Posted on April 01, 2016
The most commonly retold version of Beauty and the Beast is the French fairy tale written by Jeanne-Marie LePrince de Beaumont in 1756. However, the story of a beautiful maiden married to/imprisoned by a beast is retold in many, many different stories. You can read some of them here.
Click here to read the popular French story.
To me, this story seems to have a clear moral (or two). Kindness is always rewarded, and, choosing "virtue before either wit or beauty," is the sensible choice when getting married. One of Beauty's selfish sisters marries a handsome man, the other one marries a "man of wit," and they are both very unhappy in their marriages. I can imagine French girls in the 1700s being told this story so that they would understand what makes the best kind of husband -a man of virtue, good character and noble behavior -not men of beauty or wit. And of course at the end of the story, the virtuous beast is also given the gifts of beauty and wit, so he has the best of everything and Beauty is well-rewarded for her kindness and good judgement.