With the recent explosion of love for the newest adaption of “Beauty and The Beast”, this classic story with its modern twist reveals significant archetypes, themes, and myths that build towards everyone’s favorite love story. But, what really makes an audience fall in love with this story all over again? Perhaps it’s the reoccurring characters that we feel we know best, a story that inspires hope in all of us, or maybe it is the personal connection some feel to the story as it travels through the idea of a seemingly unachievable love.
Beauty and The Beast displays the vivid myth of the hero’s journey. Although it does not exactly follow it in the way Star Wars or Harry Potter might, Belle has an incredible journey that causes her to transform and discover not only herself but true love as well. Her journey starts when her father, seen as the “old wise man” archetype, set off into the woods to sell his inventions. But when he does not return, Belle becomes worried and sets off to find her lost father. When she sees her father has been taken as a prisoner by a foul beast, she switches spots with him and accepts her fate as the beast’s prisoner in order to save her father. Even though she does necessarily refuse her call to action, Belle feels the loneliness and terror of being a prisoner.
But she is not alone. After accepting her fate, she enlists the aid of “supernatural” mentors, Cogsworth, Lumiere, Mrs. Potts, and Chip who are people stuck as common household items due to a curse put on the castle. These “mentors” serve as archetypes to the story as they help her through her time as a prisoner in the castle and aid her in her journey. At this point, Belle has crossed the threshold of the comfort of her safe home to the unknown dangers of an abandoned castle with an unfriendly host. As she copes with being a prisoner, she experiences various trials such as learning how to live a lonely life without her father, learning to be an adult on her own, and trying to figure out how to help all the innocent lives stolen because of the Beast’s mistakes. Additionally, Belle is constantly tested by the Beast’s temper and anger as she learns to live alongside him. With the help of her mentors or friends, they help her come to the realization that she must learn to love the Beast and help them become human again. She experiences temptations to stray from the path but ultimately has a moment of “atonement” when she chooses to stay with the Beast and reconcile a friendship that ultimately blossoms into more. A hero’s journey is never complete with a shift in tone or feeling that sets up the hero to finish their journey.
When the Beast comes to the realization that he is love with Belle, he decides that he must let her return to her father. He did not want to keep the one he loved as a prisoner. Belle ultimately leaves the Beast but quickly comes back when the townspeople rally to kill him. Belle returns and crosses the return threshold back to the castle to save him from being killed. In the end, the Beast faces death but is physically resurrected by Belle’s confession of love. Belle’s love becomes the saving elixir as she brings the Beast and all the household items back to human form. The Beast, now turned back into a prince, has discovered what it means to love and Belle has learned to look at what is on the inside rather than just physical appearance. This saving grace brings the castle back to life and the brings the two worlds, the village and the castle, back together as one community. In the end, the Prince and Belle wed and live happily ever after with their new life together.
Beauty and the Beast highlights the overall theme that, with great love comes great journey and even though it may not be easy, it will be worth it. Belle’s journey of treading a new path in unknown territory is not a new story. In almost all epic literature, films, and plays, the main character experiences a similar “hero’s journey”. A hero’s journey is such a successful storyline because it makes the audience feel like they can have a “hero’s journey” of their own. As the story usually involves in an ordinary person becoming extraordinary through their journey, this myth inspires people to seek the depths of their own courage and potential experiences of their own. In a sense, everyone goes through their own journey. Whether it be to find love or discover your true identity, everyone can relate to the myth of the notorious hero’s journey.