So, today we’re going to be talking Disney. Ahh, Disney. That which we look upon with a mixture of love and hate. The company is responsible for how the majority of the world has grown up with Fairy Tales recently and with the…success(?) of Maleficent as well as the show Once Upon a Time the company has decided to expand their retelling of already made movies into book form. Today we look at the novel The Beast Within, A Tale of Beauty’s Prince by Serena Valentino.
Everyone knows the gist of the original Beauty and the Beast fairy tale. A Prince is cursed to be a monstrous creature and through the love of a beautiful maiden, he’s transformed back into his human form. In 1991 the Walt Disney Company released it’s one of it’s most beloved movies, Beauty and the Beast about a dick prince who’s transformed into a monster and Belle, a bookish beauty who becomes his willing prisoner and the love that blossoms between them. It was extremely successful with many considering it to be the Magnum Opus of the Disney Renaissance. This book is based completely on the Disney film but tells the story from the Beast’s perspective with the added addition of backstory as to how he gradually became the way we see him in the film.
I feel that what makes this a great and engaging book is how seriously it takes itself and it’s characters. It doesn’t shy away from showing excatly how horrible a person the Prince/Beast is as a human being and by the time the damage is done, you feel sorry for him but you’re also looking at him like “Well no shit this happend to you. You’ve been an awful human being and you’ve gotten what you deserve”. Personally, I always felt that in comparison to a lot of the other Dinsey princes and more specifically leading males, the Beast was always a very interesting character because he’s someone that you’d actually meet in real life. He wasn’t an over idealized heartthrob in a horrible situation, he was a total dick who got what was coming to him and then had to work to fix everything. The story isnt about Belle learning how to see the man behiend the monster because for fucks sake, the man WAS the monster. And the book wastes no time in showing exactly how much of a monster he was. Right off the bat…at least 3 chapters in (which for a kids book is like…30-40 pages in) the Prince learns that his fiance Circe is actually a pig farmers daugter and promptly dumps and shames her for “lying” to him. He’s obsessed with beauty, image and status and these all come to bite him in the ass because Circe is quite beautiful and when her status is called into question it’s revealed that she’s actually the Enchantress. At that point she casts her curse and then we really get to see how horrible a person he is.
I think though that’s another great thing about this thoguh is how in character everyone is. The Prince/Beast, Belle, Lumiere, Mrs. Potts, Cogsworth and even Gaston are all present characters and all act exaclty as you’d expect them to, or at least how they’re presented in the movie. Even after Circe curses him, the Prince makes no real effort to chage his ways, instead trying to find ways to fool the curse and those keeping it in effect. He’s a horrible person to almost everyone around him and when he finally becomes the Beast he’s just a miserable lump. Gaston and Belle retain their established characters fromt the movie and honestly i feel like this is the point where things could’ve gone very far off the rails. This could’ve easily been some fanficy shit fest where everyone’s grossly out of character or we see that “the Beast wasnt that bad” or some shit like that, but it’s not. It sticks to the established canon and presents it’s characters as thus.
While it’s really short and…honestly kind of surpflous as it almost contradicts certain aspects of the movie it’s still really great. It’s got a great mood and atmosphere, stays true to the spirt of the movie and reinforces the moral that beauty is really only skin deep. It’s fanficy in a good way and makes you sympathize with it’s characters while creating alternate ways to view them or simply reinforce what was alredy stated by the movie. I’m John Cortez Turner and this is my first review in…3 months or so. Feels good to be writing again. Stay tuned cause I’ve got a few more reviews coming! Gonna try to type up a storm in the next few weeks.