What happens next, in Beauty and the Beast?

26Feb12

Here’s what I’m wondering tonight: In the story of Beauty and the Beast, after the wedding and the closing credits, what stories are there? What happens next?

Even in the Disney version, there are only “midquels”, no sequels, but let’s leave the Disney version out of this as much as possible.

Like all good fairy tales, this one has had a lot of interesting variations from many different cultures, and some of those variations are pretty dark. Even at its most innocent, it’s still a story about Stockholm Syndrome.

One of my favorite interpretations, from a scholarly article which I’ve long since lost, was that the purpose of this traditional fairy tale was to prepare young girls for marriage: in a medieval society where young girls would be marrying men two or three times their age, the story taught them to look beyond their husband’s (possibly beastly) behavior and appearance to love the handsome prince hiding within. (Or according to the Wikipedia article on Stockholm Syndrome, it could link back to evolutionary psychology in the days when stealing women from neighboring tribes was de rigueur.)

And yet the fanciful side of my brain assures me that this is the most romantic story I’ve ever heard. It has always been my favorite fairy tale (even before Disney seduced me with that movie, at the tender age of six). I’ve read fantasy versions (notably the two by Robin McKinley), science fiction versions (more than one by Tanith Lee), feminist versions (Angela Carter), scholarly analysis (see above), feminist analysis (back to Angela Carter), countless traditional fairy-tale retellings, at least three movies and an opera. I know Beauty and the Beast.

But none of these has ever had the slightest hint of what happens after. I know I’m not supposed to ask what comes after “happily ever after”, because that’s the point of fairy tales, but I’ve been skeptical of this whole “happily ever after” thing for years. It seems like a lie. Despite what Hollywood and fairy tales have tried so hard to teach me, real life doesn’t have a happily ever after, it’s more along the lines of “and then they continued living and had more adventures and good and bad things happened, and then they died.”

So what happens next?

Patty Hearst, poster child for Stockholm Syndrome, refused to testify against her captors, but she later married a bodyguard and settled into a quiet life. Mary McElroy, the former poster child, pleaded for her former captors lives and remained amazingly positive towards them even as she became addicted to drugs and eventually committed suicide–in her suicide note she begged the world to “give them a chance.”

Do you think that the Bluebeard story is sometimes a sequel for Beauty and the Beast? Young and naive girl falls in love and marries a strange and perhaps deformed older man… only to find that he has horribly slaughtered multiple previous wives. Charming!

Despite my examples, I actually want to know what the happy sequel to Beauty and the Beast would be. If you wrote a sequel to Beauty and the Beast, what would it be about? Beast’s trouble re-adjusting to life as a man? Resistance from society at the cross-racial marriage? Beauty’s psychological counseling to deal with stockholm syndrome?

Or give me your thoughts on “happily ever after” in general. Why does the story have to end there? What stories can you think of that haven’t ended at the wedding? What stories do you wish there were more of that happen after the wedding?



6 Responses to “What happens next, in Beauty and the Beast?”

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  6. I like to think that it truly was a happy ever after. If you do find your soul mate, cataclysmic outside events not withstanding, things should work out. I’m not suggesting they would have a perfect life. But i think they would have some measure of happiness and a family. The magic of a happy ever after though, is that they lived on, that the drama and tragedy are over for them with the story.


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