There was once a very rich merchant who lived in a fine house, with servants to answer his every need. His beautiful wife had given him three strong healthy sons and three daughters, but one day she fell ill and died shortly afterwards. Although the two oldest daughters were beautiful they only cared for clothes and jewelry and their own pleasures, and would often mock their younger sister because she cared for their father while they thought for themselves. She was the image of her mother so the merchant called his youngest daughter Beauty and because of her kindness to him and her family, she became the joy of his life.
Shortly after the death of his wife, the merchant’s four ships sank in a terrible storm, and he had to give up his fine house and servants and move to a small farm in the country. With her father and brothers, Beauty worked hard and learned to rise early in the morning. She helped with the milking and feeding of the animals, the ploughing and all other farm jobs, but the two older girls did nothing but complain. They whined that their fine gowns became muddy in the winter and dusty in the summer, and that the other farmers and their sons and daughters, who lived nearby, were ‘clods’ and not witty or clever like their friends in the city. As for helping on the farm they did nothing, such as not getting out of bed until ten o’clock in the morning and never lending Beauty a hand with the cooking or cleaning.
They would mock her and call her ‘fathers pet’, but Beauty just smiled and cared for her father and the family. One day a messenger called at the farm to say that one of the merchant’s ships had not been sunk, but had returned. The merchant got ready to go to the city, but first asked his children what he should bring back for them. His sons asked for tools to help with farm work, but the oldest girls asked for the fine clothes of satin and lace, and wanted to return to their fine house in the city. “What can I bring for you,” he asked Beauty, “to reward you for cheerful nature and hard work?” “Father,” she answered “I need nothing but a rose, for roses remind me of our poor dead mother.” The merchant went to the city, but the fortune he had hoped to raise from his cargo was not to be, for most of it was spoiled by sea water or damaged in the storm.
He was thankful that the crew had been saved but he had to sell the ship so that he could pay them their wages. Sadly he started back to his family with nothing in his pockets and even worse, on the journey home a great storm began to blow, and freezing rain began to soak through his clothes. The merchant, searching for shelter for himself and his horse, saw a large open gate in the wall in front of him. Through it, at the end of a long drive, was a lamp gleaming from a large house. He rode towards the light and found himself in a large courtyard where the door of one of the brightly lit stables stood open. He dismounted, and his horse, which was very tired and hungry, walked straight into the open stable and began to eat the oats and hay that had been placed in the manger. The merchant walked to the house where he found the front door ajar, and although he called ‘hello’ several times no-one answered.
He went in and found a bright fire burning in the grate and a table set for one person and laden with food. Although he was very hungry, he did not sit down but stood by the fire warming himself, expecting the owner of the house to appear at any moment, but no-one came. He waited an hour, until he was that hungry that he went to the table sat down and helped himself to a small portion from each of the dishes. By now he was so tired that he climbed the stairs and found a bedroom where a fire burned brightly in the hearth and a bed with the sheets and blankets turned back to welcome him. He fell on to it and was soon sound asleep. The next morning he awoke to find a bath of steaming water in the corner of the room and that his clothes, which were dirty and torn because of the storm, had gone and in their place lay a full new suit and a fine linen shirt.
He bathed and dressed and went downstairs to find the table covered with fresh linen, laden with food, but again with only a place set for one. He ate breakfast, and went to the stable to fetch his horse, who had been fed and brushed and groomed, and was already harnessed. He mounted and as he was leaving the house he saw before him a great arch of beautiful roses. Suddenly he remembered that Beauty had asked him for a rose, so he picked one to take back to her. There was a loud roar. In front of him stood the most frightening creature he had ever seen. It stood as high as the tallest man and was dressed in human clothes. Although its face was hidden by long hair, the merchant glimpsed jaws that were lined with fearsome teeth and saw hands and feet that ended in huge claws. “I gave you shelter, warmth, food and clothes,” the beast roared, “fed and groomed your horse. How do you reward me? By stealing my roses. Prepare to die, you ungrateful wretch.”
The merchant jumped from his horse and fell upon his knees. “I meant no harm,” he cried. “I promised my daughter a single rose to remind her of her poor dead mother. If I must die let me take it to her first. I give my word that I will return, Lord” “Do not call me Lord,” the creature replied, “for I am but a Beast. Now tell me of your daughter, and do not lie, for I shall know!” The merchant told him of Beauty and his family and of their great misfortune. When he had finished the Beast said, “You seem to be a man of honour, so I will release you but you must return in one month to face your punishment or bring Beauty in your place.” “I give you my word,” the merchant cried. Then the beast said, “First go back to your room. Take anything you wish and put it into the chest that is there and I will send it to you.”
The merchant returned to the room and saw gold coins and diamonds lying in heaps about the place. He filled the chest to the brim, closed the lid and hurried from the room. In the courtyard his horse still waited, but the Beast was nowhere to be seen, so the merchant mounted and galloped away. When he reached home he called his family to him and told them all that had happened. “It is all the fault of our stupid sister, Beauty,” the older girls wailed. “If she asked for fine clothes as we did then our poor father would not have to return to be killed.” “I will die in his place,” said Beauty. “No, no!” cried the merchant. “I am old and have not much longer to live, I will go as promised.” “No father,” said Beauty, “if you die my brothers and sisters will all lose a father, but if I die I do not matter.” The older sisters readily agreed.
Although her father and brothers would not hear of it, Beauty stubbornly refused to change her mind. Sadly her father went to his room and there was the chest with its gold and jewels standing there, but he decided to say nothing about it. Whilst the merchant had been away, each of the older sisters had found a man who they wished to marry, so Beauty persuaded her father to allow them to wed before she went to the Beast, leaving him with only his three sons. As the month came to a close, the merchant and Beauty left for the Beast’s house. When they arrived they found a table laden with food, only this time there were two places set. They ate, and after they had finished they heard a loud noise and before them stood the Beast, who bowed to Beauty. “You have kept your word,” said the Beast to the merchant. “Which of you is to stay?”
‘It is I,” said Beauty. “It was my fault that my father picked the rose, so it is I who must be punished.” “Please daughter,” cried the merchant, “Let me be the one to stay!” “Your daughter has spoken,” said the Beast to the merchant. “Go now and never return to this place!” The old man did as he was told and sadly rode away. The Beast turned to Beauty and said, “Your care for your father and your family pleases me. Now go to the room at the top of the stairs and we will speak again tomorrow.” Thankful that she was not to be killed right away, she did as she was told, and saw on the door of the room a sign which said ‘Beauty’s Room!’ She opened the door and gasped at the beautiful furniture there. A small piano graced one corner and there were many shelves filled with valuable books. The curtains were of finest damask and around the huge four poster bed, with its sheets of the purest white linen, hung drapes of the sheerest silk.
“It is the most wondrous room I have ever seen,” said Beauty sadly to her self, “It is a great pity that I have to die tomorrow.” She lay on the bed and fell into a deep sleep, and dreamt that she saw her mother who said “Don’t be afraid, the Beast will not harm you and all will be well.” When she awoke next morning in a corner of the room she saw a bath of fragrant smelling water and lying on her bed the prettiest gown of lace and gold and silver threads that she had ever seen. She bathed and dressed and went down the stairs where she found a table laden with food before her, but no-one in sight. After she had eaten she spent the day wandering through the wonderful gardens full of sweet smelling herbs and flowers. When she returned to the house she found the table again set with just one place. As she was about to eat, she heard a great noise and the Beast shuffled into the room.
“My lady,” the Beast asked, “May I sit with you whilst you eat?” “Why do you not join me at the table?’, Beauty answered. But the Beast shook his head and replied “I am but a Beast, whilst you are the loveliest creature I have ever seen. To sit with you is reward enough.” After a while the Beast asked “Do you think I am ugly?”. Beauty, who was an honest girl, answered, “Yes I do. Yet although you are ugly to look at, I feel that there is great goodness in you.” The Beast was silent for a while and then said, “Will you marry me and live with me here?” Beauty shook her head, and the Beast left. Every night thereafter the Beast sat and watched while Beauty ate, and after they had talked he asked her to marry him and every time she refused. After many weeks Beauty said, “Dear Beast, why do you hurt me so by making me refuse to marry you. I wish I could, but you have become a very dear friend to me, that is all you will ever be.”
“I love you dearly,’ answered the Beast, “and if ‘dear friend’ is all that you can only be, be that, but promise that you will never leave me.” “Dear Beast, I promise you that I will never, ever leave you,” replied Beauty, “never ever.” One day Beauty was feeling ill at ease and the Beast asked what was wrong. “I fear my father is very ill,” she told him,” and that I should be with him.” “Then look and tell me what you see,” replied the Beast, pushing a silver mirror into her hands. Beauty looked and could at first see only mist, but as it cleared she suddenly saw her father, lying ill in bed, with her brothers around him. “Oh, my poor father is ill,’ she cried. “Please dear Beast, let me go to him and in one week I will return, I promise.” “You promised that you would never leave me” said the Beast sadly, “but I see that your father is ill and know that he has a greater call on you than I.”
“Dear Beast,” Beauty answered looking into his eyes, “I would rather die than not return to you.” “Then sleep, dearest Beauty,” he replied, “and when you go, take this ring and whenever you wish to return, bang it three times upon the table.” Beauty agreed, and took the ring. She lay upon her bed and fell into a deep sleep, and awoke in her old room in her father’s house. Her father and brothers were overjoyed to see her, and sent messengers to her sisters who called upon her and were each very jealous of the beautiful gowns that she wore, a different one for each day. The dresses came from a huge chest that had appeared in her room. One day Beauty took some dresses from the chest to give to her sisters, but even as she thought about it, the dresses and the chest disappeared. It seems that the Beast wants no-one but you to wear them,” her father said, and when Beauty agreed with him the chest re-appeared.
“I have promised him that I would only leave him for a week, and then I must return to him.” Beauty told her family, but her sister’s plotted with each other to keep her longer. “Let us keep her here for more than a week,” they said, “then the Beast will surely come after her and take her back and gobble her up.” So they pretended that they wanted her company and introduced her to their friends, and their friends introduced her to theirs, until time passed by so quickly that soon not only a week, or a month, but two months had slipped by. One morning Beauty took the magic mirror which the Beast had given her and peered into it. She screamed, for in it she saw the Beast, clearly dying, lying in the garden of his house. “Oh dearest Beast,” she sobbed, “You are my one true friend, generous in heart and deed, not shallow like my sisters or their silly chattering friends. How could I have left you for so long?” Then she remembered the ring that the Beast had given her, and banged it three times on the table.
Suddenly she found herself standing in the Beast’s garden and ran to him. She could see he was very weak and near to death so she cradled his head in her arms. As she did so the Beast opened his eyes and said, “I thought that you had broken your promise to me. No food has passed my lips since you left, but now that you have returned and I have seen you, I can die happily.” “Oh dearest Beast, please live,” Beauty cried as her tears fell upon his face. “I love you. Oh! Please live and I will marry you and never ever leave you again.” Then, as she leaned to kiss him, a bright light seemed to shine all around them and Beauty buried her face against the Beast’s chest. When she lifted her head she found that she was looking into the face of a handsome young man. “Oh where is my Beast,” she sobbed, “for it is him that I truly love.” “I am he,” replied the young man, “I am a prince. A wicked witch that I drove from my father’s kingdom cast a spell upon me dooming me to stay as a Beast until a beautiful woman loved me enough to marry me. You, my dear Beauty, judged me by my heart and deeds and not by my looks.”
Beauty and her prince left for her father’s house, where everyone greeted them with great joy and happiness and soon they were married and lived happily ever after, much to the envy of her two older sisters who had each married a miserly and boring man.