I reread Liz Braswell’s As Old As Time on Wednesday, and it’s not a great work of literature or anything, but it sure is fun! This is a little different; it’s published by Disney, and is a retelling of Disney’s animated Beauty and the Beast, not of the original fairy tale.
The premise, as advertised on the cover, is that the Enchantress who cursed the Beast is Belle’s mom. A good chunk of the story is comprised of flashbacks to when Maurice and the Enchantress (her name is Rosalind) were young, before Belle was born and when she was a baby. We have two big things happening in this back story: there’s a plague, and anyone remotely magical is being persecuted. The king and queen aren’t doing anything about either issue. So when they both die of the plague, Rosalind goes to test their son, to see if he’ll be a better ruler than his parents.
He fails. It’s possible she overreacts.
This is where a lot of the things I really love about the story come in. It addresses all the questions and concerns I had about the movie. The Beast is a 10 or 11 year old child when the curse is placed. The story and all the characters in it acknowledge that the curse was absolutely not an appropriate way to handle the situation, and was deeply unfair to both a child and a house full of servants who had nothing to do with anything. Which I really, really appreciate. The picture in the West Wing of an adult Prince is explained, too; it’s some really mean-spirited Dorian Grey crap, enchanted to show him what he would look like if he hadn’t been cursed.
Also, the Beast can read. We see him reading. I always hated the way the musical version made him illiterate; at 11 you should have learned to read. Especially as a prince. The only acceptable exception is The Whipping Boy.
So. Back to the story. Rosalind never returns home after placing the curse. She’s grabbed by the story’s Big Bad, who’s been kidnapping anyone with magic. We’ll come back to that subplot later. Her last act as she’s taken away is to set a spell that makes all normal people—including Belle and Maurice—forget about the existence of magic, to protect any of her people who are still free. Unfortunately, the Big Bad also has magic, so he remembers.
And I think that’s enough on the back story. Belle gets to the castle like usual. The change comes in the West Wing, when she manages to actually grab the rose before the Beast stops her, destroying it and any chance at breaking the curse.
(Afterwards, she points out rather callously that judging by the state of the rose, he didn’t have much time left anyway. Did he really think a girl was going to fall in love with him in the next couple months? She then proceeds to fall in love with him over the course of the next THREE DAYS. Also, the entire story, aside from the Maurice and Rosalind flashbacks, happens in three days. It’s a lot.)
This is when information about Belle’s mom starts coming out. They go through a bunch of old census records and fail to find anything about her, including her name, but they discover in the process that the local bookshop owner was in the census a few hundred years ago, and therefore probably knows something about all the magic stuff.
They head back to town to talk to him, and find him missing, with the book store burned down. We find out later that Gaston did it, and this was how he defended himself:
(A fire hazard, Gaston? Really?)
So they go to talk to Maurice next, and Belle has the Beast wait outside when she goes in the house, considering how their last meeting went. Except she never comes out; the big bad has her and Maurice now, too. The Beast sees where she’s being taken, but there are too many people for him to overpower.
He goes home for help, and finds that everyone is gone; the furniture and knick-knacks are just furniture and knick-knacks. The Beast himself has been struggling with animal instincts since the rose was destroyed; the curse is progressing.
With no other options, he goes to recruit the villagers for a rescue mission. He has the mirror, so they can see that Belle is in danger; they decide to deal with the whole Beast situation after rescuing Belle.
Meanwhile, Belle has gotten away, rescued her father, rescued her mother who’s been held her for a full decade, and released dozens of other prisoners.
And we’re into serious spoiler territory now, so I’m just gonna say the good guys win, Gaston kills the Big Bad, and everyone present is horrified, because he deserved a fair trial, Gaston!, which for some reason I just find hilarious.
Rosalind is seriously weakened by her decade of captivity. She says that the Beast isn't in danger of giving in to his animal instinct anymore because of his love for Belle. (Three days, guys!) But she has only enough power to either restore the Beast’s humanity or the humanity of all the servants. He chooses to restore everyone else’s humanity, of course, but it’s implied at the end that he and Belle are going to go on an adventure to find all the other magical people who went into hiding, and maybe one of them will be able to fix him.
Adorable awkwardness of Beast: Yes! He really gives off strong I-try-hard-but-my-life-basically-stopped-when-I-was-10 vibes. I love him!
Stand-Up-For-Herself-iness of Beauty: Good.
Human at the End: Nope.
Who Learns and Grows the Most? About equal.
Also, one more thing; have this conversation I thought was hilarious. Idk how the stove is drinking, exactly.
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