Once upon a time there was a very rich man who lived with his three daughters. The two older daughters laughed at anyone who did not dress as well as they did. If they were not going to a ball, they were shopping for as many fine dresses and hats as they could carry home.
The youngest daughter, Beauty, liked to read most of all. “No one will want you!” her two older sisters said, and they laughed. “Look at your hair – you look like a servant girl!” Beauty did not know why they talked to her in a mean way. But she said nothing.
One day, the father got some very bad news. He had spent all of his money on a ship that he sent out to sea for trade. Now he learned that the ship was gone. Everything on it was lost! All at once, the rich father became as poor as poor could be.
The family could no longer stay in their big house. The house, its fine tables and chairs, and all of their fine things, had to be sold.
All the father had left was a little hut deep in the woods. So that is where he and his three daughters had to move. Living in the hut in the woods was hard work. Each day a fire had to be started, meals cooked, the place cleaned up, the garden tended, and things fixed when they broke. Now that the family was poor, you might think the two older sisters would help out with the chores. Think again.
“She looks like such a mess,” they said, turning up their noses at Beauty. “She might as well serve us.” And so Beauty did all the hard work.
And then – good news! – the father’s ship came to shore!
“Daughters,” said the happy father, “I am going to town. Tell me what fine gift I can bring back for you.”
“Bring me the finest dress from the finest shop,” said the eldest sister.
“I want one just like it,” said the middle sister.
“And you, Beauty?” said he.
“All I want, Father,” said she, “is a single rose.”
“Can you believe her?” said the eldest sister.
“What a fool!” said the middle sister. They both laughed.
“Girls!” said the father. “If that is what Beauty wants, that’s what I will bring back for her.”
The father was on his way home when he thought, “I forgot all about the rose for Beauty!” All at once, the sky turned black. “Oh, dear!” he said. “A storm is coming!”
A moment later, heavy dark rains fell from the sky. Soaking wet and tired, the father saw a blink of light from far away. He went closer to the light, hoping it meant there was some place he could ask to stay the night. When he got up close, he saw a large palace with candles in all its windows. It was very odd, but the garden gate was open. And so with care, the father stepped in.
“Hello?” he said. No answer.
There, before him, was a great feast over a long table.
“Hello?” he said again. Still, no answer. The father sat down in front of the fire to warm himself, and he waited. But still, no one came.
“I suppose it would be all right if I stay the night,” said the father. He took a quick bite from the feast, found a bedroom, and fell fast asleep.
The next morning the table was laid again, but this time with breakfast. Again – most odd! – no one was around. “I suppose I should leave,” said the father after a while.
On the way out he passed a rose garden. “I will take just one,” said he. And he picked a rose for Beauty.
Just then, a loud stomp came up from behind him.
Roared a voice – “You took my rose!”
The father spun around. There before him was an awful, huge monster. “I… I’m sorry!” he said. “I didn’t know.”
“You will pay for this!” the Beast yelled. “You will die!”
The father fell on his knees. “Please!” he begged. “Do not kill me! I only picked the rose for one of my daughters.”
Oh, so you have daughters?” said the Beast. “Hmm.. Well, if one of them will come and stay here in this palace, you will be free. If not, you must return yourself in three months, and take your punishment.”
When the father got home, Beauty could tell something was wrong. “What is it, Father?” she said. “Oh, nothing,” said he. But she knew that was not true.
At last, the father told his girls what the Beast had said. “This has all happened because I asked you to bring home a rose!” said Beauty. “I will go there in your place. Or else, you will die.”
“No, I cannot allow that!” said the father. “I am old and don’t have much longer to live. You are young – you must not do this for me!”
But Beauty would not change her mind. And two days later, the father took Beauty to the palace where the Beast lived.
“So this is your daughter?” said the Beast, looking at Beauty.
“Yes,” said she. “I will stay here. And that means my father is free to go. That is what you said.”
“Yes,” said the Beast.
The days were long and there was no one for Beauty to talk to at the palace. Every night at nine, the Beast would come for dinner. At first he would only grunt and she said nothing. After all it was not easy to be a prisoner, even if it is at a palace. Then one time at dinner, he made a little joke and she smiled. Another time, he made a comment, and she looked him in the eye. After that, he would ask her about her day, and she would tell him.
Not long after that, Beauty came to a part of the palace she had not seen before. Over a door was a sign, “Beauty’s Room.” The door was open. Inside the room were shelves of books to the ceiling, a piano, and a cabinet of fine dresses, just her size.
Now there was much to talk about at dinner! One night, at the end of dinner, Beast said, “Beauty, I love you. Will you marry me?”
Beauty was shocked. “Beast, you are my best friend,” she said. “But please understand, I do not want you to marry you.”
Still, the Beast asked her the same question after dinner, time after time. And each time Beauty said the same thing. One night, the Beast said, “Beauty, if you will not marry me, what can I do to make you happy?”
“If you must know,” she said, “it would be to see my father. I miss him so much.”
The next night, the Beast gave Beauty two magical items – a magic mirror and a magic ring. “If you want to see your father,” said he, “just ask the magic mirror to show him to you. If you are ready to go back home, turn the magic ring on your finger three times and ask the mirror to take you there. When it’s time to come back here to the palace, turn the ring three more times and ask the mirror to come back. But do not be gone for more than one week. Or I will die of grief!”
Beauty agreed. When she got back to her room, she looked in the magic mirror and asked to see her father. And there he was, in bed and looking so sick he could die!
In fear, Beauty turned the ring on her finger three times. “Please, Magic Mirror,” she said. “Take me home right now!”
And she was back! Ah, such joy when her father looked up and saw Beauty! For much of why he was ill was in knowing that Beauty was stuck in the palace, all because of him. Beauty stayed by her father’s bed for hours. She told him that she had all the books she could read, music to play, and fine dresses to wear. “The Beast is not so bad,” she said, “once you get to know him. He’s good to talk to. He’s my friend.”
Beauty looked around. “Where are my sisters?”
“They are both married,” said the father.
“Did they marry good men?” said she.
“They had a lot of money,” said the father. “But I do not know if your sisters are happy.” For the eldest sister had married a handsome man so vain that he gave no thought to anything else, including his wife. And the middle sister had married a man with a sharp wit but who used it to hurt everyone around him, and most of all his wife.
When the sisters came to the house and saw Beauty, dressed so well and talking about how kind and good the Beast was to her, they burned with rage. Beauty told them she must stay no more than one week. And the sisters came up with a plan.
They petted Beauty and said such nice things they had never said before. When she told them she must go soon, they wept. They said she must not leave. There was still so much left they wanted to do with her! And why does just a few days matter, after all? So Beauty stayed.
One night she had a dream about the Beast. In her dream, the Beast lay sick and dying. When Beauty woke up, she asked the magic mirror to show her the Beast. There he was in the mirror, lying in the rose garden, looking so sick he would die. At once, she turned the magic ring three times. “Take me back to the Beast!” she said. In a moment she was sitting next to the poor, sick Beast, who could only gasp for air.
“You have come back!” said the Beast in a thick voice.
“I’m so sorry that I am late!” said Beauty.
“I could not bear the idea that you may not come back to me. I am afraid it is too late for me now.” His eyes closed.
“No!” cried Beauty. “Do not leave me!” Just then, she knew in her heart what was true. “I love you!” she cried out. “Please come back! If you only come back, I will be your wife.” Tears rolled down her cheeks.
Just then, the Beast opened his eyes. “Beauty!” he said. “You did it!”
In a flash, the Beast was changed to a handsome prince! Beauty did not know what to think of this change.
“Ah, Beauty!” said the Beast, and he told her his story. Years ago when he was a prince, an evil fairy had put a spell on him. He must stay a beast forever, until a maiden loved him for who he really was. Now she had broken the spell!
And so Beauty and the Beast were married. They lived happily ever after.