My Very Own Belle (Unabridged)

Don't get hit by a motorized carriage, Belle!

Don’t get hit by a motorized carriage, Belle!

I caught Molly leaving the library with a new book and she reminded me of Belle from Disney’s Beauty and the Beast movie.

I love the Disney version as much as any raised-in-the-80s American kid, but there’s something better! I’m talking about an unabridged version of the Beauty and the Beast story.

As you probably already know, unabridged means that the book has been published in the full, original form.  Abridging is done to make a book more concise, easier to understand and/or more marketable to the public.  It’s done to all sorts books, including, disconcertingly, textbooks.

Many readers, like myself, generally object to abridgements because they tend to dumb the originals down.  We don’t want other people to decide the worth of something in a story after the author has published it.  We’ll do that ourselves, thank you ;).

If you agree, look for the word “abridged” in book descriptions and try to order the complete version instead.

Beauty and the Beast, a French tale from the 1700s, has been translated, interpreted, and re-written so many times that it’s hard to keep count.  My favorite version is from Andrew Lang’s The Blue Fairy Book.

The Blue Fairy Book, originally published in 1889, is the first in a series of fairy tale books (I think there are 12 in all) and contains versions of popular favorites like Little Red Riding Hood, Sleeping Beauty, Cinderella, Hansel and Gretel, Aladdin, Goldilocks, and of course, Beauty and the Beast.

They are in old (not very modern) language so you have to do a little extra work when reading them and they most certainly do not come with all the happy endings that Disney provides.  In fact, the stories can be graphic and thus not appropriate for every age.  You may want to read ahead of your child if she is reading alone or omit parts as you read aloud to younger kids.

What’s cool about the Fairy books – – and why we keep coming back to them – –  is that they provide a single source of diverse stories from all around the world that provide lessons in morality.  The tales typically have more grit and nuance than many current children’s books, and always give the kids, Joe and I lots to think and talk about.

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