It was a dark and stormy night.
The ground seemed to shake with an unnatural aversion towards the living. I was at my grandparents’ house for the day. Mumma wanted to go to a book fair and it was really far from where we lived so they decided to make a trip of it and left me with grandpa and grandma. I was 9. I don’t remember much of that night except two things – the gods seemed angry, and I wanted to go home.
Sitting by the little window in my room, I saw as the lightning struck the heavens again and again as if desiring to break it open. I remember imagining angels flying out; I remember imagining my dragon in our backyard, protecting us from it all.
There was a war in my head –
angels against demons,
light against dark,
thunder against peace,
BEAUTY AGAINST BEAST.
I was on the dragon’s back now, flying up up up, rain on my face, and my insides in a knot. My head was rested against the dragon’s nape, clutching him as tightly as I could, putting all my faith in him. I knew he won’t let me down.
And he didn’t.
The next morning, it was sunny again. All the flowers seemed to be blooming with a renewed happiness, swaying side by side in celebration. And I knew we had won the war.
In the drawing-room were my parents, waiting for me. The house smelled of stories and I when looked around, they were all around me. Mumma had brought me so many books from the fair. Each one was more beautiful than the other. They came with a promise of adventure and I was excited to start my next one. And my mother handed me the most beautiful book I had ever held in my hands – written on its cover in gold was,
THE BEAUTY AND THE BEAST.
I remember being intrigued by the title. And as I let it swirl around in my mind, I was transported back to my dragon’s back. We had had so many adventures together, you see. He was my first best friend. He still is.
I remember excusing myself and going back to my room and getting lost in this enchanting tale of love and redemption – a tale as old as time.
The youngest of twelve siblings.
She is the heart of this story. And I remember how much I wanted to be like her. Even today, re-reading this beautiful story, I was struck by how much I still want to be her, to have her patience, firmness of character, her strength of mind.
”She was a perfectly beautiful young creature, her good temper rendered her adorable.”
When the father of this army of sons and daughters was reduced to poverty and the selfish vanity of the daughters came crashing on their heads, it was Beauty who made the best of circumstances.
The hand of fate is cruelest on those who take their fortunes for granted and so most of the merchant’s children were miserable, wretched that the splendor and glory which was theirs had been snatched away from them. But the youngest one, although sad herself, realized soon enough that cursing the gods for their cruel behavior was no way to go through this crisis. She made the best of the circumstances she was in. She did the work that was required of her, without a shred of complaint, no matter how she felt at heart, and soon enough she started deriving real joy from the adversity her family was thrown in.
Who but the kindest and loveliest of souls can be capable of that?
It’s no doubt then that it was Beauty who chance threw in the way of the realization of her wildest dreams. I am in awe, still, of how with the sweetest of disposition she cared for her family. Even when her sisters were jealous of her positive outlook.
”Every intelligent person, who saw her in her true light, was eager to give her preference over her sisters.”
Is it really a matter of doubt that people regarded Beauty’s firmness of mind and her strength of character as her greatest virtue? Could her sisters truly not see that anyone, who understood the importance of such virtues, could not help by fall in love with this sweet soul?
Real world is harsh, as we are reminded of at the beginning of this story when the merchant loses his place in society and all the suitors who were apparently in love with his herd of daughters soon dissociated themselves from them and scattered away like peas, in hidden places.
And when you are dealt with a firm blow at the hands of fate, it’s not money and beauty that matters. What’s more important is with what disposition you deal with those circumstances? How far are you willing to go without falling? With a smile on your face, just one more day. Your strength is tested in such times as these when you are left alone and nobody, not even the friends who claimed to love you, come to your aid. How you emerge from it is the true test which everyone is subjected to at one point or another in their lifetime. So was Beauty. And she showed real firmness of character by putting on her bravest smile for the sake of her family, the people she loved.
Beauty is as beauty does.
She was called by this name due to more reasons than just her physical appearance. Although her charms were many, the greatest virtues that rendered her form so lovely and her face so kind was the lack of vanity and jealousy. Pride, is a different issue altogether. Every man has some, as they should. But vanity is a fault and must never be indulged in. A habit of reveling at the nature of circumstances others in is a crime against the pure nature of the heart and it’s this unsaid crime her sisters were accused of. It’s no wonder then that however pretty they were, it was only Beauty who caught the hearts of people.
Her beauty did not diminish with her father’s wealth. If anything, it increased tenfold!
A steadiness of heart and control over mindless excitement – both happy and sad – is a virtue only the most intelligent possess. They don’t become overcome with grief due to loss or overjoyed due to happy circumstances owing to the knowledge of the fact that life is a tide; the highs and the lows are to be expected. They understand that just like the sea is never constant, neither is life. However, bad things may seem to be, they can always turn lovely, and the other way around as well. So, isn’t it just good sense to never indulge in the extremities of our fickle heart?
The Beauty and the Beast reminds us that things can always get better or worse. And we should live our day to day life accordingly, without losing sight of this simple yet powerful truth.
My younger self didn’t draw all of these lessons from the story though. I had finished reading it by the time we set out for home. It was a peculiar feeling really. I had read many many stories before but this one stirred my heart like none of the others did.
Beauty and Beast’s love was all I could think about.
I remember sitting in the backseat of our car, listening to my parents talk but my mind was elsewhere. All I wanted was to go back to my dragon. He was flying beside our car, making sure we were safe.
I looked at his majestic form and fell in love with him, convinced that I was the beauty and he was the beast.
(That’s all I cared about at that time anyway!)
So, have you read The Beauty and the Beast in its complete form?
How has your perception of the story changed over the years?
What are your favorite fairy tales? And favorite re-tellings?
What was the first book you ever read?
I WANNA KNOWWW!!