Original Research

International Beauties and Beasts: A feminist and new historicist analysis of Beauties and the Beasts from around the world

Monique Banks
Literator | Vol 43, No 1 | a1793 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/lit.v43i1.1793 | © 2022 Monique Banks | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 24 February 2021 | Published: 19 September 2022

About the author(s)

Monique Banks, Department of English, Faculty of Social Sciences and Humanities, University of Fort Hare, East London, South Africa


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Abstract

Other than the most widely-recognised Beauty and the Beast tales of de Beaumont and Disney, a number of writers from all over the world have recreated the tale. These writers originate from a number of social contexts, and each has recreated the tale according to the expectations of these societies. Alexander Afanasyev’s Russian tale The Enchanted Tsarévich, Consiglieri Pedroso’s Portuguese tale The Maiden and the Beast, Evald Tang Kristensen’s Danish tale Beauty and the Horse, the Italian tale Zelinda and the Monster and Chinese folk tale The Fairy Serpent are analysed in this article. These international remakes will be analysed using the New Historicist and Feminist frameworks. The article aims to understand the extent to which these less-recognised tales share patriarchal ideas. Moreover, the analysis draws connections between the ideas presented in the tales and their historical backdrop, emphasising that a literary work cannot be separated from its social context. The tales tell the story of gender inequality. They perpetuate patriarchal behaviours and expectations through the behaviours of and relationships between the beauties, Beasts, fathers and sisters depicted. The male characters are empowered decision-makers, who for the most part have control over their lives; however, the female characters are submissive and passive, given little to no control. Moreover, the tales relate closely to their social contexts, and this article analyses each tale in parallel with a discussion of its social context. The patriarchal nature of each tale suggests that the 19th century encouraged gendered inequality and differences as well.

Keywords

Beauty and the Beast; international fairy tale; 19th century; Russian fairy tale; Portuguese fairy tale; Danish fairy tale; Italian fairy tale; Chinese fairy tale; feminism; new historicism; patriarchy; gender expectations in tales; social context

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