Hello all, this time we shall be comparing the story of Cupid and Psyche, written by Lucius Apuleius to de Beaumont’s version of Beauty and the Beast. While doing so, it is important to note the difference between mythology and fairy tales. Cupid and Psyche would (at least as I see it) fall under the category of mythology, as the plot is generally driven by the actions of and dialogue with the gods. Conversely, Beauty and the Beast is a fairy tale, driven by magic and fantasy. Categorization aside, the stories are clearly related, as will be shown.
Both stories revolve around a beautiful, virtuous (by the standards of virtue of the time) young girl who has two less beautiful and sisters, who are jealous of her. The beauty in both stories is showered with attention, but reserves herself, not giving in to the overtures mad by her suitors. From here, their plots diverge, due to the inherent difference between a tale of mythology and a fairytale. In Beauty and the Beast, the beauty and her family go through a host of ordeals, from losing their fortune to the father’s imprisonment by the beast. This is the perfect opportunity, naturally, for the beauty to make the ultimate sacrifice by giving herself up for the safety of her father. Although she is not actually killed as she thought she would be, her willingness to go through with it is clearly virtuous on her part. In Cupid and Psyche, the beauty is somewhat forced to leave her family if she is ever to find a husband, thanks to the ire of Venus. The fact that it is the whim of a goddess causing this does not necessarily take away from the display of virtue, but the fact that she is not given the opportunity in this tale to make that sacrifice for others might.
Both beauties go on to betray the trust of their new keepers, but both realize their mistake and return. This time, it is the beauty in Cupid and Psyche that is given the chance to demonstrate her virtue, by going through several trials to win over the favor of the gods. Though she is not successful without divine assistance, the intention was virtuous. The beauty in Beauty and the Beast merely has the thought that maybe she should be more grateful to her lover and has only to remove a ring from her finger and find the beast on his own grounds to be reunited. In the end, Psyche is made immortal to continue her love with Cupid forever while Beauty is granted a long, happy life with her new husband, who (by the way) is not a beast after all.
Finally, we can look at just how the betrayal and transformation of the beast are carried out. In both, it is the sisters of the beauty that lead her to betray the “beast,” but in Cupid and Psyche the beauty does not even originally know if he is a beast, as she has not seen him. Thus, her betrayal and the “transformation” (if you can call it one) happen in the same instant, for as soon as she reveals his body in the light, she also reveals that he was never a beast. In Beauty and the Beast, the beauty is confronted long before her betrayal with the sight of the beast, and the transformation is both real and occurs a day after she realizes she was wrong to have betrayed him.
There is likely much that I missed, but I continue at the risk of further convolution of my ideas. Thus: until next week, my peers!