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Beauties and Beasts by Betsy Hearne

Beauties and Beasts

by Betsy Hearne

Other authors: Joanne Caroselli (Illustrator)

Series: The Oryx Multicultural Folktale Series

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I know I read this, but my review is not here and I don't think I was sufficiently impressed that I need dig it out of my files.  I will go so far as to confirm that it is worth reading, despite the unappealing cover.
  Cheryl_in_CC_NV | Jun 6, 2016 |
Part of The Oryx Multicultural Folktale Series - which also includes Cinderella, Tom Thumb and A Knock At The Door - this collection of folklore from around the world contains twenty-seven tales, divided into three thematic sections: Rescued Beasts, Questing Beauties and Homely Women and Homemade Men. Although the title is taken from the famous French fairy-tale, La Belle et la Bête (which does indeed appear in the collection), the stories here are not so much variants of Beauty and the Beast, as they are Enchanted Spouse tales, of which Beauty and the Beast is but one (albeit famous) example.

A noted folklore and children's literature scholar, Betsy Hearne has also written a more academic history of this tale-type - Beauty and the Beast: Visions and Revisions of an Old Tale - so it should come as no surprise to the reader that she has included a brief preface, in which she sets out and explains the connections between some of her selections. Fans of the Aarne-Thompson system for classifying folktales - originally dreamt up by Finnish folklorist Antti Aarne, and modified by his American translator, Stith Thompson - will be interested to know that the vast majority of tales in Beauties and Beasts fall into types 425 ("The Search for a Lost Husband"), 425A ("The Monster or Animal as Bridegroom"), 425C ("The Beauty and the Beast"), and 402A ("The Quest for a Lost Bride").

The first section of tales, Rescued Beasts, opens with the titular French fairy-tale, Beauty and the Beast, taken from the best-known and most influential version of the story - that written by Mme. le Prince de Beaumont in 1756. There is, of course, an earlier (and considerably longer) La Belle et la Bête, written in 1740 by Mme. de Villeneuve. English translations of both can be found in Jack Zipes' Beauties, Beasts and Enchantments: Classic French Fairy Tales.

Other selections in this first grouping include the Russian story of The Enchanted Tsarevitch, in which a merchant's daughter finds herself wed to a snake; the Turkish tale of The Princess and the Pig, in which a young girl's desire for "Grapes that speak, Apples that smile, and apricots that tinkle in the breeze" leads to a most unexpected bridegroom; and the Appalachian A Bunch of Laurel Blooms for a Present, which sees its heroine living with a toad. Other beastly bridegrooms include dogs ([book:The Small-Tooth Dog|1819478], from England), serpents (The Fairy Serpent, from China), and lizards (The Lizard Husband, from Indonesia). Finally, as a means of contrast, the Japanese tale, Monkey Son-In-Law, is included, with its atypical unhappy ending, in which no transformation is effected.

The second, and by far longest section, Questing Beauties, opens with the famed Greco-Roman tale of Cupid and Psyche, originally found in Apuleius' second-century novel, The Golden Ass. The French tale of The Serpent and the Grape-Grower's Daughter follows, combining elements of Cupid and Psyche and Beauty and the Beast; while the German story of The Singing, Soaring Lark (from the Brothers Grimm), has closer ties to Cupid and Psyche. The classic Norwegian folktale, East of the Sun and West of the Moon, with its ursine husband, and heroine's quest for her lost love, is also included. The Appalachian Whitebear Whittington, with its bear spouse, and desperate quest to win back the husband, is clearly a variant of East of the Sun and West of the Moon; while the Irish tale of The Three Daughters of King O'Hara, with its incorporation of the fairy-world of Tir-na-Nog, seems quite unique.

The Black Bull of Norroway, from Scotland, reminded me of a number of Norwegian tales, also involving magical or enchanted bulls, and includes a lovely sing-song refrain towards the end. Other selections include: Bull-of-All-the-Land, a Jamaican variant of The Black Bull of Norroway; the rather gruesome Prince White Hog, from the Missouri French tradition, in which the enchanted groom eats his first two brides; and The Enchanted Prince, a Spanish-American tale involving an avian husband, and a bride from a family with nine daughters, each with a different number of eyes. This distinctive tale can also be found in the bilingual Pajaro Verde / The Green Bird. The final three selections, in this middle portion of the book, include The Story of Five Heads, from South Africa; The Ten Serpents, from Israel (which can be found in Dov Noy's Folktales of Israel), and the Lithuanian Egle, Queen of Serpents.

The third and final section, Homely Women and Homemade Men, contains some of the less common examples of this tale-type, featuring wives as enchanted monsters, or husbands created by women. It opens with the Arthurian selection, Sir Gawain and the Loathly Lady, in which the noble Sir Gawain must wed the hideously ugly Dame Ragnell, in order to save his king's life; and continues with the eighteenth-century Scots ballad, The Laidley Worm of Spindleston Heughs, in which a princess is freed from the enchantment laid on her by a hostile stepmother, when her brother returns to Bambrough Castle. This last is itself an adaptation of the earlier ballad, also included, of Kemp Owyne. The Italian tale of Pinto Smalto, from Giambattista Basile's Pentamerone; the West Virginian story of The Dough Prince, in which a husband is fashioned from dough; and the Native American (Crow) Old Man Coyote, the Young Man and Two Otter Sisters, round out the selections.

With its brief scholarly preface, its wealth of tales from around the world, and its extensive source notes and bibliography, Beauties and Beasts is a fantastic resource for anyone interested in this tale type! Comparative folklore enthusiasts will be in heaven! I myself feel inspired, not only to track down the other titles in this series, but to begin a Beauty and the Beast project. Simply outstanding! ( )
1 vote AbigailAdams26 | Apr 8, 2013 |
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Betsy Hearneprimary authorall editionscalculated
Caroselli, JoanneIllustratorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
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Presents several versions of "Beauty and the Beast" and "Cupid and Psyche," and provides several tales that reverse traditional gender roles. Includes commentary on each tale, activities, bibliographies, and a list of sources.

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