, Shaun Tan’s award-winning picture book Rules Of Summer is simply a list of rules. Below I take a look at how Rules Of Summer is in fact a complete narrative.

There is also a message here. Readers are asked to wonder: What are the real rules of summer? Play together. Use your imaginations. Work out your differences.

rules of summer cover

 

STORY STRUCTURE OF RULES OF SUMMER

Does this picturebook — more like a coffee table book of art in some ways — follow the universal seven steps of narrative, as outlined by John Truby? Yes, it does, though it requires the reader to provide some of that story. Shaun Tan doesn’t hand it to us on a plate.

WEAKNESS/NEED

Two brothers are faced with a long summer and they must learn to entertain themselves and how to get along.

DESIRE

They want to have fun

OPPONENT

Each other

PLAN

They turn everyday situations into imaginary scenarios to fight the boredom of long, never-ending days of summer holidays.

BATTLE

Notice the pictures get darker. Especially the skies.

They have a fist-fight. The older brother wins. The younger brother feels isolated as he waits for an apology.

SELF-REVELATION

If he waits long enough, the older brother will eventually come back to him. This emotional state is depicted as a snowy, cold landscape.

NEW EQUILIBRIUM

The boys sit together on the couch looking at the TV.

 

Sure enough, Rules Of Summer  is a complete narrative, and this is what makes the book resonant.

 

Nannies In Childen’s Literature

What is the difference between nannies and nurses? How do you pick the nanny in the illustrations of books for children? Easy. There was a dress code.

According to Life Below Stairs: True Lives of Edwardian Servants by Alison Maloney, Edwardian nannies had a strict dress code.

In the nursery, the nanny wore a white or grey cotton print dress and apron and, when out walking with the children, was permitted a black, navy or dark plum coat and a black straw bonnet. 

You can see examples of this dress code in children’s illustrations.

Nannies also wore black, like Wednesday Adams
What was the reason for nannies wearing black, do you think? Was it designed to not show up the lady of the house, in turn to wear fashionable colours? Was it a sign that she was unavailable as a sexual partner, same as a widow in mourning? Was it meant to render her invisible?

COMMON FEATURES OF STORIES WITH NANNIES

  • The parents are colourless and unremarkable except for their utter cluelessness.
  • The nanny might be actually magic, or seems to work magic due to being a ‘child whisperer’
  • The children are highly spirited tricksters
  • The nanny sees right through the children and although she may have a harsh exterior, has a heart of gold
  • The children are at least upper middle class
  • Nanny stories of the old-fashioned kind, set in large houses, are probably from an earlier era such as the Edwardian
  • The plots tend to be episodic rather than dramatic, with each day bringing a new adventure which is over and solved by bedtime. But there is still a character arc whereby the children become better behaved (or more morally upstanding) by the end of the story.
  • The magical nanny who arrives at the door, fixes the family’s problems then leaves is known as the Travelling Angel Trope. Therefore, nanny stories have something in common with traditional Westerns.
  • While books for middle grade tend to be of the Mary Poppins type, young adult literature includes stories in which the young person (woman) herself is the nanny: Nanny X by Madelyn Rosenberg, Confessions of a Teen Nanny by Victoria Ashton and The Nannies series by Melody Mayer are some examples. These stories are a great way to put a middle-class or poor girl in with wacky rich people, a storytelling trick which is always ripe for conflict.
  • New nanny stories often have Edwardian or Victorian settings. The Incorrigible Children of Ashton Place series is a middle grade example; Jane by April Lindner is a YA example of stories set in big, mysterious houses with strange goings-on.

THE NANNY MARY POPPINS

Mary Poppins by Mary Shepard_700x525
Mary Poppins as illustrated by Mary Shepard

See also: ‘Mary Poppins’ and a Nanny’s Shameful Flirting With Blackface’ from NYT

SWALLOWS AND AMAZONS

Swallows and Amazons Nanny
Nurse and Mother wave goodbye to the children
Petit frère : Little Brother by Marie de Bosguérard 1890

THE NANNY MRS PIGGLE-WIGGLE

Here we have a couple of different costumes for Mrs Piggle-Wiggle, but both times she wears the white apron with the black dress and her hair tied in a bun at the back.

Mrs Piggle-Wiggle

Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle was an eccentric lady that parents turned to when they became frustrated with their children’s misbehavior. The modern-day Super Nanny. Today Mrs Piggle-Wiggle would be the star of her own TV show.

Mrs Piggle-Wiggle’s advice: Let the child do what they want until their behaviour back-fires. Then she would tell the parents to do some nasty little trick that sends the kids running to the sanctity of good behaviour.

Mrs Piggle Wiggle's Farm

Mrs. Piggle Wiggle is a woman who lives in an upside down house in a town filled with misbehaving children. Luckily, Mrs. Piggle Wiggle is the proud owner of a magical chest left to her by her pirate husband, which contains a variety of very strange (but very effective) cures for things like bad table manners and truancy. We need more books like this today. Maybe then we wouldn’t have things like Honey Boo Boo Child.

Flavorwire

 

NANNIES, NURSES AND OTHER CHILD-RELATED EMPLOYEES

What was the difference? Were they the same person?

NANNY: An individual who provides care for one or more children in a family as a service. Traditionally, nannies were servants in large households and reported directly to the lady of the house. Nannies were outside the hierarchy of the rest of the service staff of a large household, as demonstrated by this chart from Life Below Stairs by Alison Maroney:

Edwardian Household Staff

See also: The place of the nanny in British society, with a close look at Mary Poppins.

To a young, modern reader, the word ‘nurse’ does refer to a person who works in a hospital or otherwise alongside doctors. Nurse no longer carries the meaning of caregiver of children in a home setting. This is probably why we have a movie franchise called Nanny McPhee and not Nurse Matilda.

NURSE MATILDA OR NANNY MCPHEE BY CHRISTIANNA BRAND

There were three Nurse Matilda books: Nurse Matilda, Nurse Matilda goes to Town, and Nurse Matilda Goes to Hospital. In Nurse Matilda/Nanny McPhee, a ‘governess’ (the word used in the modern advertising copy) uses magic to reign in the seven ne’er-do-well children in her charge who keep scaring off other household staff. Nurse Matilda is an ugly witch with a magic cane. Her ugliness represents the ugly characteristics that the children acquired in their short lives, making use of the Rule of Seven in storytelling. This is of course related to the idea of Seven Deadly Sins. For example, the sin of greed is exemplified when the naughty children eat too much porridge and jam and buns and bad-for-you things at breakfast. Nurse Matilda thumps her stick and the children keep eating and eating until their insides are filled with porridge and they all have stomachaches. The movie Se7en for kids?

Mr Brown in the films is a slightly hopeless, hardworking undertaker. In the books they haven’t killed off the mother — instead there is a ridiculously fecund Mr and Mrs Brown.

The Browns live in a large country house with a butler, cook and tweeny (Evangeline). In case you were wondering, a tweeny is a maid who assisted two other members of a domestic staff.

Nurse Matilda simply disappears ‘without explanation’ at the end of the third book. However, when considered in light of the travelling angel trope, her disappearance is entirely understandable. The enigmatic Nurse Matilda arrives when children need but don’t want her, but must go when they want but don’t need her, which lends poignancy and resonance to the ending. It is hoped the young reader, too, does not want Nurse Matilda to go.

There is a fairytale element to this series relating to beauty. Does Nurse Matilda really get less ugly (in a magical way) as the children learn to behave better, or do the children learn to look past her ugliness as they learn to love her? This is basically the message of The Frog Prince, in which young women are told to marry the man their father tells them to marry — don’t worry, even if he’s basically a toad you’ll learn to love him.

The Nurse Matilda books were illustrated by the author’s cousin, Edward Ardizzone.

OTHER RELATED TERMS

NURSEMAID: A nursemaid or nursery maid, is mostly a historical term of employment for a female servant employed in the field of the care of children within the community of a large household. The term ‘nursemaid’ has wide historical use, mostly related to servants charged with the actual care of children, including in many cases the duties of a wet nurse. In ancient usage the terms ‘nursemaid’ and ‘nurse’ are largely interchangeable. Everything that a parent ordinarily might do, especially the more onerous tasks, could be turned over to a nursemaid.

WET NURSE: a woman who breast feeds and cares for another’s child. Wet nurses are employed when the mother is unable or chooses not to nurse the child herself. In 17th- and 18th-century Britain, a woman would earn more money as a wet nurse than her husband could as a labourer. Royal wet nurse held special regard for life. The English wet-nurse in Victorian England was most likely a single woman who previously gave birth to an illegitimate child, and was looking for work in a profession that glorified the single mother. There were wet nurses who were on poor relief and struggled to sufficiently provide for themselves or their charges, and then there were professional wet nurses who were well paid and respected. The wet-nurse’s own child would likely be sent out to nurse, normally brought up by the bottle, rather than being breastfed.

GOVERNESS: While a nanny looked after the children in their baby and toddler years, a governess would be hired once the children required education. This could be from as young as three years of age. While boys were sent to school, girls often stayed home for their entire education. Sometimes the governess came from a quite well-off household herself, but for those women it was considered quite shameful to become a nanny, since it meant you were probably required to go out to work (and had failed to find a husband).

MODERN ENGLISH NANNIES IRL

The royal family not only dresses their children as if they’ve just stepped out of the Edwardian era; their nannies are also dressed from an earlier time.

Royal Nanny

When I lived in London on a working holiday visa, I spent about a month walking through the richest parts of London on my way to a course. At this time I’d see a lot of young primary school-aged children in their expensive private school uniforms and the women escorting them looked a little too young to be their mothers, and not at all related by facial features and colouring. After a while I realised these women weren’t the mothers but the nannies. They were otherwise dressed in regular smart casual attire.

There are still English families who employ butlers and other service staff. Here is a company who places them.

 

Characters Named Richard In Children’s Literature

Few names in history shine with so consistent a lustre as that of Richard; at first the little Duke, afterwards Richard aux longues jambes, but always Richard sans peur. This little sketch has only brought forward the perils of his childhood, but his early manhood was likewise full of adventures, in which he always proved himself brave, honourable, pious, and forbearing. But for these our readers must search for themselves into early French history, where all they will find concerning our hero will only tend to exalt his character.

— Charlotte M. Yonge 1872), pious children’s writer

aux longues jambes = long-legged

sans peur = fearless

The name Richard is a French baby name. In French the meaning of the name Richard is: Powerful; strong ruler. A Teutonic name from the European Middle Ages. England’s King Richard Coeur de Lion was a crusading knight.

SheKnows.com

Dicks

Spotted Dick And Custard

See: How Dick Came To Be Short For Richard.

In children’s literature from the 1900s and the first half of the 20th century, Dick was a fairly common name for a boy character. Obviously the word then grew another meaning and started to be avoided by children’s writers, and at the same time embraced by adults’ writers.

I Love Dick poster

Children’s writers also started avoiding the names Titty and Fanny, as did parents.

Take Dick from Famous Five. He is the beta-dog, second-in-line to Julian, who has the more regal name, but still above the girls in the pecking order.

There’s another Dick in Blyton’s Faraway Tree series. He comes to visit from the city in the second in the series. Although he’s a bit hapless and incredulous, he is treated with far more empathy by the author than Connie, who is depicted as a prissy, spoilt brat in Folk Of The Faraway Tree. In an updated version, the characters Dick and Fanny have been updated to Rick and Frannie. While Frannie seems to work still, Rick is a glaring anachronism; were any Richards shortened to Rick until recently?

Dick from the Dick and Jane series, 1940
Dick from the Dick and Jane series, 1940

There’s a Dick in Arthur Ransome’s Swallows and Amazons. Dick Callum is similar to the Famous Five Dick. He is a young astronomer, scientist, naturalist and master of the Scarab. Dick and his sister Dorothea Callum are often mentioned as a pair, the Ds.

Moby Dick

Related

Do you know who Poor Richard was?

In adult fiction there’s the Martha Grimes detective series, with the title character named Richard Jury.

The Man with a Load of Mischief cover

But otherwise, it seems to me you’re far more likely to find a Richard as a writer, illustrator, historical king or movie director than as a fictional character in a book these days.