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Fairy tales are short stories that involve adventure, magic and fantasies. They are stories about individuals with supernormal powers and they always have moral lessons to the listeners. The fairytale aspires to educate members of society and learners. It also influences class relations between people of different statuses (Morrison 2008, p. 12). History of fairy tales may be difficult to trace because they date back to ancient times when mankind had not discovered writing. The tales that exist today survived because they were recorded soon after the discovery of writing. Some of the most popular fairy tales that were ever told include the French’s Cinderella, Latin’s Cupid and Psyche and French’s Beauty and the Beast.
This paper focuses on Beauty and the Beast, a French fairy tale that dates back to 1740, and how it is relevant in the current societal structure, especially in the education system.
Because of its popularity, this story has been told in many versions, hence making it have some little variations. However, the main theme and major characters have remained the same (Kohl 2000, p. 121). Movies, songs and poems have also been composed to reflect the theme of this tale. All the versions that exist about this tale have a similar storyline.
In the version put forward by Disney, we meet a young beautiful woman, Belle, setting out to rescue her father who had been thrown in prison by a monster in a castle he had gone to seek shelter (Gardner 2006, p. 78). Belle chose to confront the beast to release her father. She volunteered to take the place of her father in the castle under the beast’s confinement. The beast readily agreed and confined Belle in the castle (Darder & Rodolfo 2003, p. 46).
Belle became close to the beast after it saved her from a pack of wolves that had attempted to attack her while in the forest (Austin 2007, p. 24). She became less afraid of the beast when she attended to its wounds. However, Belle took long before falling in love with the beast. Belle later went to her father’s house. Gaston, who wanted to marry her, decided to raid the monster’s castle. After a tussle, Belle inspired the beast to fight bravely, making it win the battle. Afterward, the spell was broken after Belle confessed that she was in love with the beast (Reynolds 2011, p. 68).
This version by Disney brings to focus, the American society. Although the storyline of the tale has been maintained in this version by Disney, there are some values it defends. The prince, who was turned into the beast, had a substantial amount of wealth. Belle’s father was a hardworking merchant who had ensured that his family lacked nothing. This brings forth the idea of capitalism. This was the time when America was keen on spreading capitalism as the best system of managing the economy. Other societal values like arrogance and dictatorship are detested in this version. Disney’s version brings Gaston’s failure to win Belle in a sarcastic manner. Not only did he lose Belle, but also the war between him and the beast. This was the time America was experiencing the spirit of nationalism, and all were expected to be the guardian of the fellow citizen (Austin 2007, p. 24).
Another version of Beauty and the Beast tale by Jeanne-Marie LePrince highlights a girl named Beauty that was admired by many as she was growing up in her neighborhood. She is described in the story as someone who had good manners as compared to her elder sisters who could only embrace people with higher status in society. Her sisters wanted to associate with people who had similar lifestyles as theirs (Freire 2006, p. 34).
Life changed completely when their father lost his stocks. They were forced to live a difficult life that was unknown to them. Several people had offered to marry Beauty but she rejected them because of various reasons. As they took shelter in a house together with her father, three brothers and two sisters, she was forced to do all work as her sisters relaxed. The sisters did not help her accomplish some family chores.
A day came when the old merchant had to run an errand and when he was coming back to his house, heavy rain set upon him and he had to take refuge in a house. He lavished himself in all the comforts of the castle until the next morning when the master of the castle scolded him for being ungrateful for the hospitality he was offered and proceeded to confine him. As a condition for his release, the merchant’s daughter decided to volunteer herself to live with the beast. Gradually, Beauty started living with the beast in the castle where she fell in love with him and later when she visited her siblings, she found her sisters unhappily married (Griswold 2004, p. 29).
Her sisters became envious of her and they hatched a plot to make her stay for one week more to enrage the beast so that when she got back to the castle, the beast could devour her. Beauty returned to the castle later on to find the beast depressed to a point of almost dying. Beauty then declared that she loved the beast and soon after, the beast was changed to a handsome prince. Her words soothed the beast, making him happier than before. In other words, the Beast went back to his previous status. They, later on, they got married and lived happily ever after.
This tale is a true reflection of our society. As Austin (2007) puts it, this story is timeless. It had relevance in ancient society and in our current world. This has seen it draw the attention of many scholars who have done a lot of analysis on it. Because of this, the researcher gained interest to analyze its relevance to the current society. This analysis will be based on what others have written about this book.
The Intentions of the Beauty and the Beast and Its Use
Education is vital to development in every society. Many societies have enhanced their education system in order to offer learners the ability to acquire the right knowledge that would enable them to develop in society. However, it is worth noting that there are some artifacts that are very important in the process of learning. They help the learner understand some social facts within society that would not be easy to explain under normal classroom learning.
For a long period of time, tales have been told for various reasons. From Africa to Asia, Europe to America, and other continents in the world, tales date back to prewriting times. This was the main method through which learning could be enhanced. The stories, some of which have been recorded, had characters with unnatural characteristics. The beauty and the beast is one such story. This story dates back to prehistoric times. It was first published in 1740 by Gabrielle-Suzanne. In 1756, a better version was done by Jeanne-Marie Le Prince (Griswold 2004, p. 29).
Its English version appeared in 1757. There are other variations of the tale, one of which is the popular Disney version. On November 13, 1991, Disney launched a film of this tale. Because of the fame of the story, this film by Walt Disney became very popular because it was the first of its kind. When Disney came with a book about the same story in 2003, many people could easily relate the story with the film, a fact that made the books similarly popular. Their use of cartoons also appealed to the target audience who were children below twelve years. In 2006, they brought another version of the story, which equally received public attention.
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It presents values and norms that society cherished. As the story begins, we are introduced to a certain young prince whose trait is given as selfish. This trait is seen when she met a beggar and failed to help her. The society by then believed in living in a society which was like a large family. In such families, everyone would be expected to help the other in times of need. Although elements of capitalism were evident, it was expected that in case an individual was in a position to help another in society, then the help would be given easily. Capitalism in this story is brought out by the version done by Disney. Being an American Company, this was expected because this was the time America was keen on advocating for capitalism. (Hurst 2007, p. 56).
In order to curtail bad behavior within society, educators, who were basically older members of society, would engage children at the early stages of development in stories that had deep teachings of the expectations of society. The young prince in the story is said to have been selfish. Upon denying an old woman shelter in his castle, he was transformed into a beast (Nardi 2001, p. 67). This statement brings out the fact that the old woman, who went to beg for a shelter in the prince’s castle, was not a beggar. She was a supernatural person with some extraordinary capabilities. She, therefore, did not need the shelter she was seeking. The question that comes out is that if she had supernormal abilities and that she was not actually a beggar, why did she seek assistance from the prince?
This is a lesson to those who read the story. At times, one may not know his true luck. An individual may abandon a blessing or may pick up a curse. However, there is always room for change. This is also reflected in this story. Conversely, it would be taken as a warning to others not to wait for unfortunate things to happen to them before changing their characters that are considered negative (Blank 2004, p. 186). The beast completely changed its character and became generous and homely. He turned from a mean and loathsome being to a caring and loving one. This earned it the love of the village queen, Belle.
Taken from another angle, the message given in this story may be a justification for the importance of prison. According to the Disney version, the beast was a free handsome young man who would easily win the love of any princess. But because of his meanness, he was changed to a beast. The beast may be a representation of a prison, a kind of punishment for his undesirable characteristics. Just as prisons are expected to transform bad characters, the beast became a very caring person, a fact that made it regain its human nature. Pride is also detested in many societies, and Gaston is punished by the author for this. It is worth noting that being an American company, Disney brought out this story in an American social context, where justice is upheld.
On many occasions, the actions of those around us always affect us in one way or another. In many traditional societies, an act of a family member would have a bearing on others related to him or her. The curse was spelled on the prince. However, his servants were also affected directly by the curse. They changed to household objects. When the spell was cast out of their master, they resumed their human nature. Their joy on resuming human nature clearly states that they were also in prison and that they were longing to become human beings once again.
Jealousy and negative conspiracy would always fail. This is one of the main themes that come out in the version written by Jeanne-Marie LePrince. The conspiracy of the two sisters against their younger sister only saw her gain more of what they wanted to deny her. Feeling that the beast would devour her for overstaying, they retained her for a period longer than what the beast expected. Contrary to their expectation, this act only strengthened the relationship, making the two even happier. The version brought about in the song done by Celine Dion brings out how strong the power of love can be. In Jordin Sparks’s song, she brings the timelessness of love.
Although this story was told several years ago and had relevance in traditional society, it has a lot of relevance in our current society in various respects. The story strongly advocates against social injustices and retrogressive habits.
Critical pedagogy is an educational philosophy is based on the Marxist theory. It draws much from the radical policies that demand social justice for all. It analyses how teaching and learning are related (Baum, Viens & Slatin 2005, p. 14).
Beauty and the Beast is a book written in a manner that brings out some philosophy, which is closely related to Marxism. The tale advocates for socialism; a society where everyone is responsible for the well being of the other. The prince is punished for failure to observe this. This tale addresses other issues that affect society today, though in a hidden way.
In a learning environment, there are cases that would warrant punishment from a teacher. One thing that should be observed is that the learner should be in a position to appreciate the reasons why the punishment is mated out and its significance. This tale clearly states that bad traits would receive instant punishment. As a teacher, this book can be used as a tool to make learners appreciate the need to change, especially if a given trait warrants punishment (Bush 2003, p. 32).
Another issue brought out in this tale is the need for a just and democratic society. Justice comes in a number of ways. In a society, there is a need for every individual to ensure that his or her actions are just (Bottery 2001, p. 35). Marxist theories are always advocating radical changes that would bring about social justice in every society. Justice in this society is presented as being radical. When the prince failed to help the old woman, justice was mated instantly. Gaston’s pride was punished not only when he failed to win the Beauty but also when he lost the battle between him and the Beast.
Relation to Education
Education is one of the greatest pillars of every society. Education defines the kind of citizens that a country would have. To an individual, education shapes the world. Education is proved to increase an individual’s orientation to the world. Furthermore, education increases an individual’s leadership skills (Leithwood, Jantzi & Steinbach 1999, p. 4).
Beauty and the Beast is a rich source of material that reflects on various factors that are pertinent in the current society. As a learner, it is important to realize the factors that constitute justice. Social justice is an important ingredient of success. Whether in a classroom or in a societal context, justice is always the determinant of success or failure (Bolman & Deal 1997, p. 47).
This tale can be viewed as a tool of empowerment. As can be observed in the case of Beauty, she was so humble and selfless. Upon realization that her father was captured by the beast and kept in an environment that was not good for his health, she offered to be locked in instead of her father. As stated above, not many individuals could have this trait of selflessness. This is rewarded after a short while when she was attacked by the wolves (Zipes 1997, p. 34).
The Beast risked its life and protected her from any harm. Empowerment is also seen when she won the battle against Gaston (Strauss & Corbin 1990, p. 12). Keen on manipulating Maurice to allow him to marry his daughter, he considered coercing him to give in to his wishes. But because the beauty was empowered, she was able to convince the public that her father was right. The allegations made by Maurice against her father were not true. She won the confidence of the young and rich prince whom she stayed with happily forever. The Beast is also empowered. After his initial mistakes that saw him transformed into a beast, he changed his character and became considerate towards others. This saw him empowered against the wolves and against Gaston (Nussbaum 2002, p. 78).
The essence of this is to inform the listener of this story that empowerment comes when one observes social justice (Aristotle1998, p. 56). Beauty was always keen on ensuring that everyone was not harshly treated, regardless of his or her conduct. As a result of this humility, she was rewarded by being successful in most of her plans. Her father was also empowered when he escaped the wrath of the Beast and Gaston.
This tale can also be viewed as a tool for disempowerment. As a prince, the young man was powerful and had everything (Hansen 2007, p. 45). Soon after failing to help the old woman, things fell apart almost immediately. He was turned into a beast, making him lose all the privileges he would enjoy. Gaston, due to his pride, believed that he would win the Beauty with ease. However, he failed when he attempted to employ unscrupulous techniques (Cogan & Webb 2002, p. 76). He realized that society needs more than just self praises and chest-thumping.
In our current society, there are certain actions that would result in instant consequences. Some of the consequences are positive while others are negative. A negative consequence would amount to disempowerment. The tale is told to reflect various issues in the current society. It approaches education from various perspectives. It is an important tale that can be used as a tool for a learner in various aspects. The tale is also an important tool to teachers.
From the Marxist view, those in control of the means of production tend to suppress and frustrate those who do not own property. In this tale, it is shown that wealth and pride are not important than human beings. Gaston thought that his strength could bring him everything, including a beautiful woman. This was actually a misplaced opinion since people are not simply guided by material things. Other factors are considered before making critical decisions. For instance, people consider future life before making marriage decisions.
List of References
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