I honestly did not set out to write an adaptation of Beauty and the Beast. There have been so many great adaptations and it really is almost everyone’s favorite fairy tale. Even thinking about it makes me break out in hives! My saving grace is that I didn’t try to write a straight adaptation or to compete with those already stellar adaptations that already exist. Here are my top five favorite Beauty and the Beast adaptations.
5. Beastly by Alex Flinn. Bringing a full on beast into the modern world is not easy. It’s so much easier to believe magic in a fantasy or historical setting, but putting that kind of enchantment into a modern American city with modern American people responding to it is NOT easy. Flinn manages to do this in a very believable and realistic way. If you’ve only seen the movie Beastly, please don’t judge the book by its movie. This is a fun, relatively light YA and it translates the story of Beauty and the Beast extremely well into the modern day while still retaining almost all of the original elements.
4. Beauty and the Beast – the television show. In fact, both television shows! When the first Beauty and the Beast was on in the late 1980s I watched it with my mom and loved it. I actually still quote a line from the pilot at least once a week. I have to confess that I’m scared to go back and watch it again because it might not live up to my memory of it. That’s also one reason that I was hesitant to start watching the CW redux of the older t.v. show. I did finally catch up on it a few months ago and now it is part of my weekly viewing schedule. I’m putting both t.v. shows on the list because I think they’re both clever ways to incorporate the man/beast myth into a modern setting. The new BATB show on the CW both entrances and infuriates me. The writing can be choppy, often the characters repeat dialogue that we’ve heard before and it’s almost always repetitive exposition (“the only way we can be together is if we destroy the agency hunting you”). I guess this is to remind the audience because hopefully the characters themselves do not suffer from short term memory problems. However, the chemistry between Cat and Vincent, as well as the strength of the supporting cast, makes this a very watchable show.
3. Rose Daughter by Robin McKinley. There are usually two camps – those who love McKinley’s first retelling of this fairy tale called Beauty, and those who love her revisiting of it in Rose Daughter. I love both although for me Beauty edges out Rose Daughter. I do love the dense, lyrical language in Rose Daughter (it’s much more in line with McKinley’s later books), and the symbolism and just absolutely breathtakingly visual writing. Where it doesn’t measure up to Beauty for me is in the characters. What I remember about Rose Daughter is all of those things I just mentioned – mostly the language, emotions, and images. What I remember about Beauty is the characters.
2. Walt Disney’s Beauty and the Beast. Of course this is on the list. This movie is so well done (except of course for the timing of the curse versus how long they’ve been enchanted issue, which I feel the need to point out to / debate with my husband every time we watch this movie). The animation is gorgeous, the songs are fabulous, Belle is a great heroine, the beast is sufficiently jerky (and yes, potentially borderline abusive what with the “if she doesn’t eat with me she doesn’t eat at all” stuff – but because he has a heart of gold we know he doesn’t really mean it and is just speaking out of anger…ahem. Like so many of Disney’s adaptations Beauty and the Beast has become iconic and THE representation of the fairy tale.
1. Beauty by Robin McKinley. McKinley makes the list twice! I thought about not including one of these retellings and putting in something else, there are plenty of Beauty and the Beast adaptations to chose from and I like a lot of them. But I couldn’t bring myself to leave Rose Daughter off the list. Beauty will always be at the top of the list – that’s not even a question for me. Like I mentioned earlier, Rose Daughter is more dense and lyrical but Beauty is about the characters. Yes, it is a relatively simple and straight-forward retelling and that is why it works. What I remember about Rose Daughter is images of things like rose seeds – gorgeously described…what I remember about Beauty is … Beauty and her sisters and her father and her horse. I remember the Beast and the way he sat still while Greatheart approached him – feeling both a kinship with the horse and its mistress. I remember those moments that define the characters and that is why I re-read it over and over again.
I have to admit that I went on a Beauty and the Beast free reading diet while I was working on Atone, but I would love to read even more retellings. The great thing about the story is that it can be adapted in so many ways and still speak to us. What are your favorite Beauty and the Beast adaptations? I’d love some recommendations!