What we really need is an adaptation of the original 1740 The Beauty and the Beast
So were you aware that the The Beauty and the Beast story we all know is a heavily abridged and rewritten version of a much longer novella by
Gabrielle-Suzanne Barbot de Villeneuve? And that a lot of the plot holes existing in the current versions exist because the 1756 rewrite cut out the second half of the novella, which consisted entirely of the elaborate backstory that explains all the weird shit that happened before? And that the elaborate backstory is presented in a way that’s kind of boring because the novel had only just been invented in 1740 and no one knew how they worked yet, but contains a bazillion awesome ideas that beg for a modern retelling? And that you are probably not aware that the modern world needs this story like air but the modern world absolutely needs this story like air? Allow me to explain:
The totally awesome elaborate backstory that explains Beauty and the Beast
Once upon a time there was a king, a queen, and their only son
But while the prince was still in his infancy, in a neat reversal of how these fairy tales usually go, the king tragically died, leaving his wife to act as Regent until their son reaches maturity
Unfortunately, the rulers of all the lands surrounding them go, “Hmm, the kingdom is ruled by a woman now, it must be weak, time for an invasion!”
And the Queen goes, “Well, if I let some general fight all these battles for me, he’ll totally amass enough fame and power to make a bid for the throne; if I want to protect my son’s crown, I have no choice but to take up arms and lead the troops myself!”
(Btw, I want to stress that this woman is not Eowyn or Boudica and nothing in the way her story is presented suggests that she had any interest martial exploits before or in any way came to enjoy them during these battles. This is a perfectly ordinary court lady who would much rather be embroidering altar covers for the royal chapel and playing with her child until necessity made her go, “Oh no, this sucks, I guess I have to become a Warrior Queen now” and she just happened to kick ass at it anyway.)
And the Queen totally kicked ass, but the whole “twice as good for half the credit” thing meant that no matter how many battles she won, potential enemies refused to take her and her army seriously until she had defeated them so no sooner would she fend off one invasion than another one would pop up on a different border.
So she spent the majority of her young son’s life away from the castle leading armies, but it was OK because she left him in the care of her two best friends, who just happen to be fairies! This was an awesome idea because a) fairies have magic, and therefore are like the best people to protect the prince from any threats and b) fairies consider themselves to be so above humanity that the lowest fairy outranks the highest mortal, so they’d have no interest in taking a human throne. Good thing they were both good fairies instead of one good and one evil one!
(Spoiler: they were not both good fairies.)
So the two fairies basically take turns raising the prince until he’s old enough to rule. And on the eve of his twenty-first birthday, the evil older one comes into the prince’s bedroom.
“So listen, kid. You’re about to become king, your mother’s on her way home from the war to see you crowned, and I have a third piece of good news for you! You see, I’ve actually been spending so much time here lately because Fairyland’s become a bit too hot to hold me for reasons totally not related to me being secretly evil. And if I have to hang in the human world, I might as well reside in the upper echelons of it, so even though as a powerful fairy I completely eclipse your puny human status in a staggeringly unimaginable way, since you’re about to be king and since my premonition that I should stick this whole guardianship thing out because you would be hot one day has totally proved accurate (go me), I will graciously lower myself to allowing you to marry me. Please feel free to grovel at my feet in gratitude. (Btw, we can totally start the wedding night now, we’ll tell your mother about it when she arrives tomorrow.)”
Look, Ace Belle is not just into the whole…. sex thing, okay? Just no. She wants to read her books, to travel the world and maybe, just maybe, she can find someone who’s going to understand, that she’s not broken or unnatural, that she can love.
(But sometimes, in those dim hours before dawn breaks, Belle gives in to the fear that she is broken, that she can read about romance and kisses and love and desire and smile but not want it for herself and that she’s unnatural and sick for not wanting these things, these silly sweet things that most girls her age have dreamed of, that lead to marriage and the wedding bed.)
And the main problem with Gaston is that he doesn’t get this - because he’s the one convinced that he can fix her - that she’s just frigid or repressed and that if she just puts the books away, the right man (read: Gaston) can “awaken her passions.”
And Belle knows this is bullshit. So she makes it a point to run far, far away from Gaston whenever he comes skulking around and that her skin crawls when he tries to touch her and that the thought of being his “little wife” makes her physically ill.
So eventually Belle meets the Beast - in pretty much the same way we’re familiar with - and the Beast knows he’s on a timetable, that he’s got to find true love and break the spell and all that jazz.
Except he becomes friends with Belle first. And they end up sharing interests and stories and jokes and snark and laughter and finally, finally, Belle trusts him enough with her secret, the one where she thinks she’s different
and that she can love with all her heart but there’s something different
in her love and they have told her that her kind of love isn’t true at all, that it’s not any kind of love, period.
And the Beast is enraged. Not at Belle - but at everyone who’s ever made her feel this way, that her friendship was not enough, that her heart is not enough, that somehow this bright, beautiful, kind girl - who’d become his first friend in all these lonely years and whose made him realize that his enchanted servants were also his truest friends, not just frightened, paid lackeys - that they made Belle believe she was broken.
“You are not broken,” The Beast tells her. “You are Belle and I love you just as you are.”
The Beast knows he has laid his heart before her and he’s terrified and defiant all at the same time but it’s his own truth, curse or no curse.
Belle’s smile is the most beautiful thing he’s ever seen. And she tells him that she loves him too, just as he is.
The curse breaks and the Beast is a Prince again and she looks at him in wonder and reaches out to touch his face, to look into his eyes. Belle knows her Beast because his eyes have never changed.
When he kisses her, he asks her first and hesitantly, she nods and that first kiss is sweet for both of them but she is pale and she trembles and he reminds her, “Did I not tell you? You are not broken. You are Belle and I love you just as you are.”
And Belle knows her Beast, her Prince, will never ask for more than she can give, will never demand her body in his bed or believe that he could somehow “awaken” her supposed “desires.”
That kind of understanding and respect is the truest sort of love.
They make this - I love you just as you are - part of their wedding vows.
And they carry on as they have always done, because they both love their books and their stories and the two of them wander the world together hand in hand and they love each other, earnest and true and happily ever after.
Virginia Frances Sterrett (1900-1931) was an American artist and illustrator. When she was just 19 she was commissioned to illustrate Old French Fairy Tales, which are probably unfamiliar to most Americans.
Above; illustration for Blondine and the Tortoise, c. 1920.
John’s started reading classic fairy tales to Rosie at bedtime. Here are Sherlock’s reviews (on a scale of 1 to 5 stars):
Little Red Riding Hood: ★ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆
“I admire the girl’s independence, but this idiot child doesn’t recognize the difference between her beloved grandmother and a dangerous WOLF? The SAME WOLF she met in the forest less than an hour ago? And you think MY disguises are silly…”
Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs:★★ ☆ ☆ ☆
“I like the part about the Evil Queen demanding Snow White’s heart – nice and macabre. So Snow White runs away to the forest and becomes a housekeeper for a gang of diminutive gay miners? They should’ve just ended the story there – I don’t care for all that pointless, predictable nonsense about the poison apple and the prince.”
Goldilocks and the Three
“If those bears were any worse at deduction, they’d work for New
“Thought you might relate to Goldilocks, love – you’re both picky,
impatient, show zero respect for others’ personal property…”
“Oh please, John. Goldilocks
is a moron – now, if Rosie wants to
learn how to perform a proper home invasion…”
The Three Little Pigs:
“It’s a scam, obviously. At least two of these pig brothers are guilty of insurance fraud, and the third
may be in on it as well. A wolf BLEW your house down? While straw and sticks
may not be the sturdiest of building materials, the lung capacity of the
average fully grown Canis lupus is not
great enough to produce the force necessary to demolish even an exceedingly shoddy
The Little Mermaid:
no pirates? Would be better with pirates.”
“I’d like to
know Rapunzel’s diet, genetic makeup (or at least ethnicity), cranial
circumference, surface area of her scalp, the height of the tower, the
surrounding climate and humidity level, what sort of shampoo/conditioner she
used, whether or not she used hairspray or styling product …numerous variables affect the tensile strength and growth rate of human hair, you know…“
“I love a
ball. The ball is good – beautiful gown, the prince in his dress uniform, love
at first sight, dancing the night away, AND a mystery! Yet it’s all ruined
because I can’t stand the utter STUPIDITY of trying the glass slipper on every
eligible maiden in the land…it doesn’t take a deductive genius to recognize
that’s a waste of time!”
one actually has some valuable lessons. For one thing, someone is always
listening – royal minions in a fairy tale, Mycroft’s cameras and covert agents,
the homeless network…we’re under surveillance of some sort at all times. Be
vigilant, be aware, observe. Also, if you happen to have a ridiculous name, OWN IT – there’s
no point trying to keep it a secret, because it’ll come out eventually, JOHN
So, yesterday Pieter and I went to @waterstonesamsterdam and of course I couldn’t leave without buying a book 🙌🏼 So after admiring a lot of clothbound hardbacks we decided that we’d take this baby into our loving home 🙊 Hurray for book vouchers and sweet boyfriends ❤💸
You know, we see a lot of cisswap aus for Disney, but can we have more role reversals pls?
I want to see Jasmine as the sly street rat, enchanting passersby with a bat of her eyelashes and the swing of her hips - before robbing them blind and disappearing over a rooftop before they even know what’s hit them.
Flynn as the sheltered prince bored out of his skull, ready to jump out of his tower if only to sate his restlessness. Then in comes the small and spunky Rapunzel, long, wispy blond hair braided in a thick rope down her back, arms wrapped in lean muscle and a white palace horse following her like a lovesick puppy, despite her being a known criminal.
Big, burly Kristoff, so shy and awkward despite his stature. Kristoff who adores his big sister to the ends of the Earth, who desperately longs for the days of closeness they used to share when they were younger. Kristoff who always thought it was his duty to protect his petite, delicate little big sister, with her soft pale skin like fine white lace, her dainty fingers and gentle smile. Kristoff who blames himself for not being able to protect her when she accidentally freezes her entire country in an eternal winter. Kristoff who is enchanted by Anna and somewhat terrifying reindeer, Sven. Anna who is strong and capable, but still ditzy enough to make Kristoff toss and turn at night with worry for his airheaded new friend.
Tarzan as the cultured, eloquent young man, on a study trip with his eccentric mother to learn more about the gorillas. Tarzan meeting the mysterious, half-feral Jane, draped in animal skins and hair cut short and choppy around her face, lest it get snagged on tree branches or tugged out by ferocious predators as she flies through the forest on her vines.
Phillip as the naive, sheltered young prince raised as a simple village boy, meeting the alluring Aurora and her horse in the woods one day as they hunt for game. Her long golden hair is tied back in a neat knot high on her head to keep it out of the way, her fingers sure and unflinching as she strings up her prey. Aurora facing the dragon to save her prince charming; befriending the poor creature, soothing her ferocious rage borne of pain love - the rage of a mother separated from her hatchlings. Aurora promising the dragon to help find her babies, if only she can first be let through to save her prince charming.
It happened so slowly, most didn’t even realise it was
The disappearance of the Fairy Godmothers.
Nobody knows where they went, but then again nobody bothered
to ask. It seemed as though they’d always been there, so it wasn’t
much of a surprise that no-one asked where they went until it was too late to
get an answer.
After all, the world was a big place and growing bigger every year. There were so many people. More than when the Fairy Godmother’s had
More people than they ever hope could help.
Magic could only do so much
when they were so vastly outnumbered.
What was once commonplace became a lottery of sorts. Who
would be amongst those lucky enough to meet a Fairy Godmother? To have all
their dreams come true? Their problems solved? Who were the haves and who were
It didn’t matter how good a person was, all that mattered
was being in the right place at the right time, crying the right amount of
Really, it was inevitable that the backlash against Fairy
Godmothers would rise over time, as the world grew bigger and fewer people got
a chance at a magical happily ever after.
People always want a quick fix for their problems.
Yet, in the midst of the uproar, the anger, the envy, people
forgot that Fairy Godmothers were people too. Of course, they weren’t entirely
human, so it was easy to strip them of said humanity, to see them as these
beacons of fate, handing out happily-ever-afters on a whim and leaving the rest
of the population to rot.
It was easy to forget the fairies who had raised their
children in secret.
Easy to forget the ones who loved and watched over the
orphaned ones, as though they were their own.
Easy to forget the ones who protected them against the
darker forces in the world, as well as those who wielded them.
Until, one day, people began to notice that it had been weeks
since they’d spotted the familiar flutters of sparkling wings. There were no
whispers of magical happenings at peoples’ doors, no rumours to spread. Cries for help
went unanswered for everyone. It seemed at last that the world was equal- at
least in terms of those hated magical shortcuts.
Some celebrated a return to fairness, others felt stabs of
guilt at having pushed an entire group of beings into hiding. A few hoped they’d
come back if only to help those less fortunate- who now seemed to be suffering
more than ever in the fairies absence.
(There were certain murmurs among the younger folk, those
who had been too small to ever be graced by fairies power, about how vocal those in
positions of power had been in their hatred for the Fairy Godmothers. But
those criticisms were quickly squashed by those who were louder, older,
Weeks turned into months, months turned into years, and soon
Fairy Godmothers were a distant memory. They became nothing more than stories
to tell dazzled children, all with the understanding that Fairy Godmothers weren’t
real- that if their children wanted a happily ever after, they would have to
earn it like their forefathers before them.
Fairy Godmothers didn’t exist.
And their children would just have to accept that and move