Once upon a time there was a very rich man who lived with his three daughters. The two older daughters laughed at anyone who did not dress as well as they did. If the two of them were not resting at home, they were out shopping for as many fine dresses and hats as they could carry home.
The youngest daughter, Beauty, loved to read. “Your nose is always in a book,” her two older sisters said. They laughed. “No one will want you! Look at your hair. You look like a servant girl!” Beauty did not know why they were so mean. But she said nothing.
One day, the father got some bad news. He had spent all of his money on a ship that he sent out to sea for trade. Now he learned the ship was gone! Everything on it was lost. All at once, the rich father became as poor as poor could be.
The family could no longer stay in their big house. The fine house, its fine tables and chairs, and all of their fine things, had to be sold.
One day, the father got some very bad news.
All the father had left was a little hut, deep in the woods. So that is where he and his three daughters had to move.
Living in the hut in the woods was hard work. Each day a fire had to be started, meals cooked, the place cleaned up, the garden tended, and things needed fixing when they broke. Now that the family was poor, you might think the two older sisters would help out. Think again.
“She looks like such a mess,” they said, turning up their noses at Beauty. “She might as well serve us.” And so Beauty did all the hard work. The sisters slept late, took naps, and showed up for meals.
“She looks such a mess,” they said, turning up their noses.
Then – good news! – the father’s ship came to shore!
“My daughters!” said the happy father. “I am going to town. Tell me what fine gift I can bring back for you.”
“Bring me the best dress from the best shop in town,” said the oldest sister.
“I want one just like it,” said the middle sister.
“And you, Beauty?” he said.
“All I want, Father,” she said, “is a rose.”
“Can you believe her?” said the eldest sister.
“What a fool!” said the middle sister. And they both laughed.
“Girls!” said the father. “If that is what Beauty wants, that is what I will bring for her.”
“All I want, Father,” said she, “is a rose.”
The father was on his way home when he thought, “Oh my! I forgot all about the rose for Beauty!” All at once, the sky turned black. “Dear, me! A storm is coming!”
A moment later, heavy dark rains fell down hard from the sky. Soaking wet, the father saw a blink of light far away. He went closer to the light. Maybe it was a place he could stay for the night. When he got up close, he saw that it was a large palace with candles in all its windows. Very odd, but the front door was open.
So, the father stepped inside.
“Hello?” he said. No answer.
There, before him, was a great feast on a long table.
“Hello?” he said again. Still no answer. He dared not touch any food on the table. The father sat down in front of the fire to warm himself. He waited. But no one came.
“I suppose it would be all right if I stayed the night,” said the father. “And maybe just one bite.” He took a quick bite from the feast. Then he found a bedroom and fell fast asleep.
“Hello?” he said. No answer.
The next morning the table was laid again, but this time with breakfast. Again – most odd! – no one was there. “I suppose I should leave now,” said the father.
On the way out, he passed a rose garden. “Ah, I was to bring Beauty a rose!” he remembered. “I will take just one.” And he picked a rose for Beauty.
Just then, a loud stomp came up from behind.
Roared a voice – “You took my rose!”
The father spun around. There before him was an awful, huge monster. “I… I’m sorry!” he said. “I didn’t know.”
“How could you not know?” roared the Beast. “You will pay for this! You will die!”
The father fell on his knees. “Please!” he begged. “Do not kill me! I only picked the rose for one of my daughters.”
“You will pay for this!” the Beast yelled. “You will die!”
“You have daughters?” said the Beast. “Well. If one of them will come stay here in your place, I will let you go free. She must stay here forever. In three months, if none of them will come in your place, you must return yourself and take your punishment.”
When the father got home, Beauty could tell something was wrong. “What is it, Father?” she said.
“Oh, nothing,” he said. But she knew that was not true.
At last, the father told his girls what the Beast had said. “This all happened because I asked you to bring home a rose for me!” said Beauty. “I will go there in your place. Or else, you will die there.”
“No, I cannot allow that!” said the father. “I am old. I do not have much more time to live. You are young. You must not do this for me!”
But Beauty would not change her mind. And so two days later, the father took Beauty to the castle where the Beast lived.
“I will go there in your place. Or else, you will die there.”
“This is your daughter?” said the Beast, looking at Beauty.
“Yes, I am,” she said. “I will stay here for my father. And that means he is free to go. That is what you said.”
“Yes,” said the Beast.
At the Beast’s palace, the days were long. There was no one for Beauty to talk to, and no books to read. Every night at nine, the Beast would come for dinner. She would say nothing. After all, it is not easy to be a prisoner, even if you are at a palace. The Beast would only grunt.
Then one time at dinner the Beast made a little joke, and she smiled. Another time, he said something clever, and she looked him in the eye. After that, he would ask her about her day, and she would tell him.
The days were long and there was no one for Beauty to talk to.
One day, Beauty came to a part of the palace she had not seen before. Over a door was a sign, “Beauty’s Room.” The door was open. Inside the room were shelves of books from the floor to the ceiling. There was a piano, and a cabinet of fine dresses just her size.
Now there was much to talk about at dinner! The Beast was glad that Beauty found the room and liked her surprise. One night, at the end of dinner, Beast said, “Beauty, I love you. Will you marry me?”
Beauty did not know what to say. “Beast, I have come to like it better here,” she said. “Talking to you can be the best part of the day. But please understand. I don’t want you to marry you.”
Many times, the Beast asked her the same question. And each time Beauty shook her head and said the same thing. One night, the Beast said, “Beauty, if you will not marry me, what can I do to make you happy?”
“If you must know,” she said, “it would be to see my father. I miss him so much!”
“Beast, I have come to like it better here,” she said. “Talking to you can be the best part of the
day. But please understand. I don’t want to marry you.
The next night, the Beast gave Beauty two magical gifts – a mirror and a ring. “If you want to see your father,” he said, “just ask the magic mirror to take you to him. When you are ready to come back, turn the ring on your finger three times. Ask the mirror to bring you back here. But please do not be gone for more than one week. For I will die of grief!”
Beauty was glad to agree. When she got back to her room, she looked in the magic mirror. She asked the mirror to take her to him. And there he was in bed right before her. Yet he looked so sick, it was as if he may die!
“But do not be gone for more than one week. Or I will die of grief!”
Such joy her father felt when he looked up and saw Beauty! For much of what made him sick was knowing that Beauty was stuck in the palace, all because of him.
Beauty stayed by her father’s bed for many hours. She told him that things were not quite so bad at the Beast’s palace. She had all the books she could want to read. She had music to play, and many fine dresses to wear.
“The Beast is really not so bad,” she said, “when you get to know him. He can be good to talk to.”
Beauty looked around. “Where are my sisters?”
“Married,” said her father.
“Did they marry good men?” she said.
“They had money,” said the father. “But I do not know if your sisters are happy.” For the eldest sister had married a handsome man who thought of no one but himself. And the middle sister had married a man who was very clever. But he used his sharp wit to hurt everyone around him, and most of all his wife.
Beauty looked around. “Where are my sisters?” she said.
When the sisters came to the house and saw Beauty dressed so well and talking about how kind and good the Beast was to her, they burned with anger. Beauty told them she must stay no more than one week.
And the two sisters came up with a plan.
The sisters petted Beauty and said such nice things to her they had never said before. When she told them she must go soon, they cried. They said she must not leave! There was still so much left they wanted to do with her. And what did it matter anyway, just a few more days? So Beauty stayed.
One night she had a dream about the Beast. In her dream, the Beast lay sick and dying. When Beauty woke up, she asked the magic mirror to show her the Beast. And there he was in the mirror, lying in the rose garden, looking so sick he would die. At once, she turned the magic ring three times. “Take me back to the Beast!” she said. In a moment she was sitting next to the poor, sick Beast, who could only gasp for air.
In her dream, the Beast lay sick and dying.
“You came back!” said the Beast in a thick voice.
“I am sorry that I am late!” said Beauty.
“I could not bear it that you may not come back to me. And now, I fear it is too late.” His eyes closed.
“No!” cried Beauty. “Do not leave me!” Just then, she knew in her heart what was true. “I love you!” she cried out. “Please come back! Come back and I will be your wife. I will!” Tears rolled down her cheeks.
Just then, the Beast opened his eyes. “Beauty!” he said. “You did it!”
In a flash, the Beast was changed to a handsome prince! Beauty did not know what to think.
“Ah, Beauty!” he said. And the Beast told her his story. Years ago when he was a prince, an evil fairy had put a spell on him. He must stay a beast forever, until a maiden grew to love him when he still looked like a Beast. Now she had been the one to break the spell!
And so Beauty and her prince, formerly the Beast, were married. And they lived happily ever after.