NPR

Tale As Old As Time: The Dark Appeal of 'Beauty And The Beast'

Disney's new live-action extravaganza is just the latest retelling of this classic fairy tale. But why do Beauty and her Beast have such a hold on us? And why are there so many versions of their tale?

In the introduction of Beauty and the Beast: Classic Tales of Animal Brides and Grooms, Maria Tatar talks about how to classify a fairy tale using the Aarne-Thompson system. Developed and refined since the early 20th century, it's a massive taxonomy that cross-references our fundamental stories by subplots and themes. (The sheer volume of folklore would be overwhelming otherwise; Tatar's book alone contains stories from almost two dozen countries.) And stories of loathly brides and grooms generally fall under two types: The Man on a Quest for His Lost Wife, or The Search for the Lost Husband.

Looking at these categories, however, doesn't offer an easy place for

You're reading a preview, sign up to read more.

More from NPR

NPR2 min read
To Reduce Food Waste, FDA Urges 'Best If Used By' Date Labels
Confusion over whether a food is still safe to eat after its "sell by" or "use before" date accounts for about 20% of food waste in U.S. homes, the FDA says. The new wording aims to clear that up.
NPR5 min readPolitics
Misery Grows At Syrian Camp Holding ISIS Family Members
In recent visits to the camp, NPR was told of babies dying of malnutrition, and found women collapsed by roadsides. "There's a lack of supplies and the numbers of patients are huge," a doctor says.
NPR3 min read
Modi Wins In Landslide Election, A Victory For Hindu Nationalists
It was a resounding victory not just for Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, but for his political party. Critics accused the party of using fear tactics amid rising Hindu nationalism.