“Beauty surrounds us but we usually need to be walking in a garden to know it” ~ Rumi
I recently saw Disney’s tour de force updated version of Beauty and the Beast. The characters and music were essentially reprised from the 1991 animated version, which I loved. I was awed by the blend of theatrical flair and special effects brought to bear on the new feature film. Of course I was also thrilled to see Emma Watson, our own Hermione from Harry Potter, all grown up and gorgeous inside and out.
The original story was French, La Belle et la Bete, written by Gabrielle-Suzanne Barbot de Villeneuve in 1740. However, according to researchers at universities in Durham and Lisbon, the original story theme originated around 4,000 years ago. Indeed, a “tale as old as time,” as the song lyric goes. That caused me to reflect on the plight of women four millennia ago and what might have been social and political commentary hidden in the original.
I counted nearly fifty various books, stories, films, and TV productions that have been based on this old and famous fairy tale in modern times. There were also many adaptations centuries ago. The theme is a timeless and romantic love story with powerful undercurrents of magic and ancient wisdom. What is the power of such a story that has such strong and lasting appeal?
Although the story’s beast is clearly “monstrous” to see, I believe the deeper message that resonates is the awareness that we all have qualities that need to be redeemed. We are all some blend of beauty and beast, and we long to be loved for ourselves and not some outer trapping of beauty, fame, or success. We want to be “seen” as we are and not through clouded lenses of expectations or the projections of others. And even deeper still is the question of whether we can love and forgive ourselves, which is where it all truly begins.
My research into this topic led me to discover a song with the same title by the legendary Stevie Nicks. I hadn’t remembered the song. The title appeared on her solo album The Wild Heart and received its inspiration from French filmmaker Jean Cocteau’s 1946 film version of Beauty and the Beast, one of Stevie Nicks’ favorite classic films. She has explained the importance of the song, during live performances and in various interviews, as one that encompasses her whole life and represents how everyone is either a beauty or a beast–usually both. Certainly, a star such as Nicks has dealt with the contradictions of how she has been “seen.” Beauty and the Beast was recorded during a single three-hour session in Gordon Perry’s studio with a full string orchestra and grand piano. During the recording session, Nicks and her backup vocalists wore long black gowns and served champagne to the visiting musicians.
As a lover of myth and story, I come away from this reflection with the inspiring realization that universal themes and timeless tales never lose their power to lift us out of our pain and preoccupation with everyday life, if only for a moment. I am grateful.
Copyright 2017, Julie Loar. Julie Loar is the multiple award-winning author of six books and dozens of articles. She is an international teacher and scholar of myth and symbolism. Her latest book, Goddesses For Every Day: Exploring the Wisdom & Power of the Divine Feminine Around The World, , published by New World Library, is available from booksellers everywhere. She has traveled to sacred sites around the world, researching the material in her books and teachings, and each year she leads a tour to Egypt. Her popular astrology feature appears in ATLANTIS RISING magazine. Visit her site at http://julieloar.com.