The Beast and Me

How many retellings of Beauty and the Beast does this culture need? And why has this story come, lately, out of nowhere to smack me as messily as a fish’s tail in the face?

Not entirely nowhere. As you may or may not know, I am moving soon, to a quaint Tudor-style house with diamond pane windows and ex-prizewinning roses and a little greenhouse out back. My thoughts have been exceptionally domestic as of late. And as I am wont to do, annually, I ended up going into a tiny Robin McKinley fit.

I love Robin McKinley now more than I did when I was younger, and her target audience. As a child, I found her prose dense and hard going, and I think this is because she breaks half the rules in the book: she uses a profusion of -ing verbs, and passive voice, and -ly adverbs, and long twisting over-archaic sentences with patterns that might be showing up in my writing right now. Somehow, she makes it work. I find it a little distracting, because I’m being trained to keep a weather-eye out for these things.

Anyway, I was at the UVic library a few days ago, and they have a marvellous children’s section, and because I felt domestic and because of the prizewinning roses that I am looking forward to tend (my roommate’s work is supplying her with as much horse manure as we want!), I picked Rose Daughter to read. Rose Daughter is McKinley’s second Beauty and the Beast book—I think her first was actually the inspiration for the Disney movie. Rose Daughter is the most unusual retelling I’ve read (barring the gay leather version in an anthology a few years back), and overuses the word ‘rose’ so much that I went from acceptance to annoyance to sheer joy at the profusion. Anyway, Beauty’s family goes from rich to poor, and then the first third of the book is their adapting to the rural, somewhat enchanted, Rose Cottage.

Somewhere near the end of the reread (and I’ve read most of McKinley’s work many times), the muse/rabid plot bunny gave me a good solid piercing bite, and then I hammered out about 2,500 words in the past few days in yet another retelling of a poor overtold fairy story. (At least it isn’t Cinderella.)

Of course, I’m not sure if the basic shape of fairy tales can be overtold. They strike too many heartstrings. And I’m pretty certain I’ve never read a retelling from the Beast’s point of view.

Incidentally, if you’ve never read McKinley’s versions, go read them. While you’re at it, check out her Damar books, and Sunshine, and oh, everything else. I’m just finishing my reread of Spindle’s End.

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~ by ambergor on 15/08/2010.

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