Beauty and the
Beast by Charles Perrault
Once upon a time there lived a merchant who was exceedingly rich. He
had six childrenthree boys and three girlsand being a sensible man
he spared no expense upon their education, but engaged tutors of every
kind for them. All his daughters were pretty, but the youngest
especially was admired by everybody. When she was small she was known
simply as 'the little beauty,' and this name stuck to her, causing a
great deal of jealousy on the part of her sisters.
This youngest girl was not only prettier than her sisters, but very
much nicer. The two elder girls were very arrogant as a result of their
wealth; they pretended to be great ladies, declining to receive the
daughters of other merchants, and associating only with people of
quality. Every day they went off to balls and theatres, and for walks
in the park, with many a gibe at their little sister, who spent much of
her time in reading good books.
Now these girls were known to be very rich, and in consequence were
sought in marriage by many prominent merchants. The two eldest said
they would never marry unless they could find a duke, or at least a
count. But Beautythis, as I have mentioned, was the name by which the
youngest was knownvery politely thanked all who proposed marriage to
her, and said that she was too young at present, and that she wished to
keep her father company for several years yet.
Suddenly the merchant lost his fortune, the sole property which
remained to him being a small house in the country, a long way from the
capital. With tears he broke it to his children that they would have to
move to this house, where by working like peasants they might just be
able to live.
The two elder girls replied that they did not wish to leave the
town, and that they had several admirers who would be only too happy to
marry them, notwithstanding their loss of fortune. But the simple
maidens were mistaken: their admirers would no longer look at them, now
that they were poor. Everybody disliked them on account of their
arrogance, and folks declared that they did not deserve pity: in fact,
that it was a good thing their pride had had a falla turn at minding
sheep would teach them how to play the fine lady! 'But we are very
sorry for Beauty's misfortune,' everybody added; 'she is such a dear
girl, and was always so considerate to poor people: so gentle, and with
such charming manners!'
There were even several worthy men who would have married her,
despite the fact that she was now penniless; but she told them she
could not make up her mind to leave her poor father in his misfortune,
and that she intended to go with him to the country, to comfort him and
help him to work. Poor Beauty had been very grieved at first over the
loss of her fortune, but she said to herself:
'However much I cry, I shall not recover my wealth, so I must try to
be happy without it.'
When they were established in the country the merchant and his
family started working on the land. Beauty used to rise at four o'clock
in the morning, and was busy all day looking after the house, and
preparing dinner for the family. At first she found it very hard, for
she was not accustomed to work like a servant, but at the end of a
couple of months she grew stronger, and her health was improved by the
work. When she had leisure she read, or played the harpsichord, or sang
at her spinning-wheel.
[Illustration: 'At first she found it very hard']
Her two sisters, on the other hand, were bored to death; they did
not get up till ten o'clock in the morning, and they idled about all
day. Their only diversion was to bemoan the beautiful clothes they used
to wear and the company they used to keep. 'Look at our little sister,'
they would say to each other; 'her tastes are so low and her mind so
stupid that she is quite content with this miserable state of affairs.'
The good merchant did not share the opinion of his two daughters,
for he knew that Beauty was more fitted to shine in company than her
sisters. He was greatly impressed by the girl's good qualities, and
especially by her patiencefor her sisters, not content with leaving
her all the work of the house, never missed an opportunity of insulting
They had been living for a year in this seclusion when the merchant
received a letter informing him that a ship on which he had some
merchandise had just come safely home. The news nearly turned the heads
of the two elder girls, for they thought that at last they would be
able to quit their dull life in the country. When they saw their father
ready to set out they begged him to bring them back dresses, furs,
caps, and finery of every kind. Beauty asked for nothing, thinking to
herself that all the money which the merchandise might yield would not
be enough to satisfy her sisters' demands.
'You have not asked me for anything,' said her father.
'As you are so kind as to think of me,' she replied, 'please bring
me a rose, for there are none here.'
Beauty had no real craving for a rose, but she was anxious not to
seem to disparage the conduct of her sisters. The latter would have
declared that she purposely asked for nothing in order to be different
[Illustration: 'Look at our little sister']
The merchant duly set forth; but when he reached his destination
there was a law-suit over his merchandise, and after much trouble he
returned poorer than he had been before. With only thirty miles to go
before reaching home, he was already looking forward to the pleasure of
seeing his children again, when he found he had to pass through a large
wood. Here he lost himself. It was snowing horribly; the wind was so
strong that twice he was thrown from his horse, and when night came on
he made up his mind he must either die of hunger and cold or be eaten
by the wolves that he could hear howling all about him.
[Illustration: 'It was snowing horribly']
Suddenly he saw, at the end of a long avenue of trees, a strong
light. It seemed to be some distance away, but he walked towards it,
and presently discovered that it came from a large palace, which was
all lit up.
The merchant thanked heaven for sending him this help, and hastened
to the castle. To his surprise, however, he found no one about in the
courtyards. His horse, which had followed him, saw a large stable open
and went in; and on finding hay and oats in readiness the poor animal,
which was dying of hunger, set to with a will. The merchant tied him up
in the stable, and approached the house, where he found not a soul. He
entered a large room; here there was a good fire, and a table laden
with food, but with a place laid for one only. The rain and snow had
soaked him to the skin, so he drew near the fire to dry himself. 'I am
sure,' he remarked to himself, 'that the master of this house or his
servants will forgive the liberty I am taking; doubtless they will be
He waited some considerable time; but eleven o'clock struck and
still he had seen nobody. Being no longer able to resist his hunger he
took a chicken and devoured it in two mouthfuls, trembling. Then he
drank several glasses of wine, and becoming bolder ventured out of the
room. He went through several magnificently furnished apartments, and
finally found a room with a very good bed. It was now past midnight,
and as he was very tired he decided to shut the door and go to bed.
It was ten o'clock the next morning when he rose, and he was greatly
astonished to find a new suit in place of his own, which had been
spoilt. 'This palace,' he said to himself, 'must surely belong to some
good fairy, who has taken pity on my plight.'
He looked out of the window. The snow had vanished, and his eyes
rested instead upon arbours of flowersa charming spectacle. He went
back to the room where he had supped the night before, and found there
a little table with a cup of chocolate on it. 'I thank you, Madam
Fairy,' he said aloud, 'for being so kind as to think of my breakfast.'
Having drunk his chocolate the good man went forth to look for his
horse. As he passed under a bower of roses he remembered that Beauty
had asked for one, and he plucked a spray from a mass of blooms. The
very same moment he heard a terrible noise, and saw a beast coming
towards him which was so hideous that he came near to fainting.
'Ungrateful wretch!' said the Beast, in a dreadful voice; 'I have
saved your life by receiving you into my castle, and in return for my
trouble you steal that which I love better than anything in the
worldmy roses. You shall pay for this with your life! I give you
fifteen minutes to make your peace with Heaven.'
The merchant threw himself on his knees and wrung his hands.
'Pardon, my lord!' he cried; 'one of my daughters had asked for a rose,
and I did not dream I should be giving offence by picking one.'
'I am not called my lord,' answered the monster, 'but The Beast.
I have no liking for compliments, but prefer people to say what they
think. Do not hope therefore to soften me by flattery. You have
daughters, you say; well, I am willing to pardon you if one of your
daughters will come, of her own choice, to die in your place. Do not
argue with mego! And swear that if your daughters refuse to die in
your place you will come back again in three months.'
[Illustration: The Beast]
The good man had no intention of sacrificing one of his daughters to
this hideous monster, but he thought that at least he might have the
pleasure of kissing them once again. He therefore swore to return, and
the Beast told him he could go when he wished. 'I do not wish you to go
empty-handed,' he added; 'return to the room where you slept; you will
find there a large empty box. Fill it with what you will; I will have
it sent home for you.'
With these words the Beast withdrew, leaving the merchant to reflect
that if he must indeed die, at all events he would have the consolation
of providing for his poor children.
He went back to the room where he had slept. He found there a large
number of gold pieces, and with these he filled the box the Beast had
mentioned. Having closed the latter, he took his horse, which was still
in the stable, and set forth from the palace, as melancholy now as he
had been joyous when he entered it.
The horse of its own accord took one of the forest roads, and in a
few hours the good man reached his own little house. His children
crowded round him, but at sight of them, instead of welcoming their
caresses, he burst into tears. In his hand was the bunch of roses which
he had brought for Beauty, and he gave it to her with these words:
'Take these roses, Beauty; it is dearly that your poor father will
have to pay for them.'
Thereupon he told his family of the dire adventure which had
befallen him. On hearing the tale the two elder girls were in a great
commotion, and began to upbraid Beauty for not weeping as they did.
'See to what her smugness has brought this young chit,' they said;
'surely she might strive to find some way out of this trouble, as we
do! But oh, dear me, no; her ladyship is so determined to be different
that she can speak of her father's death without a tear!'
'It would be quite useless to weep,' said Beauty. 'Why should I
lament my father's death? He is not going to die. Since the monster
agrees to accept a daughter instead, I intend to offer myself to
appease his fury. It will be a happiness to do so, for in dying I shall
have the joy of saving my father, and of proving to him my devotion.'
'No, sister,' said her three brothers; 'you shall not die; we will
go in quest of this monster, and will perish under his blows if we
cannot kill him.'
'Do not entertain any such hopes, my children,' said the merchant;
'the power of this Beast is so great that I have not the slightest
expectation of escaping him. I am touched by the goodness of Beauty's
heart, but I will not expose her to death. I am old and have not much
longer to live; and I shall merely lose a few years that will be
regretted only on account of you, my dear children.'
'I can assure you, father,' said Beauty, 'that you will not go to
this palace without me. You cannot prevent me from following you.
Although I am young I am not so very deeply in love with life, and I
would rather be devoured by this monster than die of the grief which
your loss would cause me.' Words were useless. Beauty was quite
determined to go to this wonderful palace, and her sisters were not
sorry, for they regarded her good qualities with deep jealousy.
The merchant was so taken up with the sorrow of losing his daughter
that he forgot all about the box which he had filled with gold. To his
astonishment, when he had shut the door of his room and was about to
retire for the night, there it was at the side of his bed! He decided
not to tell his children that he had become so rich, for his elder
daughters would have wanted to go back to town, and he had resolved to
die in the country. He did confide his secret to Beauty, however, and
the latter told him that during his absence they had entertained some
visitors, amongst whom were two admirers of her sisters. She begged her
father to let them marry; for she was of such a sweet nature that she
loved them, and forgave them with all her heart the evil they had done
When Beauty set off with her father the two heartless girls rubbed
their eyes with an onion, so as to seem tearful; but her brothers wept
in reality, as did also the merchant. Beauty alone did not cry, because
she did not want to add to their sorrow.
The horse took the road to the palace, and by evening they espied
it, all lit up as before. An empty stable awaited the nag, and when the
good merchant and his daughter entered the great hall, they found there
a table magnificently laid for two people. The merchant had not the
heart to eat, but Beauty, forcing herself to appear calm, sat down and
served him. Since the Beast had provided such splendid fare, she
thought to herself, he must presumably be anxious to fatten her up
before eating her.
When they had finished supper they heard a terrible noise. With
tears the merchant bade farewell to his daughter, for he knew it was
the Beast. Beauty herself could not help trembling at the awful
apparition, but she did her best to compose herself. The Beast asked
her if she had come of her own free will, and she timidly answered that
such was the case.
'You are indeed kind,' said the Beast, 'and I am much obliged to
you. You, my good man, will depart to-morrow morning, and you must not
think of coming back again. Good-bye, Beauty!'
'Good-bye, Beast!' she answered.
Thereupon the monster suddenly disappeared.
'Daughter,' said the merchant, embracing Beauty, 'I am nearly dead
with fright. Let me be the one to stay here!'
'No, father,' said Beauty, firmly, 'you must go to-morrow morning,
and leave me to the mercy of Heaven. Perhaps pity will be taken on me.'
They retired to rest, thinking they would not sleep at all during
the night, but they were hardly in bed before their eyes were closed in
sleep. In her dreams there appeared to Beauty a lady, who said to her:
'Your virtuous character pleases me, Beauty. In thus undertaking to
give your life to save your father you have performed an act of
goodness which shall not go unrewarded.'
When she woke up Beauty related this dream to her father. He was
somewhat consoled by it, but could not refrain from loudly giving vent
to his grief when the time came to tear himself away from his beloved
As soon as he had gone Beauty sat down in the great hall and began
to cry. But she had plenty of courage, and after imploring divine
protection she determined to grieve no more during the short time she
had yet to live.
She was convinced that the Beast would devour her that night, but
made up her mind that in the interval she would walk about and have a
look at this beautiful castle, the splendour of which she could not but
Imagine her surprise when she came upon a door on which were the
words 'Beauty's Room'! She quickly opened this door, and was dazzled by
the magnificence of the appointments within. 'They are evidently
anxious that I should not be dull,' she murmured, as she caught sight
of a large bookcase, a harpsichord, and several volumes of music. A
moment later another thought crossed her mind. 'If I had only a day to
spend here,' she reflected, 'such provision would surely not have been
made for me.'
This notion gave her fresh courage. She opened the bookcase, and
found a book in which was written, in letters of gold:
'Ask for anything you wish: you are mistress of all here.'
'Alas!' she said with a sigh, 'my only wish is to see my poor
father, and to know what he is doing.'
As she said this to herself she glanced at a large mirror. Imagine
her astonishment when she perceived her home reflected in it, and saw
her father just approaching. Sorrow was written on his face; but when
her sisters came to meet him it was impossible not to detect, despite
the grimaces with which they tried to simulate grief, the satisfaction
they felt at the loss of their sister. In a moment the vision faded
away, yet Beauty could not but think that the Beast was very kind, and
that she had nothing much to fear from him.
At midday she found the table laid, and during her meal she enjoyed
an excellent concert, though the performers were invisible. But in the
evening, as she was about to sit down at the table, she heard the noise
made by the Beast, and quaked in spite of herself.
'Beauty,' said the monster to her, 'may I watch you have your
'You are master here,' said the trembling Beauty.
'Not so,' replied the Beast; 'it is you who are mistress; you have
only to tell me to go, if my presence annoys you, and I will go
immediately. Tell me, now, do you not consider me very ugly?'
'I do,' said Beauty, 'since I must speak the truth; but I think you
are also very kind.'
'It is as you say,' said the monster; 'and in addition to being
ugly, I lack intelligence. As I am well aware, I am a mere beast.'
'It is not the way with stupid people,' answered Beauty, 'to admit a
lack of intelligence. Fools never realise it.'
'Sup well, Beauty,' said the monster, 'and try to banish dulness
from your homefor all about you is yours, and I should be sorry to
think you were not happy.'
'You are indeed kind,' said Beauty. 'With one thing, I must own, I
am well pleased, and that is your kind heart. When I think of that you
no longer seem to be ugly.'
'Oh yes,' answered the Beast, 'I have a good heart, right enough,
but I am a monster.'
'There are many men,' said Beauty, 'who make worse monsters than
you, and I prefer you, notwithstanding your looks, to those who under
the semblance of men hide false, corrupt, and ungrateful hearts.'
The Beast replied that if only he had a grain of wit he would
compliment her in the grand style by way of thanks; but that being so
stupid he could only say he was much obliged.
Beauty ate with a good appetite, for she now had scarcely any fear
of the Beast. But she nearly died of fright when he put this question
'Beauty, will you be my wife?'
For some time she did not answer, fearing lest she might anger the
monster by her refusal. She summoned up courage at last to say, rather
fearfully, 'No, Beast!'
The poor monster gave forth so terrible a sigh that the noise of it
went whistling through the whole palace. But to Beauty's speedy relief
the Beast sadly took his leave and left the room, turning several times
as he did so to look once more at her. Left alone, Beauty was moved by
great compassion for this poor Beast. 'What a pity he is so ugly,' she
said, 'for he is so good.'
Beauty passed three months in the palace quietly enough. Every
evening the Beast paid her a visit, and entertained her at supper by a
display of much good sense, if not with what the world calls wit. And
every day Beauty was made aware of fresh kindnesses on the part of the
monster. Through seeing him often she had become accustomed to his
ugliness, and far from dreading the moment of his visit, she frequently
looked at her watch to see if it was nine o'clock, the hour when the
Beast always appeared.
One thing alone troubled Beauty; every evening, before retiring to
bed, the monster asked her if she would be his wife, and seemed
overwhelmed with grief when she refused. One day she said to him:
'You distress me, Beast. I wish I could marry you, but I cannot
deceive you by allowing you to believe that that can ever be. I will
always be your friendbe content with that.'
'Needs must,' said the Beast. 'But let me make the position plain. I
know I am very terrible, but I love you very much, and I shall be very
happy if you will only remain here. Promise that you will never leave
Beauty blushed at these words. She had seen in her mirror that her
father was stricken down by the sorrow of having lost her, and she
wished very much to see him again. 'I would willingly promise to remain
with you always,' she said to the Beast, 'but I have so great a desire
to see my father again that I shall die of grief if you refuse me this
'I would rather die myself than cause you grief,' said the monster.
'I will send you back to your father. You shall stay with him, and your
Beast shall die of sorrow at your departure.'
'No, no,' said Beauty, crying; 'I like you too much to wish to cause
your death. I promise you I will return in eight days. You have shown
me that my sisters are married, and that my brothers have joined the
army. My father is all alone; let me stay with him one week.'
'You shall be with him to-morrow morning,' said the Beast. 'But
remember your promise. All you have to do when you want to return is to
put your ring on a table when you are going to bed. Good-bye, Beauty!'
As usual, the Beast sighed when he said these last words, and Beauty
went to bed quite down-hearted at having grieved him.
[Illustration: EVERY EVENING THE BEAST PAID HER A VISIT.]
When she woke the next morning she found she was in her father's
house. She rang a little bell which stood by the side of her bed, and
it was answered by their servant, who gave a great cry at sight of her.
The good man came running at the noise, and was overwhelmed with joy at
the sight of his dear daughter. Their embraces lasted for more than a
quarter of an hour. When their transports had subsided, it occurred to
Beauty that she had no clothes to put on; but the servant told her that
she had just discovered in the next room a chest full of dresses
trimmed with gold and studded with diamonds. Beauty felt grateful to
the Beast for this attention, and having selected the simplest of the
gowns she bade the servant pack up the others, as she wished to send
them as presents to her sisters. The words were hardly out of her mouth
when the chest disappeared. Her father expressed the opinion that the
Beast wished her to keep them all for herself, and in a trice dresses
and chest were back again where they were before.
When Beauty had dressed she learned that her sisters, with their
husbands, had arrived. Both were very unhappy. The eldest had wedded an
exceedingly handsome man, but the latter was so taken up with his own
looks that he studied them from morning to night, and despised his
wife's beauty. The second had married a man with plenty of brains, but
he only used them to pay insults to everybodyhis wife first and
The sisters were greatly mortified when they saw Beauty dressed like
a princess, and more beautiful than the dawn. Her caresses were
ignored, and the jealousy which they could not stifle only grew worse
when she told them how happy she was. Out into the garden went the
envious pair, there to vent their spleen to the full.
'Why should this chit be happier than we are?' each demanded of the
other; 'are we not much nicer than she is?'
'Sister,' said the elder, 'I have an idea. Let us try to persuade
her to stay here longer than the eight days. Her stupid Beast will fly
into a rage when he finds she has broken her word, and will very likely
'You are right, sister,' said the other; 'but we must make a great
fuss of her if we are to make the plan successful.'
With this plot decided upon they went upstairs again, and paid such
attention to their little sister that Beauty wept for joy. When the
eight days had passed the two sisters tore their hair, and showed such
grief over her departure that she promised to remain another eight
Beauty reproached herself, nevertheless, with the grief she was
causing to the poor Beast; moreover, she greatly missed not seeing him.
On the tenth night of her stay in her father's house she dreamed that
she was in the palace garden, where she saw the Beast lying on the
grass nearly dead, and that he upbraided her for her ingratitude.
Beauty woke up with a start, and burst into tears.
'I am indeed very wicked,' she said, 'to cause so much grief to a
Beast who has shown me nothing but kindness. Is it his fault that he is
so ugly, and has so few wits? He is good, and that makes up for all the
rest. Why did I not wish to marry him? I should have been a good deal
happier with him than my sisters are with their husbands. It is neither
good looks nor brains in a husband that make a woman happy; it is
beauty of character, virtue, kindness. All these qualities the Beast
has. I admit I have no love for him, but he has my esteem, friendship,
and gratitude. At all events I must not make him miserable, or I shall
reproach myself all my life.'
With these words Beauty rose and placed her ring on the table.
Hardly had she returned to her bed than she was asleep, and when she
woke the next morning she saw with joy that she was in the Beast's
palace. She dressed in her very best on purpose to please him, and
nearly died of impatience all day, waiting for nine o'clock in the
evening. But the clock struck in vain: no Beast appeared. Beauty now
thought she must have caused his death, and rushed about the palace
with loud despairing cries. She looked everywhere, and at last,
recalling her dream, dashed into the garden by the canal, where she had
seen him in her sleep. There she found the poor Beast lying
unconscious, and thought he must be dead. She threw herself on his
body, all her horror of his looks forgotten, and, feeling his heart
still beat, fetched water from the canal and threw it on his face.
The Beast opened his eyes and said to Beauty:
'You forgot your promise. The grief I felt at having lost you made
me resolve to die of hunger; but I die content since I have the
pleasure of seeing you once more.'
'Dear Beast, you shall not die,' said Beauty; 'you shall live and
become my husband. Here and now I offer you my hand, and swear that I
will marry none but you. Alas, I fancied I felt only friendship for
you, but the sorrow I have experienced clearly proves to me that I
cannot live without you.'
Beauty had scarce uttered these words when the castle became ablaze
with lights before her eyes: fireworks, musicall proclaimed a feast.
But these splendours were lost on her: she turned to her dear Beast,
still trembling for his danger.
Judge of her surprise now! At her feet she saw no longer the Beast,
who had disappeared, but a prince, more beautiful than Love himself,
who thanked her for having put an end to his enchantment. With good
reason were her eyes riveted upon the prince, but she asked him
nevertheless where the Beast had gone.
'You see him at your feet,' answered the prince. 'A wicked fairy
condemned me to retain that form until some beautiful girl should
consent to marry me, and she forbade me to betray any sign of
intelligence. You alone in all the world could show yourself
susceptible to the kindness of my character, and in offering you my
crown I do but discharge the obligation that I owe you.'
In agreeable surprise Beauty offered her hand to the handsome
prince, and assisted him to rise. Together they repaired to the castle,
and Beauty was overcome with joy to find, assembled in the hall, her
father and her entire family. The lady who had appeared to her in her
dream had had them transported to the castle.
[Illustration: 'Your doom is to become statues']
'Beauty,' said this lady (who was a celebrated fairy), 'come and
receive the reward of your noble choice. You preferred merit to either
beauty or wit, and you certainly deserve to find these qualities
combined in one person. It is your destiny to become a great queen, but
I hope that the pomp of royalty will not destroy your virtues. As for
you, ladies,' she continued, turning to Beauty's two sisters, 'I know
your hearts and the malice they harbour. Your doom is to become
statues, and under the stone that wraps you round to retain all your
feelings. You will stand at the door of your sister's palace, and I can
visit no greater punishment upon you than that you shall be witnesses
of her happiness. Only when you recognise your faults can you return to
your present shape, and I am very much afraid that you will be statues
for ever. Pride, ill-temper, greed, and laziness can all be corrected,
but nothing short of a miracle will turn a wicked and envious heart.'
In a trice, with a tap of her hand, the fairy transported them all
to the prince's realm, where his subjects were delighted to see him
again. He married Beauty, and they lived together for a long time in
happiness the more perfect because it was founded on virtue.