We begin with a prologue. A male narrator tells us the story of a secluded kingdom/palace that fell into decay..
The narrator then tells us how his kingdom/palace fell into ruin. The ruler of the kingdom/palace became selfish and heartless, obsessed with one of the “seven deadly sins”: (vanity or greed).
Their selfishness drew a powerful evil magic (an enchantress or a dragon.)
It also drew a curse. The enchantress caused the Prince to turn into a beast. There’s a similar concept in the Hobbit. The gold in Erebor causes the people who obsess over it to get “dragon sickness”– a sort of curse which turns them into gold-obsessed “dragons” (beasts on the inside )….
After this dark prologue, we transition to a beautiful sunny provincial town. It’s a lovely place, but every day is the same as the day before. These hobbits/ townspeople are fussy and simpleminded. They care a lot about tradition and being “respectable.” They deeply mistrust anything new, exciting, or unfamiliar…..
We meet our second hero- a naiive and very bookish person whose name starts with a B. They can have a snarky sense of humor. They “don’t take anyone’s shit” and are far stronger than they look. They can be proud, even a little arrogant at times, but they’re very soft-hearted. They are a “pure cinammon roll.”
This person’s greatest, defining strength is their compassion. They can see the good in everyone, even in creatures who look like monsters (Belle falls in love with the Beast; Bilbo takes pity even on Gollum)
They also have a parent known for being crazy/unconventional– Belle has her father Maurice, Bilbo has his mother Belladonna Took.
Both the protagonists are different from the other simple farmer-villagers because they want more than just a simple life.
They long for adventure….
And they’re eventually dragged into an adventure, against their will.
Our protagonist is forced to meet the The Dwarf-King/the Beast-Prince. This person is brooding, intimidating, and glowering. He rarely smiles. He has a dramatic cloak and an uncontrollable temper. He has a Tragic Past, a bizarre troop of followers, and (secretly) a good heart.
Deep in this King/Prince’s castle is his special glowing Secret Artifact you really shouldn’t touch (Seriously don’t he will FREAK OUT). The reason why the King/Prince needs the protagonist has something to do with this enchanted artifact….
The protagonist makes an agreement to stay with the King/Prince (Belle makes a promise, Bilbo signs a contract.)
They get to know the Prince/King and his more approachable but still very weird group of followers. When the King/Prince isn’t there, these followers sing an upbeat song to the protagonist as they expertly prepare/clean up after dinner (Be our Guest and That’s What Bilbo Baggins Hates.) Their song is so upbeat you forget they’re singing it to a captive audience.
Meanwhile, the relationship between the Prince/Dwarf-king and the protagonist gets off to a very rocky start. The Prince/King secretly cares about the protagonist (later risking his life multiple times for them) but refuses to show it. Instead he acts cold, dismissive, and controlling. The protagonist, meanwhile, doesn’t know that beneath his cold facade the Prince/King really does have a heart.
Their relationship reaches a breaking point when the protagonist makes an innocent mistake, and The Prince/King lashes out at them….
The protagonist decides that, even though they promised to stay/signed a contract, they can’t do this any longer. They try to leave….
But a wolf attack changes everything.
The Prince/King defends the protagonist from wolves (or guys riding on wolves).He’s gravely injured by one of these wolves.
The protagonist then saves his life in return.
This near-death experience brings them closer together.
The Prince realizes he was wrong about the protagonist, and about himself…
”Bittersweet and strange, finding you can change, learning you were wrong!” Versus “I have never been sowrong in all my life.”
There’s a lot of bonding between the Prince/King and the protagonist. The Prince/King becomes kinder, gentler. Their affection for the protagonist, and the protagonist’s kindness to them, makes the Prince/King more openly compassionate. Things are really looking up. It looks like the curse will be overcome (the Beast will become human, and Thorin won’t get the “dragon sickness” that drove his grandfather mad.)
But there’s another force to be reckoned with– a handsome, vain antagonist who loathes the Beast/the Dwarf….
(“I use antlers in all of my decorating!”)
This antagonist convinces everyone the Beast/Dwarf is evil and subhuman. (He’s very against the film’s Beast/human or dwarf/elf relationship). He rallies a massive force to kill the Prince/King.
The protagonist, armed only with one of the Prince//King’s prized sparkly artifacts (the Mirror/the Arkenstone), tries to convince them to stop. But this only makes things worse.
At one point the Prince/King tells the protagonist to leave. Then the Prince/King, feeling betrayed and hopeless, becomes “beast-like” again. The enemy is at his doorstep but he refuses to fight, resigned to his fate. One of his servants/followers tries to convince him to join the battle, but fails. Let them come, the Prince King thinks, let them destroy everything– he’ll remain holed up in his castle. He lets his servants/Dain’s troops fight his battle for him.
His servants/Dain’s army does well without him at first, but eventually he’s forced to join the fray. He fights one-on-one against an army/mob’s leader. There’s a moment where he thinks he’s defeated his foe….but then his enemy launches a surprise attack, stabs him, and mortally wounds him. Yet by killing the Prince/King, the evil guy also ends up killing himself.
The protagonist rushes to the dying Prince/King’s side, blaming themselves for causing his death. The Prince/King, meanwhile, has finally redeemed himself. He apologizes for the way he acted in the past (“maybe it’s better this way”) and speaks lovingly about how wonderful the protagonist is, and how glad they are to see them one last time. The protagonist, meanwhile, desperately insists that he will be all right.
But he isn’t. He dies. The protagonist collapses, weeping.
But then he comes back to life because love!!! In one of the films, anyway. In the other he is 50000 percent dead
Both films have animated and live-action adaptations. In the live-action adaptations, Ian McKellan plays one of the Prince’s allies (Cogsworth/Gandalf) while Luke Evans plays one of his adversaries (Gaston/Bard).
TL;DR: A Tale as old as time, song as old as rhyme, Bilbo and the Dwarf (or: the Burglar and the Beast?)