Comparative Analysis of Transformation Motifs in Fairy Tales
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Unlike most fairy tales, “Beauty and the Beast” has been a traditional tale where there are two paths to be developed in which Beauty faces challenges and the transformation that is sustained by Beast. Therefore, this shows how two opposing allegorical characters resolve their differences in joining wedlock. The version of “Beauty of the Beast” by Madame de Beaumont shows how Beauty’s happiness is found on her abstract quality of good features. In this version, Madame de Beaumont not only stresses the importance of obedience and self-denial but advocates the transformative power of love and the importance of valuing oneself over appearances.
Madame de Beaumont not only shows that looks make a woman happy but character, virtue, and kindness are significant, which all qualities, the Beast possess. The Grimm’s’ version, “Frog King, or Iron Heinrich” is similar to “Beauty and the Beast.” The princess must accept an animal suitor since it helped her when she was in trouble. In this version, it shows that the princess beheaded her suitor since she threw the frog against the wall. Therefore, the Grimm’s’ version shows that, even though the princess was ungrateful and cruel to the frog, in the end she got what she wanted, the prince.
In “The Frog Princess” by Alexander Afanasev, is a tale that is different from the “Beauty and the Beast” and “Frog King, or Iron Heinrich.” It is about a woman appearance that is distorted instead of the man. When her skin was burned, the husband went to find his wife no matter what because he wanted to show his princess to the town and reunite with her. In the 1947 film “La Belle et la bête” by Jean Cocteau, it placed a strong importance on the wanted quality of a woman. On the other hand, in Angela Carter’s “The Tiger’s Bride,” with it’s intriguing enjoyable reversal of the usual ending of the story as the female protagonist joins her husband by transforming to the animal state herself. The different versions consist of many personalities and characters which show that looks are not everything and how individuals are treated differently because of how they look. Throughout all these different versions, the stories show a transformation from two opposite individuals, how they find that outer beauty is not as important as inner beauty.
In the version of “Beauty of the Beast” by Madame de Beaumont, when the merchant could not keep the secret from Beauty, Beauty is willingly to go to the Beast’s castle. There, she was treated as a guest. When Beauty becomes homesick, she can go back home only if she is willingly to return in one week. Since Beauty does not return exactly in one week because the sisters want her to stay, Beauty therefore finds Beast dying in the rose garden of a broken heart. As Beast weeps, he transforms into a prince.
When beauty offers herself to go to the Beast, it means she is more proactive. Although, she knows that there is a possibility that she may die, she is still willing to go to the Beast and sacrifice herself for her father. The overt moral inscriptions are transformed in “Beauty and the Beast,” is where she offered to sacrifice her life for her father to the Beast. Beauty said to the father, “That you will not go to that palace without me. You can’t keep me from following you. I may be young, but I am not all that attached to life, and I would rather be devoured by that monster than die of the grief which your loss would cause me” (Tatar 36). The transformation of Beauty determined to go to the castle shows that she values her father and is willingly to confront the challenges with the Beast.
When Beauty found Beast dying in the rose garden of a broken heart, she begins to weep when she realized the good qualities in the monster. This shows the transformation motif. She realizes that she needs him and being a friend is not enough. This shows that a woman tends to drag on the relationship with their significant other and they do not value the inside qualities until something bad happened. The rose in the rose garden represents that someone has deep values and honesty and the Beast deserve to be the prince. At the beginning, when Beauty wants the rose, she wants someone that has deep values and honesty but Beauty does not find that until Beast happened to be dying in the rose garden.
When Beauty enters the castle she is treated well and Beast does not do anything to her. Beast exposes himself to be a kind creature and not at all a hideous creature by being kind to Beauty. Even though, the Beast is considered to be a hideous monster, he was kind at heart, which he shows when he placed one rose in her plate every evening. This shows the transformation of the Beast from a hideous monster into a kind monster and gains Beauty deep values and honesty. Even though, Beast is a hideous monster it does not stop him from finding a pretty wife whereas prior from meeting her. He wanted to be left alone because of his hideous exterior characteristics and would have remained that way, if he had not shown his kindness to her.
Beast is determined to find himself a pretty wife because he deserved to have one. Therefore, Beauty became fond of the Beast and will not marry him because she does not notice the meaning of the rose that was being placed in her plate every evening. The Beast changes the way Beauty looks at herself. Beauty living with him, transforms his tone of voice, more so she turns him into human. Her divinely goodness is so powerful that it breaks the spell. It is true love that does it. Here we see that Beauty transforms into an elegantly dressed lady from a poor peasant girl that she once was. On the other hand, the psycho-sexual dynamics of the “Beauty and the Beast” was when Beast was in her dreams, reminding her to come back within one week and to keep her promise. The Beast led the way because of the dream that was given to Beauty, when she said she loves him the transformation occurs.
In the Grimm’s’ version, “Frog King, or Iron Heinrich” is where the frog turned into a prince. This shows the transformation motif. The frog turns into a prince is every woman’s dream of finding someone that is handsome. At the beginning, the frog loves a princess, but the princess did not notice. The frog was willing to find her ball in the lake for her, which she dropped in the lake, if she promised the frog that she will dine with the frog. As the frog enters, she despises him but the father told her to uphold her promise. The princess is the ego character, and she views her male companions as animals, as she is a virgin. The transformation was when she is trying to find herself through the woods, but she happened to meet a frog which was her prince. Throughout, the transformation when the frog wanted to drink from her cup and eat from her plate it represents the frog wanting to kiss her and the frog wants intimacy with the princess.
The transformation is invariably triggered when the frog’s spell was broken when the princess threw the frog against a wall. “When he fell to the ground, he was no longer a frog but a prince with beautiful, beaming eyes. At her father’s bidding, he became her dear companion and husband” (Tatar 50). The princess did not want to sleep with the frog in her nice clean bed, so she became really grossed and picked the frog up and threw the frog against the wall. Therefore, she found masculinity within her unconscious self. When she realized herself, the frog turns into a prince. As a result, the princess became a mature women and ready for marriage. The frog is never really seen as romantic or desirable until he is transformed into the prince. The heroine still gets a prince to marry after being so terrible and selfish. Beauty is her polar opposite in many ways.
In the Grimm’s’ version, the story continues beyond the transformation from a frog to a prince. The transformation of the frog into the prince is when the frog is being thrown against the wall it shows the secret power of betrayal to transform consciousness, from frog consciousness to nobility. The betrayal generates beauty and kindness. The princess betrayal of her promise to the frog and the ignorance of her father’s command are the magic that releases the power of the wicked witch’ spell over the Frog Prince. Therefore, the frog prince and the princess suffer, the princess suffers the father’s criticism and will always be an immature girl, and as for the frog he will never learn his true identity as a man.
In “The Frog princess,” Ivan was in competition with his brothers for the sake of their pride, to see who can bring the prettiest wife. The brothers had wife that was showing off in their beauty. On the other hand, Ivan’s princess was in the body of the frog and only came out when needed, eventually married to. In one occasion, when the frog took off her skin to become a princess, Ivan burned her frog skin. Ivan wanted to show off his princess beauty to his brothers and be named the prince with the beautiful bride. But he did not know when he burn her skin means that her skin was gone, his wife would go to a far off land. Therefore, Ivan must search for his wife to win the competition with his brothers.
To judge which brothers get the kingdom, the wife will have to master three tasks that is assigned to them. Ivan was unhappy at first, but as the king puts the daughter in law in three challenges it was Ivan frog wife that praises the king. Her kind magic transforms to wonderful things. Aside from her unpleasant exterior, Ivan’s frog wife lives up to the expectation of a wife. As for the husband, he lives up to the expectation of a husband since Ivan did not leave her and stayed true to her, with that aspect in their relationship his soul helps the frog transforms into a human forever. Therefore, not only the women need their chastity but they need for men to be devoted companions by their sides. It is an interesting twist, that today readers will be attracted to the romanticism he brings.
The 1947 film “La Belle et la bête,” when the father is about to leave, Beauty only wanted a simple rose and nothing materialistic, which shows that her beauty is not the outside but is in her beautiful heart. When living with the Beast she falls in love with Beast for his kindness and his interior self and not the exterior where he is a hideous monster. His hideous appearance is a curse but she transforms it into a blessing.
In Carter’s version, sex and sexual desire are the catalysts for the female protagonist’s transformation into a beast. We see foreshadowers early in the story. The rose that the female protagonist gives her father when she leaves him represents her pure self because it is white and beautiful. When she cuts her finger on it and hands it to him “all smeared with blood,” she foreshadows her own loss of virginity and her transformation from whiteness, which means the absence of desire and life, to bloody redness, the characterization of those things. The female protagonist also refers to the Beast as a “clawed magus,” magus meaning an ancient priest with supernatural powers. Although she is afraid of him, the female protagonist has some sense that he has the control to transform her.
It is not just anything sexual that causes the narrator to transform. It is her desire and willingness to be sexual. When she first refuses to undress in front of The Beast, she harms him. She does not know at the time that his wish to see her is not that and nothing more than somebody who watches for sexual pleasure. He also deeply wants her to accept him. If The Beast were a mere voyeur, he would accept the female protagonist’s offer to lift up her skirts for him while hiding her face. He is not interested in the female protagonist’s body so much as he is in her true, animal self.
The female protagonist’s transformation into a tiger brings together the acts of sex and birth into one. When she takes off her clothes, she can already feel herself changing. She feels as though she is “stripping off her own underpelt” (Tatar 64). But she needs the beast’s action to help her change. The beast rips off her skin by licking her, which can be seen as a sexual act, but this gives way to the act of birth. The female protagonist is reborn as a female tiger (which represents her as a fierce passionate woman) with “a nascent patina of shining hairs.”The transformation motif of the characters in fairy tales is the good quality of the woman. It is their pure heart can cures and breaks the evil spell. It is the good heart that Beauty turns the Beast in a handsome human form. It is the good heart that the princess takes the frog in and at her father’s bidding; the frog became her dear companion and husband.
It is also his untainted heart that the frog princess turned into a beautiful human form. The “Beauty and the Beast” is told through adult’s viewpoint because when Beauty is offering herself to the Beast has a sexual desires between each other. The “Frog King or Iron Heinrich” is told through adult’s viewpoint because the frog wants intimacy with the princess since she is a virgin. “The Frog Princess” is told through adult memories of children because as the frog changes into a princess during the evening shows sexual imagery where both of them are in a room. Lastly, “The Tiger’s Bride” is also told through adult’s viewpoint, The Beast and the female protagonist reclaim sex as a shared act of creation, throwing aside the thought of sex as an act of obsession and control in which the man objectifies and claims the woman.
I think the beast is more compelling sometimes than the man in “The Beauty and the Beast” story because with the beast, we know we are in the presence of the unbelievable, at that limitable border where anything can happen. Also, the Beast is elegant, an unbelievable bridegroom with wealth, culture, and mystery. When he is returned back into full humanity, we sense the loss of connection to the unbelievable, even with all its uncertainties, in exchange for a return to complete humanity. Something of that exquisite terror of being in the dangerous but impossible presence of the unbelievable is gone and I think we grieve it, believing that we are only too familiar with the rest of the human narrative part of the tale.
The different version of “Beauty and the Beast,” like “Frog King, or Iron Heinrich,” “The Frog Princess,” and “The Tiger’s Bride” could be politically correct but I think the children today are better off with the Disney version where they are creating a much better version of fairy tales. For example, they can create dreamlike images that are far beyond our imagination, take for instance there is dancing and humanize moving objects. The expression of the characters presents in a symphonic way, which children cannot get from the reading. Disney makes the fairy tales with all the dreamy effects and dazzling scenes which appeals to the children today. On the other hand, when reading the books and oral tales, we can only imagine to an extent which will not captures the audience attention much as the motion pictures.
The transformation motifs are more than the culture of what we all used to understand. Throughout centuries, fairly tales have their own meaning when they are being written. The different versions describe the different virtues of a person. A good woman is the one who cares about her father and is willing to sacrifice herself for her father. A good woman devotes her love for her husband even if he is hideous. A good woman would care about her interior than exterior. The challenges they go through, will succeed at the end and they will be rewarded.
La Belle et la bête. Dir. Jean Cocteau. Perf. Jean Marais, Josette Day, Michel Auclair, MilaParély, and Nane Germon. DVD. Lopert Pictures Corporation, 1947.
Tatar, Maria. The Classic Fairy Tales. New York: W. W. Norton & Company, 1999.