The Meanings of “Beauty and the Beast”

A Handbook. By Jerry Griswold

Using Beaumont’s classic story as a touchstone, this work shows how “Beauty and the Beast” takes on different meanings as it is analyzed by psychologists, illustrated in picture books, adapted to the screen, and rewritten by contemporary writers.

The Meanings of “Beauty and the Beast” provides expert commentary on the tale and on representative critical approaches and contemporary adaptations. This book also includes a variety of original source materials and twenty-three color illustrations.

The Meanings of “Beauty and the Beast” is for any reader who wishes to explore this classic, endlessly rich fairy tale.

Finalist for Mythopoeic Society’s Scholarship Award for Myth and Fantasy Studies (2005, 2006 & 2007).


1. Tale and Author (Madame Le Prince de Beaumont and her “Beauty and the Beast”)
2. Among the Critics (Bruno Bettelheim, Jack Zipes, and Marina Warner)
3. Sources (Apuleius’ “Cupid and Psyche” and Mme. de Villeneuve’s “Beauty and the Beast”)
4. Fairy Tales to Compare (“Cinderella,” “East of the Sun, West of the Moon,” and “Frog King”)
5. Contemporary Stories (Angela Carter’s “The Tiger’s Bride,” Tanith Lee’s “Beauty”)
6. Illustrations (Walter Crane, Mercer Mayer, and others)
7. Films (Jean Cocteau and Walt Disney)


“‘Beauty and the Beast’ is one of the most popular tales in the world, but very few critics have been able to account for its immense popularity. Now Jerry Griswold has bravely undertaken that task and has written a fascinating book that explores the manifold meanings of this compelling tale. Not only does Griswold trace the origins of the classical erotic story, but he also interprets the numerous adaptations in literature and film throughout the world. Whether he analyzes the classic version of Madame Leprince de Beaumont, Angela Carter’s feminist versions, or the Disney animated films, Griswold is always thought-provoking. This is a book that will certainly interest all readers who are captivated by the mystery of fairy tales.” ― Jack Zipes, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis
“While specifically focused on the tale named in its title, Jerry Griswold’s The Meanings of ‘Beauty and the Beast’ offers a perceptive and entertaining introduction to the subject of fairy tales generally. Interweaving an eclectic collection of variants of ‘Beauty and the Beast’ within and around a knowledgeable discussion of the history and meaning of the tale, Griswold offers both a useful introduction for those new to the study of fairy tales and insightful ideas about and interpretations of versions of ‘Beauty and the Beast’ that will greatly interest specialists in the field.” ― Perry Nodelman, University of Winnipeg
“A blend of synthesis, anthology, and analysis, this offers a broadly supported expansion of the scholarship on an irrepressible story.” ― Betsy Hearne, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign
Reviewed: Martha Hixon, “The Tale with a Thousand Faces,” Children’s Literature v. 34 (2006), 214–17; David L. Russell, Lion and Unicorn v. 30 no. 1 (2006), 154–56; Ruth Carver Capasso, Children’s Literature Association Quarterly v. 29 no. 3 (Fall 2004), 273–4; Siobhán Parkinson, Inis (Dublin), 49.


Jerry Griswold is a specialist in Children’s Literature and in American Literature and Culture. The author of seven books, he has published more than 200 essays in the national press (The Nation, Paris Review, New Republic, and elsewhere); he is a frequent contributor to the New York Times and the Los Angeles Times. Besides a book critic and cultural commentator, Griswold was a university professor at San Diego State University, UCLA, UCSD, the University of Connecticut, and the National University of Ireland in Galway. The former Director of the National Center for the Study of Children’s Literature, Griswold lectures all over the globe (from Seoul to Salamanca to São Paolo).


Publication Date: March 16, 2004
ISBN: 9781551115634 / 1551115638
258 pages; 6" x 9"
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For a brief account of the writing of this book, see “Diving Deep: Beauty and the Beast.” You might also be interested in “Beauty & the Beast” in Our Time: The myth of our era (from the Los Angeles Times Book Review).”

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