No, you’re not seeing double – this really is another post on Angela Carter’s amazing The Bloody Chamber, however, this time, it’s on the second short story in her collection, “The Courtship of Mr Lyon.”
A young woman named Beauty is anxiously awaiting her father’s return home from a business meeting with his lawyers, where he discovered that all his fortune is gone. He cannot even buy his daughter the one white rose she wished for, which saddens him very much because he loves his daughter dearly. His bad luck only grows when his car is stuck in the snow and he cannot phone his daughter because the lines are dead. Feeling in bad spirits, the father comes across an enchanting house with a bush that has a single white rose blooming under the snow. He decides to knock on the door which opens without anyone touching it, and then closes behind him.
On entering the house, he hears a loud roar, as if from a wild animal. A spaniel greets the father and ushers him into study, where food and drink are ready for him. After the father had his meal, the dog brings his hat as if urging him to leave the house again. On his way out, the father plucks the rose from the tree, when suddenly a huge Beast with a lion’s head appears and shakes him. The father tries to explain that he only plucked the rose for his daughter and shows the Beast a photograph of her. The Beast allows the father to take the rose but expects the father to bring his daughter for a dinner to him. During the dinner, Beauty is constantly reminded of the Beast’s difference and otherness which scares her, but when the Beast declares that he will help her father regain his fortune in exchange for her staying with him while her father is in London, she accepts.
During her stay, Beauty is given incomparable luxuries and she shall want for nothing. Beauty is comfortable with the Beast and happy on his estate, and when her father calls with the good news that his good fortune is restored, she promises the Beast that she will return to him before the winter is over. She is enjoying her new life in luxury in the city and becomes rather spoilt. Since the weather in London is almost stable, she does not realize that winter is almost over, until one day the spaniel arrives at her door and urges her to come with him.
She finds the Beast in bed, ill, and he declares that he is dying, ever since she has left him. Beauty kisses his paws and cries out not to die and declares that she will stay when he wants her to, when suddenly, the fur makes space for skin, and the lion turns into a man. The Beast seems to have overcome his illness, and he invites Beauty to have breakfast with him. The story ends with the two of them walking on their estate together, while the spaniel happily drowses away.
Wow. How can such a short story need so many words to describe? I guess this shows how good the story is! Of course, it is based on the classic fairytale of Beauty and the Beast, which not only the names suggest here. However, there are quite a few differences to the original. The story begins quite traditional, with Beauty as the helpless, poor girl, dependent on her father’s money. Also, the look of both of the characters is underlined, Beauty obviously being the beautiful and sweet one, while the Beast is otherly and strange – beastly, but yet also rich and powerful. In the end of the story, however, the traditional Beauty-and-Beast dichotomy is reversed: While Beauty lives an independent life in the city of London, the Beast is living a secluded life on his estate, depending his whole life on Beauty, without whom he is wasting away – he is now the weak one, very unlike everything a lion as a figure actually stands for in the animal world. With her by his side, the Beast overcomes his otherness / beastliness and becomes human. Even though one could read the fact that in the end, Beauty has taken on the Beast’s surname as an act of submission to the patriarchy, it could also signify that Beauty herself has taken over the signature character traits of a lion and is in herself strong, independent, and self-sufficient.
I really love this story and would advise everyone who likes the original Beauty and the Beast to read it! It’s enchanting and on point, and also fairly short, so you have nothing to lose! 🙂