early 1700s

Dating Disney: Beauty and the Beast

Beauty and the Beast features my favorite love story and my favorite Disney Princess, so it holds a very special spot in my heart. So, it’s worth looking into the film to decide when the Movie is supposed to be set.


During the opening musical number “Belle”, Belle is telling the Baker about the book she’s been reading. She’s clearly describing Jack and the Beanstalk, the earliest version being the tale of “Jack Spriggins and the Enchanted Bean” in 1734. But she also deliberately mentions an ogre, not a giant. Near as I could find, the only version with an ogre was written by Joseph Jacobs in 1890, making Belle nearly contemporary to modernity. Belle’s excitement over the book is likely a sign that this is a new story.


During the same musical number, we see a sign depicting a tobacco pipe, but unlike with the Calabash pipe from the Little Mermaid movie. I could place it to possibly be a Billiard type, but the exact era of creation escapes me. However, tobacco pipes have been around as long as Tobacco has been introduced to European trade, starting in the 16th century.


The history of colored printing goes as far back as the 16th century, and there are illustrations from the early 1700s with an impressive variety of color that help establish a stronger time period. The book also shows the words Le Prince Charmant or Prince Charming. Prince Charming started being used in 1697 in Charles Perrault’s version of Sleeping Beauty, although there, Prince Charming was not a name. Rather, Perrault stated that the Prince was charmed by her words. The first story to use Prince Charming as a name is the Tale of Pretty Goldilocks. It was written at some point in the 17th Century by Madame d’Aulnoy, but in her version the hero was named Avenant. It wasn’t until 1889 when Andrew Lang retold the story that Avenant was dubbed as Charming. One year later in 1890, Oscar Wilde used the term “Prince Charming” sarcastically in his novel “The Picture of Dorian Gray”, meaning that the term had gotten its more modern meaning by this point in time.


Gaston’s musket is a Blunderbuss, which was invented in the early 1600′s and remained popular through the 18th century before falling out of fashion in the middle of the 19th century. However, considering Belle states that this is a backwards town and Gaston is an old-fashioned, Primeval man, it’s possible he’s using a largely outdated weapon.


While there are no street lamps in the city, we can see in the background lanterns on the sides of buildings, which might allude to the movie taking place before the invention of gas lamps. However, gas lamps were invented in 1809, and if the version of Jack and the Beanstalk is from 1890, then by all accounts the town should have gas lamps. What this amounting evidence is leading me to believe is that the film is directly following the plot of the original fairy tale.


In the story, Beauty’s father is a merchant who loses his fortune due to a storm destroying his cargo. They’re forced to live on a farm until the merchant stumbles upon the Beast’s castle and kick starts the plot. In the opening song, Belle says “every morning’s just the same, since the morning that we came, to this poor, provincial town.” This could mean that she grew up in a much more modern, urban, and progressive town. Possibly even Paris. But that after Maurice suffered severe financial trouble, he was forced to move them to the small, backwards town that was practically living an entire century behind the rest of France, which is why she’s so bored and unimpressed by the little town. It helps explain why she’s so eager to want to get out of this town and see the world. She wants to be part of the modern world again.


Interestingly, I can support this theory with background information. According to some of my research, Belle’s village was based on the little town of Riquewihr, France, which still looks like it did in the 16th century to this day. So the idea that Belle’s little village lacks so many modern elements could be a nod to the architecture of this sleepy French village that has remained largely untouched by the march of time. Hence why it looks more like something out of the 1700s despite the many elements from the 1800s being present.


During the song “Be Our Guest”, Lumiere dances with a match stick. Match sticks were invented in 1805. Assuming the film still takes place in the 1890s, this would be concurrent with the other evidence we’ve seen thus far. Later in the same song, the silverware makes an Eiffel tower, which was constructed in 1889. Since Jack and the Beanstalk was written after that, it still fits within the suspected time frame.


During the climax of the battle, Cogsworth is wearing military garments reflective of Napoleonic styles. Napoleon was coronated in 1804 until 1814, had a brief return to power in 1815, and eventually died in 1821. So this is also congruent to the established time period.


In the Youtube Video “Fashion Expert Fact Checks Belle from Beauty and the Beast’s Costumes” by Glamour, April Calahan, a Fashion Historian from the Fashion Institute of Technology directly noted that Belle’s yellow gown lacks the shape of a proper 18th century dress, and more closely resembles the shape of 19th century dresses, fitting into the evidence that’s been mounting in support of a late 19th century setting.


As a part of his primary costume, Lefou wears a waistcoat and tailcoats, which came into vogue in the 1800s, namely from the 1840s through the 1850s.


But if the film is set in the 1800s, how can the Beast still be a prince after the French Revolution? Well something worth noting is that when he finds out that Belle isn’t coming to dinner, the Beast storms through the halls to her room as Cogsworth calls after him as “Your Eminence” and “Your Grace”. The address of “Your Eminence” is reserved for Cardinals of the Roman Catholic Church, and is an ecclesiastical style of address. “Your Grace” is noticeably an English style of address, but it’s being used by Cogsworth who is British, so I can chalk that up to just part of his culture. Although it was used for British monarchs, it fell out of use during the reign of King Henry VIII (1509-1547) and after that, the use of “Your Grace” became used to address archbishops and non-royal Dukes and Duchesses. Now clearly the Beast is not a cardinal or a bishop, especially if he is looking for the love of a woman to make him human, since it’s forbidden for Catholic priests to marry. So clearly that is not what is meant here. But the other answer actually does hold a bit of weight. Beast’s father was in fact, a Duke. So how is the Beast a prince? He’s not. Not entirely. See, there’s more than one kind of Prince in French nobility. There’s a Prince du Sang, or a Prince by Blood. Effectively, the Crown Prince, the sons of ruling monarchs. But the title is also given to lords in charge of a Principality, one of the smallest territorial sizes. The Beast’s principality probably only extends to having power over the little unnamed village. And with it being after the revolution, Beast might not even have the proper use of his title anymore. He’s effectively a rich kid in a fancy house with no real authority or power. He’s just old money from a by-gone era of human history. But if Beast’s address of “Your Grace” is accurate, that would mean that he’s a non-royal Duke, meaning he would not likely have been executed during the Revolution, as his family would have essentially been governors or senators than actual monarchs. They just had jurisdiction over a small piece of the Kingdom of France and reported back to and obeyed the orders of their King. Thus, he would not have been important enough to be killed or chased out of power by the townsfolk.



The movie is set between the late autumn and early-to-mid winter of 1890. Although the snow is gone when Belle returns to the village, the trees are still bare, signaling that it may just be unseasonably warm, though it could be the very early spring of 1891 between the receding of the snow and the blossoming of new spring foliage. Between the books, clothing, and references made, my conclusion is that Belle is a very modern girl living in a backwards little town stuck in the past, thus why a village in 1890 looks so completely lacking in modern technology despite the era. The Prince is nothing more than a fancy title as the son of a Duke, and he likely has very little if any actual government authority. Essentially, Belle married into wealth, not power, and will never be a proper queen, and I’m not sure if the wife of a lord ruling a principality is a princess or not, but I suspect the answer is no. Making Belle, like Mulan, a Disney Princess who did not marry royalty, was not born royalty, and thus, cannot be called a Disney Princess. She’s definitely a noblewoman, but she’s not royal by any means.

SETTING: Riquewihr, France

KINGDOM: The French Republic (France)

YEAR: Autumn, 1890 - Spring, 1891

PERIOD: The Third Republic (1870-1940)


Edward Collier (1642-1708)
“Trompe l'oeil with Writing Materials” (ca. 1702)
Oil on canvas
Dutch Golden Age
Located in the Victoria and Albert Museum, London, England

your-url-is-problematic  asked:

hi! do you mind explaining the tradition behind Mari Lywd?

I love this ask because it’s such a polite way of going EXPLAIN THAT POST ELANOR



I’m not sure if you’re after the history of the thing, or the actual practice of it, since ‘tradition’ could cover either - so, I’ll give you both, and hopefully your answer will be in here somewhere. I will also include more Frightening Images of the Mari Lwyd because you can never have too many horrifying photos of ornery skull-masked winter horse demons to scare the tits off you.

Okay, so. The Mari Lwyd.


Now, the first concrete recorded incidences of the Mari are from the late 1700s/early 1800s, but as with a lot of Welsh history, that’s misleading. We didn’t write a lot of our own shit like this down for much the same reason that Egypt never mentioned where to find Punt, and the English didn’t generally travel into Wales much if they could help it. Given that it seems to fold into a lot of other older traditions, though (the Hooded Animal, the Mast Beast, etc), and those have pre-Christian roots, I believe there’s a theory that it might have its roots in worshipping Rhiannon, the Welsh version of Epona, the pan-Celtic horse goddess. But there’s no way to be sure. 

The meaning of the name is disputed. It’s generally accepted to mean “Grey Mare”. For a while some people thought it meant “Holy/Blessed Mary”, as in, y’know, the Virgin Mary, but this is no longer accepted because

  1. “Llwyd” means grey, not white, and “gwen” is the colour normally used to also mean pure or holy; grey would be more likely to mean venerable/wise, which the Mari Lwyd ain’t;
  2. I think there’s reference to ‘Mari’ being used for ‘Mary’ (instead of ‘Mair’) in the Black Book of Carmarthen, so at least since the 14th century, but that was likely only by poets - there’s no record of common folk using it before the Protestants came and reformed everything, so it seems unlikely that it could have been the original name; and
  3. As far as I am aware there is no record of the religio-historical figure of the Virgin Mary mounting the donkey’s head on a stick and hammering down the door to the inn with a half-empty bottle of gin in one hand while scream-singing insults at the innkeeper so he’d give her cheese.

So, it’s generally accepted now that the connotations with Christian Marian symbolism are part coincidence and part encouraged among the clergy post-Reformation so that everyone could keep getting blind drunk with a horse’s skull and calling each other a willy. Plus, both Ireland and the Isle of Mann have very old hooded horse traditions too, called the Láir Bhán and the Laare Vane in Irish and Manx respectively. Both meaning, surprise surprise, the “white/grey mare”. Given that Wales and Ireland had a lot of historical interaction, this seems like more than coincidence. 

Plus, you know, it is kind of a grey mare. Bones are white.


It did have other names in some places, mind - I think Carmarthenshire had some weird name for it, like Y March or y Gynfas-Farch, but you mustn’t ever listen to people from West Wales because then there would we be? Calling woodlice ‘pennysawls’ and claiming the word “Wi’n” is an acceptable variation of the verb “to be”, that’s where.

Anyway. Once upon a time, this was seemingly a mid-winter celebration in Wales, which then became a Christmas celebration until the Church went “You’re doing WHAT” and it became New Year instead. But, it did vary when different villages would do it. Some would do it on New Year, some at Christmas, some in that weird week in between when you don’t know if the bins are going out or not… You get the idea. These days, it’s New Year, as a rule.

Now, Europe does have a lot of varying traditions of doing this shit - google ‘mast beast’ for exciting photos. But usually, the beast is made by someone bending over beneath the sheet to make it look, you know, like the beast they’re mimicking. The Mari Lwyd stands out because, alone of all of them, she stands up straight, and is seven feet tall. She is the tallest of all the mast beasts. In a country where the average female height is 5'4", and men not much taller, that makes her fuck-damned enormous.


So, with that out of the way, let me tell you how it goes!

Traditionally, making the Mari is an important part of the whole thing - most villages would have a set skull they’d use, like, but the decoration was a week-long community affair, because as we all know, it would be creepy if you just stuck a skull on a pole oh my god. You have to put ribbons and glass eyes on it! That stops it being creepy! Obviously!


(Also, as a side note, battery-powered fairy lights have been a gift to the Mari Lwyd.)

The skulls, incidentally, were almost always from a beloved village horse who had at some point died at a ripe old age, and then whose skull was taken to live on as the Mari. Most villages knew their names, decades later. Down the Gower peninsula I think there was one account, mind, that they used to bury the skull for the rest of the year, and just dig it up in time for the Mari. But most kept it in a cupboard, like. Next to the sugar. I dunno. An important point, though - the skulls are also rigged so the person inside can snap the jaw, and incidentally, few things in this infinite and wondrous existence are as creepy and low-key primally unnerving as hearing ten of these things around you snapping in the dark, just btw, just fyi.

Anyway; you’ve spent a week decorating! (Although these days they’re kept pre-decorated.) What now?

The Mari party gathers at about midday. That’s the Mari herself, plus others - it varies who, but classically, I think they dressed up as Punch and Judy characters, those being the mischievous comedy extravaganza of the day. Then they start at one end of the village and go to the first house, where they sing Cân y Fari. That’s a bit like yelling ‘Trick or treat’, except rather than asking for sweets, they’re after delicious alcohol and cheese (side note: Wales’ relationship with cheese goes beyond Peak White Person and out the other side into What Is Wrong With You People. We have myths and folklore about it. It is Very Important.)

Now, the house holders do not want to give away their delicious alcohol and cheese, and so at this point, they begin something called the Pwnco (the ‘w’ is pronounced like the ‘oo’ in 'book’, while the 'o’ is short like in 'hot’.) The Pwnco is, like… sort of like a rap battle? But sung. But that’s the idea. It’s beautifully poetic, and almost always opens with the same very nice verse, to whit:

Wel dyma ni'n diwad (Well here we come)
Gyfeillion diniwad (Innocent friends)
I ofyn am gennad (To ask leave)
I ofyn am gennad (To ask leave)
I ofyn am gennad i ganu (To ask leave to sing)

which you can hear a bit of here; I filmed that in Llangynnwyd. But, it’s very much a “So’s your FACE” type of thing. The householders tell the Mari to get straight to fuck, and then the Mari responds in kind. And they go back and forth until one side loses.

Now, if the Mari loses, she goes to the next house. But if the householders lose, they have to let her in and give her their delicious alcohol and cheese. IMPORTANT STEP, HOWEVER: if they have a bare ounce of sense between them, they first make her promise to behave before letting her past the door. Because if they don’t, HA HA all hell breaks loose, and the party do as much mischief as they can, like smearing ash on your walls and stealing your goats and mixing your white laundry in with your colours and hiding your drawing tablet pens. It is a Riot.

Anyway, once done, they leave the tattered ruins of your former house, go to the next house, and start again. More delicious alcohol and cheese!

It all got banned by the Welsh Non-Conformist Church of No Fun ever, because rival Mari parties would get blind drunk and then fight each other in the streets. It started to die out in the 50s, though some smaller villages kept it going - Llangynnwyd never even stopped. And in the last two decades it’s started making a resurgence in places like Brecon, Llantrisant, etc - tonnes of places in the belt between Vale and mountains, really, which makes me think it’s because the Folk Museum is in St Ffagans. 

But Chepstow do a modern twist - the town is right on the border with England, so they do a festival of Welsh Mari Lwyd and English morris dancing combined in mid-January each year. Turns out, every goddamn Mari in the country comes to it, too, which is why this year I got to see 24 Mari Lwyds. I had NO IDEA. So, so many Maris…

It also used to sometimes get mixed in with other festive cheese-begging traditions like Calennig, but it is pretty much separate. As a final question: why do it? Well… we dunno. The purpose of the uppity skeletal horse beast is unknown at this point. Like I say, it may well have been a Rhiannon thing; given the way it got folded into some Christian things post-Reformation, it may have absorbed some form of fleeing-on-a-donkey-to-give-birth stuff. It’s hard to even nail down distribution patterns. But, something I find interesting about its distribution is that it was predominantly done in areas that either mined, smelted or sold minerals a lot. Make of that what you will.

And, that’s the Mari Lwyd.