'Beauty and the Beast': 7 Major Differences Between Both Disney Movies and the French Fairytale

7:00 AM 3/10/2017

by Jennifer Konerman

The Disney versions don't favor costumed monkeys, nightly proposals or Belle's condescending confrontation with her new mother-in-law.

Beauty and the Beast Still_Cover_Split - Publicity - H 2017
Courtesy of Disney; Courtesy of HarperCollins Publishers

A tale as old as time it may be, but the new live-action remake of Beauty and the Beast borrows from an 18th-century text that only slightly resembles the new and animated versions of the romance.

The story — written by Gabrielle-Suzanne Barbot de Villeneuve and later slightly changed and released again by Jeanne-Marie Leprince de Beaumont — has undergone several iterations. But as the 1991 animated classic, the live-action remake and the original fairytale largely stay on the theme of "learning to love," they do differ on a few big fairytale moments (sorry, Gaston fans).

See the 7 major differences below.

  • The Spell

    While the basic idea of a handsome prince being cursed is the same throughout both original story and movies, the specifics vary wildly. The movies see a selfish prince who must redeem himself through a spell, after turning his back on a kind old woman in need of help. But the book's version is largely innocent — a rare example of Disney actually making the movie darker than its inspiration — as it sees the prince as the victim. After refusing to marry the old, horrific-looking fairy who basically raised him, he is cursed to become a hideous Beast "to appear as stupid as thou art horrible." A kinder fairy took pity on him and covered the grounds in fog so no one would enter the castle, and also froze anyone in the vicinity so that they couldn't share his secret.

  • The Rose

    The rose is something that appears in both the movies and original story, but they serve very different purposes. In the animated movie, the flower counts the days until the Beast's demise, signaling the time Belle has left to help break the spell. But in the original text, the rose is what instigates the entire mess.

    When Belle's father, a merchant, sets off on a business trip of sorts, he comes upon a castle. He partakes of its unexplained hospitality for awhile, and when he remembers his promise to his daughter that he will bring her back a single rose, he picks one from the palace's garden. This is when merchant and Beast meet, and the Beast demands that he must either stay as his prisoner or go home and send back one of his daughters to stay with him. "I will pardon thee, but upon condition that thou wilt give me one of thy daughters — I require some one to repair this fault." Belle, feeling guilty that it was her request of a rose that got her father into trouble to begin with, insists that she go, thus sealing her fate. The Beast's fury at the theft by Belle's father is something from the original book that's brought into the live-action movie.

  • Gaston

    No one's slick as Gaston, no one's quick as Gaston ... and no one exists named Gaston in the original text. In fact, there isn't really a villain like Gaston in the fairytale, unless one counts the fairy who cursed the Beast to begin with. No Gaston also means no mobs who want to kill the Beast to stop him from potentially attacking the village, leaving the book's story to focus much more on the isolated locations of the Beast's palace and Belle's family home.

  • LeFou

    Sorry, but since there's no Gaston in the book, that also means there's no memorable sidekick named LeFou either.

  • Singing Servants

    The beloved candelabra Lumiere and ornate clock Cogsworth of the Disney films aren't so helpful in the original story, probably because they're not around at all. Instead of placing singing servants and inanimate objects in the palace to help Belle, the novel version surrounds her birds and monkeys — in costume, no less — who serve as her companions. 

    The people in the cursed palace did face a similar fate, however. In the original story, they are frozen as statues after the prince is transformed so that no one leaves the grounds to tell anyone of the secret. Once the spell is broken, they simply awake as if no time has gone by.

  • The Courtship

    Beauty and the Beast slowly fall in love over time in the films, after spending time together (while imprisoned) in the Beast's palace. Soon, she is able to see the good man behind the mask. But the book's journey toward courtship is quite different. While the couple dines together, dances and gets to know one another in the film, the Beast hardly talks to her in the original story. In fact, she eats alone each evening before he comes in to say goodnight and proposes to her. Every night, she rejects him.

    And when the book's version of Belle sleeps, she sees "a young man, beautiful as Cupid is painted," who comes to her in her dreams. "I love thee tenderly; thou alone can bestow happiness on me by being happy thyself. Never deny me this." She asks what she can do for them to be together, to which he responds: "Judge not by thine eyes, and, above all, abandon me not, but release me from the terrible torment which I endure." In those words, he hints that he is the true form of the Beast and that she is the one who can free him, but because she misunderstands, she struggles with loving the man of her dreams while befriending the Beast.

  • The Big Reveal

    The climactic moment of the films, when (spoiler alert?) the Beast reverts to a handsome prince, isn't such a high point of the original fairytale. Actually, it takes place about halfway through the book. 

    Belle finally agrees to marry the Beast, and even after that romantic moment, he remains unchanged in form. The next day, she sees the man from her dreams (her "Unknown"), asleep next to her — but she can't wake him. It isn't until later that the queen — the prince's mother — stops by with the kind fairy to thank Belle for freeing the prince from his curse. However, she then ruins the moment by complaining that as a mere merchant's daughter, she couldn't possibly be good enough to marry her son. It's only then that the prince rises to join Belle and explain his story.