Same Old Story?

Ana Martins
4 min readSep 14, 2022

Re-reading Fairytales — Beauty and the Beast

There’s nothing private about Belle’s opinion of Gaston: he’s the real beast in the story. But how far is he from the Castle Beast? Not very far, I’m afraid.

(Walt Disney pictures)

Reading and caring have always walked hand in hand. In the Beauty and the Beast 1991 Walt Disney movie, Belle is initially presented as a reader and a carer. She reads and re-reads books, which she borrows from the local bookshop, run by a man who is bemused by the girl’s eccentric reading habits. At home, she cares for her elderly father, a socially clumsy creative who enjoys experimenting in the privacy of their living room.

At first sight, Belle is not far from the late eighteenth-century, early nineteenth century trend, according to which reading — especially private reading about love and marriage, how to become a good wife, daughter, and sister — was considered a worthwhile activity for females.

In fact, we are not told which books Belle reads. But we can guess. No matter what genre they might belong to, these are likely narratives that foster a romantic sensibility, about women and their feelings, about love and life. In other words, books written by men for their (future) wives.