Through the stories told, and their variations, readers are allowed a
glimpse into the interactions between parents and children, and parents'
motivation for specific actions in regards to their children. Tatar
explains that "the desire for wealth motivates parents to turn their
daughters over to a beast points to the possibility that these tales
mirror social practices of another age" (1999, p. 27).
It seems that the story of "Beauty and the Beast" was used as a means,
an outlet for those women stuck in an arranged marriage, seeing their
husbands metaphorically as "beasts." These stories, especially those
that involve parents trying to convince--even to the point of
begging--people to marry their children, shows how preoccupied these
parents were either with bride-price, or giving into the whims of their
Tatar discusses the de Beaumont version of "Beauty and the Beast"
specifically, stating that "Beauty and the Beast not only endorses the
importance of obedience and self-denial, but also uses the tale to
preach the transformative power of love..." (1999, p. 27). This
statement caught my attention because of the idea that loving someone
despite their faults causes them to appear better in one's eyes,
transforming them into the kind of person that they "should" be. In
terms of the story, this transformation is a physical one, where the
princes shed their monstrous skin and become the handsome prince that
they believe the princess deserves, suggesting that beauty is directly
associated with people of solid ethics and morals.
I think the animated film Shrek, which reverses the archetype, is
an equally interesting take on "the transformative power of love"
(Tatar, 1999, p. 27). This physically altering power changes both
characters into the ogre, the character often portrayed in an
antagonistic role. It is the goal of Shrek to take the archetype,
the formula everyone knows, and turn it on its head. Even the characters
are aware of the archetype--see Princess Fiona's surprise when the
result of her "true love's kiss" does not transform him into the
handsome prince, but transforms her into the monster as well.
Cox, P.F. (Producer) & Adamson, A. and Jensen, V. (Directors). (2001).
Shrek (Motion Picture). United States: Dreamworks.
Tatar, M. (1999). The Classic Fairy Tales.. New York: W. W.
Norton & Co.