A rich merchant who had three sons and three daughters lived in a big house in the city. His Youngest daughter was so beautiful she was called Beauty by all who knew her. She was as sweet and good as she was beautiful. Sadly all of the merchant's ships were lost at sea and he and his family had to move to a small cottage in the country. His sons worked hard on the land and Beauty was happy working in the house, but his two elder daughters complained and grumbled all day long, especially about Beauty.
One day news came that a ship had arrived which would make the merchant wealthy again. The merchant set off to the city, and just before he left he said, "Tell me, daughters, what gifts would you like me to bring back for you?"
The two older girls asked for fine clothes and jewels, but Beauty wanted nothing . Realizing this made her sisters look greedy, she thought it best to ask for something. "Bring me a rose, father," she said, "just a beautiful red rose."
When the merchant reached the city he found disaster had struck once more and the ship's cargo was ruined. He took the road home wondering how to break the news to his children. He was so deep in thought that he lost his way. Worse still, it started to snow, and he feared he would never reach home alive. Just as he despaired he noticed lights ahead, and riding towards them he saw a fine castle. The gates stood open and flares were alight in the courtyard.
In the stables a stall empty with hay in the manger and clean bedding on the floor
ready for his horse.
The castle itself seemed to be deserted, but a fire was burning in the dining-hall where a table was laid with food. The merchant ate well and still finding no one went upstairs to a bedroom which had been prepared. " It is almost as if I were expected," he thought.
In the morning he found clean clothes had been laid out for him and breakfast was on the table in the dining - hall. After he had eaten he fetched his horse and as he rode away he saw a spray of red roses growing from a rose bush. Remembering Beauty's request, and thinking he would be able to bring a present for at least one daughter, he plucked a rose from the bush.
Suddenly a beast-like monster appeared. "Is this how you repay my hospitality?" it roared. "You eat my food, sleep in my guest-room and then insult me by stealing my flowers. You shall die for this."
The merchant pleaded for his life, and begged to see his children once more before he died. At last the beast relented. "I will spare your life," it said, "if one of your daughters will come here willingly and die for you. Otherwise you must promise to return within three months and die yourself."
The merchant agreed to return and went on his way. At home his children listened with sorrow to his tales of the lost cargo and his promise to the monster. His two elder daughters turned on Beauty, saying, "Your stupid request for a rose has brought all this trouble on us. It is your fault that father must die." When the three months were up Beauty insisted on going to the castle with her father, pretending only to ride with him for company on the journey. The beast met them, and asked Beauty if she had come of her own accord, and she told him she had.
"Good," he said. "Now your father can go home and you will stay with me."
"What shall I call you?" she asked bravely.
"You may call me Beast," he replied.
Certainly he was very ugly and it seemed a good name for him. Beauty waved a sad farewell to her father. But she was happy that at least she had saved his life.
As Beauty wandered through the castle she found many lovely rooms and beautiful courtyards with gardens. At last she came to a room which was surely meant just for her. It had many ofher favourite books and objects in it. On the wall hung a beautiful mirror and to her surprise, as she looked into it, she saw her father arriving back at their home and her brothers and sisters greeting him. The picture only lasted a few seconds then faded. "This Beast may be ugly, but he is certainly kind," she thought. "He gives me all the things I like and allows me to know how my family is without me."
That night at supper the Beast joined her at the candle-lit table. He sat and stared at her. At the end of the meal he asked: "Will you marry me?"
Beauty was startled by the question but said as gently as she could, "No, Beast, you are kind but I cannot marry you."
Each day it was the same. Beauty had everything she wanted during the day and each evening the Beast asked her to marry him, and she always said no. One night Beauty dreamt that her father lay sick. She asked the Beast if she could go to him, and he refused saying that if she left him he would die of loneliness. But when he saw how unhappy Beauty was, he said:
"If you go to your family, will you return within a week?"
"Of course," Beauty replied.
"Very well, just place this ring on your dressing table the night you wish to return, and you shall come back here. But do not stay away longer than a week, or I shall die."
The next morning Beauty awoke to find herself in her own home. Her father was indeed sick, but Beauty nursed him lovingly. Beauty's sisters were jealous once more. They thought that if she stayed at home longer than a week the Beast would kill her. So they pretended to love her and told her how much they had missed her. Before Beauty knew what had happened ten days had passed. Then she had a dream that the Beast was lying still as though he were dead by the lake near his castle.
"I must return at once," she cried and she placed her ring on the dressing table.
The next morning she found herself once more in the Beast's castle. All that day she expected to see him, but he never came. "I have killed the Beast," she cried, "I have killed him." Then she remembered that in her dream he had been by the lake and quickly she ran there. He lay still as death, down by the water's edge.
"Oh, Beast!" she wept, "Oh, Beast! I did not mean to stay away so long. Please do not die. Please come back to me. You are so good and kind." She knelt and kissed his ugly head.
Suddenly no Beast was there, but a handsome prince stood before her. "Beauty, my dear one," he said. "I was bewitched by a sell that could only be broken when a beautiful girl loved me and wanted me in spite of my ugliness. When you kissed me just now you broke the enchantment."
Beauty rode with the prince to her father's house and then they all went together to the prince's kingdom. There he and Beauty were married. In time they became king and queen, and ruled for many happy years.