When I was writing The Beast, I did a LOT of research on the various retellings of the story that were already available. I wanted to make sure that I wasn’t just spouting the same thing readers were already familiar with, and I didn’t want to do something that someone else already did.
These are the best versions of Beauty and the Beast that I read and watched during my research. If you get a chance to check them out (as well as my own version, if I can leave a shameless plug), I want to hear your thoughts. Why do you think fairy tale retellings are so popular? Do you prefer if the work sticks to the elements of the story, or do you like it when the work takes it in a new direction? If there’s one thing you should definitely know about me, is that I LOVE discussing books. One day, I would love to set up a Google Hangout where I can interact with readers about the various books they’re reading and other things going on in the world of literature. If you would be interested in such a thing, hit me up via email. We will make it happen, even if it’s just a few of us!
For now, onto the main event:
10) Beastly by Alex Flinn
This is a very sugary version of Beauty and the Beast that sticks closely to the Disney side more than the le Prince de Beaumont side. This version takes place in the modern world where cell phones and Facebook exist. It doesn’t always work; a lot of the character development feels geared more toward sending a message than any natural progression of things. The Beast character also starts out as such a caricature that it’s hard to believe his inner transformation. Also, sometimes the romance can come off as both cheesy and creepy. But if you can get over some of the more awkward parts, you might enjoy this. It’s a short, easy read. Pro tip: Avoid the movie at all cost.
9) The Rose and the Beast by Francesca Lia Block
If any of you have ever read anything by Lia Block, you know that her writing is very dream-like and strange, and this book is no different! It’s a compilation of different fairy tale stories told in Lia Block’s unique style. Most of the stories are very dark and stick more to the original Grimm style than the light Disney style most are accustomed to. Lia Block’s version of Beauty and the Beast delves more into the bestial psyche that Beauty starts to develop, and even hints at her possible sexual feelings for the Beast. The images are very bizarre and in your face and bleak, but it’s no less fascinating. I’d recommend this if you like your tales on the darker side.
8) Beauty and the Beast (1987-1990)
It’s a concept that utterly shouldn’t work: the beauty is a detective who, after a traumatizing incident, somehow finds herself in the beast’s underground world. Oh, and it takes place in late 80s New York. But once you start watching, it’s kind of hard to stop. Much like Alex Flinn’s version, this show can err on the cheesy side. But there’s something about it that’s utterly charming. Also, there’s no magic in this world, so the Beast’s existence is a mystery. The only thing I don’t like about this show is Catherine Chandler, the Beauty in this world. She can come off as kind of clueless/heartless sometimes. But I do appreciate her ability to handle herself in a fight. Honestly, I wouldn’t pick a fight with Linda Hamilton regardless. Did you see her in Terminator??? Another thing that weakened this show? Season 3, the final season. I won’t dare spoil why. By the way, avoid, avoid, AVOID the remake of this classic 80s show. Stick to this.
7) Beauty and the Beast: A Latter-Day Tale
I know what you’re going to say: “AR, that looks GOD-awful!” (No pun intended, I’m sure.) Look, I have nothing against religion. If you believe, that’s your business. What I don’t like is things that try to make me feel guilty for not having the same beliefs as anyone else. I grew up going to a Catholic School, and if you know anything about Catholic School, you know that no matter what you do, you’re going to hell. I know people are touchy about “religious entertainment” in general, but you have to believe me when I say this is good. It’s not The Prince of Egypt good, but it’s good in its own right. Does it have it’s problems? Yes. It’s cheesy sometimes, there’s no actual beast in it, just your average rich guy jerk, the moral of the story sledgehammers you in the face, and the Gaston character is just SO CREEPY. BUT, the Beast character in this has an actual character arc that’s told very subtly. And despite the title, religion almost has no factor in it, other than a copy of the Bible making an appearance. I can understand why people write this off. It only takes very little elements from the Disney movie. Still, I find it enjoyable enough. Plus, the mountain location they picked is utterly lovely.
6) Beauty and the Beast by Marie Le Prince de Beaumont
The original most people have read, but not THE original. I never read the adult story that had way too many dream sequences and was bloated with a lot of description from what I heard. I don’t remember the author’s name, and I can’t find it, so if somebody does, let me know. Either way, this is the classic version, so you definitely can’t go wrong with it.
5) Beast by Donna Jo Napoli
This version takes place in Persia where the first recorded version of Beauty and the Beast was supposedly written. In this version, the Beast character is a full blown lion who can’t talk, but understands human emotions. He is cursed by a djinn after making a fatal error during a ceremony. The Beast character often wrestles with his dwindling humanity as he wanders around with a lion clan. Honestly, when he finds the house he eventually meets Belle in, it gets less interesting. Not many people like this version because there are pages and pages of him with this lion clan. But the writing is lovely, poetic even, and I loved reading about the Persian culture. I’d check this one out just for those elements, but I won’t blame you if you can’t get into it.
4) Beauty by Robin McKinley
My personal inspiration for my version of this fairy tale. This is a version I’d say is very close to perfection. Beauty herself is a force to be reckoned with. She takes no nonsense from anyone, but she is also very kind and very smart. There’s a lot of magical elements incorporated here, and a lot of it may be hard to wrap your mind around because none of it is ever really explained. The writing, however, is just lovely. Beauty’s voice is captured PERFECTLY in this version. The only reason why this isn’t top three is because it takes a LOT of pages before she even meets The Beast, and this version sometimes feels like an expanded version of the Le Prince de Beaumont story. But the world McKinley created here is purely magical. Read it and get swept away.
3) Beauty and the Beast (1991)
You had to know this was going to show up in the list somewhere, right? Some of you are probably raging that this isn’t number one, but even though this is my number one favorite Disney movie, there are slightly better versions of the story for me. This is the version that practically EVERYONE has seen, and for good reason. It’s beautiful, poignant, heartbreaking, romantic, whimsical, and above all else, magical. AND CAN WE TALK ABOUT THAT BALLROOM SCENE FOR A MOMENT? One of the most gloriously romantic scenes in movie history, at least for me. Nothing has been able to top that moment. If for some reason you haven’t been swept away by this majestic movie, you need to see this NOW. Either the extended version with the extra song, or the original. You’re never too old to watch this.
2) Beauty and the Beast by Max Eilenberg, Illustrated by Angela Barrett
The reason why you want to read this version? The words and the images blend perfectly together. No kidding, I nearly made this version number one, but there was one version that I liked just a LITTLE more once I thought about it. Instead of going gaga over what I absolutely love about this version enough to read it several times, I’m going to leave you with this, and if this doesn’t convince you to find a copy, then I don’t know what will (note, if you can’t read, click on the image and you should be able to get a larger version):
- Le Belle et la Bete (1946)
This is the black and white film that practically blew everybody’s minds back then with all it’s visual effects and technical wizardry. Despite being decades old, the visual stuff still holds up today better than anything CGI. This version is essentially nature versus man, with the Beast character fighting against his other nature. Every time he hunts an animal, his hands smoke. All of the actors are just awesome in their portrayals, especially Jean Marais as the Beast who is all at once mysterious, remorseful, funny, and romantic. Sometimes all at once in one scene. The castle is just as fantastically designed as the one in the Disney version, with rooms that play tricks on not only Beauty herself, but the viewer. It also feels like a more mature Beauty and the Beast version, with the Beast character sometimes acting more animal than man. At first, I lamented the fact that this was all only in black and white, but as I kept watching, I thought that color wasn’t really needed. The movie is absolutely beautiful! If you don’t touch any other versions I’ve listed, this is an absolute MUST, even if you aren’t particularly fond of the fairy tale. And if you are upset with the fact that I picked a movie and not a book as number one, just keep in mind the movie is in French and you have to read the subtitles. =)
So that’s my list. Do you agree/disagree? What are some of your favorite versions of the tale, or any fairy tale? Shoot me an email or leave a comment below.