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The women behind Beauty and the Beast

Meet the authors and illustrators who brought the fairy tale to life

Adrian Murphy (opens in new window) (Europeana Foundation)

Many of us are familiar with the fairy tale Beauty and the Beast - whether from Disney films or childhood memories.

As Beauty and the Beast is a fairy tale, different versions of the story exist across different European countries and beyond. The first known written version of the story dates to a book published in France in 1740.

This blog will look at a number of female authors and illustrators behind the tale of Beauty and the Beast.

Gabrielle-Suzanne Barbot de Villeneuve

Gabrielle-Suzanne Barbot de Villeneuve is the author of the oldest known version of Beauty and the Beast. She was a novelist in 18th century France.

Born in 1685 in Paris, Gabrielle-Suzanne de Villeneuve was a member of a wealthy Protestant family, and, in 1706, married Jean-Baptiste Gaalon de Villeneuve, an aristocratic family. Soon after her marriage, she requested a separation of belongings from her husband who had already squandered much of their substantial joint family inheritance.

de Villeneuve published both novels and fairy tales. Beauty and the Beast - La Belle et la Bête - was included in her 1740 book La jeune américaine, et les contes marins (The Young American and Marine Tales).

This book is a collection of fairy tales the length of a novel with many interconnected subplots. Her version of Beauty and the Beast is longer and more detailed than the version we know today.

de Villeneuve was the author of many fairy tale collections and novels. Her novel La Jardinière de Vincennes (The Gardener of Vincennes) was published in 1753 and a great commercial success.

Jeanne-Marie Leprince de Beaumont

Despite her success, de Villeneuve's version of Beauty and the Beast is not the commonly known version today. That version of the tale was written by another French author, Jeanne-Marie Leprince de Beaumont.

Jeanne-Marie Leprince de Beaumont was born in 1711 in Rouen. In 1748, after two marriages, de Beaumonth left France to work in London as a governess to weathy and upper-class families. During her fifteen years living in London, she began to publish books and periodicals on topics relating to children's education.

In 1756 - a year after Gabrielle-Suzanne de Villeneuve's death - de Beaumont published a version of the Beauty and the Beast tale in her publication Magasin des enfants (ou dialogues entre une sage gouvernante et plusieure de ses élèves) in French. The first English language translation was published in 1757.

This version of the Beauty and the Beast tale was shorter and less complex than de Villeneuve's, with less characters. de Beaumont's version made no mention of the previous version by Madame de Villeneuve.

Jeanne-Marie Leprince de Beaumont's writing was pedagogical, written with childen in mind. They were instructional handbooks for parents and educators of students from childhood through adolescence, with many versions, revisions and translations published.

She intended that Beauty and the Beast be a moral tale, along with her other works which showed rewards and punishments and frequently concluded with overtly Christian messages.

Anne Anderson

Since being published in the 18th century, Beauty and the Beast's has become a much-loved fairy tale - published in many anthologies and books.

One such book was Hans Andersen's Fairy Tales, with beautiful illustrations by Scottish artist Anne Anderson.

Born in 1874, Anderson was known for her illustrations in children's books, particular in an art nouveau style. She contributed to many volumes and books, beloved by children in the early part of the 20th century.

Below you can see Anderson's illustrations for the fairy tales The Wild Swan, The Snow Queen and The Real Princess.

Tine van Berken

The story of Beauty and the Beast has been published in many languages around the world.

Dutch writer Tine van Berken is the author of a version of the story called Bella en de Beer.

Tine van Berken was the pseudonym of Anna Christina Berkhout, who also wrote under the name Anna Koubert. She born in the Jordaan neighbourhood of Amsterdam in 1870.

In the 1890s, she began to write and publish books, especially for children, particularly aimed at girls.

In just a few years, she had written more than 10 books, 8 of which were published by 1899. However, that year, her life was tragically cut short when she died - aged just 29 - from tubercolosis.

Literature Women's History