| There was once a very rich merchant who had six children, three sons and three daughters. He gave his daughters everything they wanted, but they were very conceited and spoiled, except for the youngest, whom they called Beauty. She was as beautiful as she was sweet, and her two sisters were consumed with jealousy.
| One terrible day the merchant learned that he had lost all of his money, and the family was forced to move from their luxurious mansion in town to a small house in the country. The sons immediately helped their father with the outside chores. Poor Beauty, she had never lived without servants. Now she had to get up before sunrise to light the fire and make the food and clean the house. But she soon grew accustomed to it and said, "Crying won't improve the situation. I must try to make myself happy." Her sisters, on the other hand, stayed in bed till noon and were annoyed that Beauty was not as miserable as they were.
| A year later, the father received a letter that one of his lost ships had been found and had arrived filled with merchandise for him. Everyone was delighted because they would once again be rich. As the merchant left, the two older daughters begged their father to bring them home all sorts of precious jewels and elegant gowns. "And what does my Beauty want?" the father asked. "Oh, I need nothing, but if you could bring me a rose, I would be most appreciative," she said. Of course, Beauty did not need the rose, but she thought she had better ask for something so as not to appear to be criticizing her sisters' greed.
| The merchant reached the harbor, but alas, the vessel had sunk, consequently he was still as poor as before. On the way home he got lost in a forest, and it began to snow. "I shall die of the cold or be eaten by wolves and never see my dear children again," he reflected sadly. Suddenly, he saw a huge mansion with all the lights on. He knocked at the door, but no one answered. He entered only to find a large fire burning in the fireplace and a table set with delicious food. He waited a long time for the owner to appear, but no one came. He was starving, so he finally ate a bit of the food. He then found a bedroom where he fell fast asleep. The next morning he was astonished to find a brand-new suit of clothes laid out for him and a fresh breakfast awaiting him. "This must be the castle of some fairies," he thought, and so he said a loud "thank you" and left. He was surprised to see that the snow had disappeared and that there was a lovely garden filled with rosebushes. "I shall take just one rose for my Beauty," he said, but as he cut the rose he heard a loud and terrible voice. He saw an ugly monster who said, "Ungrateful man! I have saved your life and in return you steal my roses. You must die!" But the merchant begged the Beast not to kill him for the sake of his children. The Beast seemed interested when he learned of Beauty and her request for the rose. "Then you must ask her to come here in place of you. You will have three months. Return home, and if she will not come then you must return. However you will not depart empty-handed. Return to your room and you will find a chest of gold," the Beast said. "Well, if I must die, at least I shall not leave my children destitute," thought the father, and he took the chest of gold and returned home.
| "Here, Beauty," he said, "take this rose. Little do you know how that rose will cost your unhappy father his life. " And he related his adventure with the Beast.
| Beauty immediately insisted on returning to the home of the Beast to save her father's life and would hear no arguments. On the day of her departure her sisters rubbed their eyes with onions, pretending to be sad that she was leaving and would probably die.
| When the merchant and Beauty arrived at the palace, it was lit exactly as before. The fire was roaring and the table was magnificently set. "Oh, the Beast intends to fatten me before he kills me," thought Beauty. Despite her fears she acted cheerful and brave for her father. Suddenly they heard a horrible noise, and the Beast appeared. "Have you come here willingly?" the Beast asked. "Yes," trembled Beauty. "Good, then say farewell to your father." The grief-stricken merchant was thus forced to leave his daughter and return home.
| Beauty was sure that the Beast would eat her that night. She was surprised to find "Beauty's Apartment" engraved on a gold plate over the door of her bedroom. The room was full of magnificent furniture and the shelves were lined with all the books that she loved. There was a piano for her to play. Inside one of the books was written,
Welcome Beauty, banish fear, You are queen and mistress here.
Speak your wishes, speak your will,
Swift obedience meets them still.
| "With all this magnificence, I don't suppose the Beast will eat me soon," she said, and felt less afraid.
| The next night the Beast came to the dinner table and said, "Beauty, will you let me watch you eat? If my presence bothers you I will leave. Tell me, do you think I am very ugly?" And Beauty said, "Yes," because she could not lie, however she added, "but I think you are very good-natured." They talked, and Beauty started to feel very calm until the Beast said, "Beauty, will you be my wife?" Although she did not want to make the Beast angry, she said, "No." The Beast began to howl and sadly said, "Then, farewell, Beauty," and left the room.
| For three months the same thing happened each night at dinner. Beauty began to look forward to these visits and lost her fear of the Beast's deformity, but every night, before he left, he asked the same question: "Beauty, will you be my wife?"
| "Oh, Beast, I wish I could consent to marry you. I shall always consider you a great friend, but I do not love you."
| "But will you promise to never leave me?" the Beast asked.
| "Oh, Beast, I am so worried about my dear father, and I miss him so."
| "Ah, then you will leave, and the Beast will die of grief."
| "Oh, no," said Beauty. "If you let me visit my father, I promise I will return and live with you forever."
| "You shall be there tomorrow," said the Beast. "But remember, when you wish to return to me, you must lay your ring on the table before you go to bed."
| The next morning, when Beauty awoke, she found herself in her father's home, and her room was filled with chests of gold and elegant silk gowns from the Beast. Everyone was overjoyed to see her except her cold-hearted sisters. They were consumed with jealousy, nevertheless they pretended to be happy and begged her to stay as long as she could. On the tenth night Beauty had a dream in which she saw the Beast lying in his garden, dying. She awoke in tears. "Oh, how ungrateful I am. Is it his fault that he is so very ugly? He has been so kind and generous to me. Why did I not consent to marry him?" Then she got out of bed, put her ring on the table, and went back to sleep. The next morning she awoke in the Beast's castle. She put on her most beautiful gown and waited for him to come. After dinner, when he still hadn't appeared, she remembered the dream and ran to the garden, where she found him lying on the ground, almost dead. She bent over him, crying and hugging him. "Oh, Beast, please do not die! Live and be my husband." At those words she saw bright flashes of light and heard music, and, instead of the hideous beast, she saw one of the loveliest princes that she had ever laid eyes on. He thanked her for putting an end to the horrible spell that had been cast over him by a wicked witch. Then a fairy appeared waving a wand, and Beauty's entire family appeared. The fairy smiled and said, "Beauty, you have made a wise choice because you have chosen virtue over beauty. You and the prince shall live happily ever after." Then the fairy turned to Beauty's two sisters and said, "You who are so consumed by envy and jealousy, you will be transformed into two statues of stone but still retain your reason. You will stand at the door of Beauty's castle, and it will be your punishment to observe her daily happiness until the day you die." ( 1,514 words)