Thanks to Goodreads, I just finished re-reading Beauty, by Robin McKinley. I still love it, but it inspired me to revisit Walt Disney’s and Mercedes Lackey’s versions of the fairy tale, as well as the Perrault version. I can’t help but be intrigued by the parallels with McKinley’s version in both the Disney DVD and in The Fire Rose. I don’t read French, so I have been unable to read Le Belle et la Bete and find out whether the parallels are based on a common source.

First, there is the idea that Beauty is somewhat of a misfit before she comes to the Beast’s castle. In Beauty she is the plain one of three sisters, but as she grows older in the castle, her beauty begins to show. In the Disney version she is more of a misfit socially, though always a beauty. In The Fire Rose she is (by early 20th century standards) that most unwomanly of creatures, a (gasp) female scholar.

That leads to the libraries. In all three versions, Beauty (or Belle or Rose) loves books–and all three castles have amazing libraries. In all three, the library plays a strong part in convincing Beauty that the Beast is really a person. In all three, Beauty and the Beast read to each other–though in The Fire Rose it is primarily Rose (the Beauty of that version) who reads to the Beast.

The Fire Rose doesn’t have the element that the servants can only be released from their enchantments when the Beast is, but the half-overheard conversations between the breezes and the occasional animated bit of furniture in Beauty seem to me to foreshadow the conversations between Lumiere and Cogsworth in the Disney version.

I’m going to have to re-read Rose Daughter, another Beauty and the Beast retelling by Robin McKinley.

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