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Beauty: A Retelling of the Story of Beauty and the Beast

Beauty: A Retelling of the Story of Beauty and the Beast

4.6 230
by Robin McKinley

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A strange imprisonment

Beauty has never liked her nickname. She is thin and awkward; it is her two sisters who are the beautiful ones. But what she lacks in looks, she can perhaps make up for in courage.

When her father comes home with the tale of an enchanted castle in the forest and the terrible promise he had to make to the Beast who lives there,


A strange imprisonment

Beauty has never liked her nickname. She is thin and awkward; it is her two sisters who are the beautiful ones. But what she lacks in looks, she can perhaps make up for in courage.

When her father comes home with the tale of an enchanted castle in the forest and the terrible promise he had to make to the Beast who lives there, Beauty knows she must go to the castle, a prisoner of her own free will. Her father protests that he will not let her go, but she answers, "Cannot a Beast be tamed?"

Robin McKinley's beloved telling illuminates the unusual love story of a most unlikely couple: Beauty and the Beast.

Product Details

Gardners Books
Publication date:
Age Range:
9 - 12 Years

Read an Excerpt

Chapter One

I was the youngest of three daughters. Our literal-minded mother named us Grace, Hope, and Honour, but few people except perhaps the minister who had baptized all three of us remembered my given name.

My father still likes to tell the story of how I acquired my odd nickname: I had come to him for further information when I first discovered that our names meant something besides you-come-here. He succeeded in explaining grace and hope, but he had some difficulty trying to make the concept of honour understandable to a five-year-old.

I heard him out, but with an expression of deepeningdisgust; and when he was finished I said: "Huh! I'd rather be Beauty." He laughed; and over the next few weeks told everyone he met this story of his youngest child precocity. I found that my ill-considered opinion became a reality; the name at least was attached to me securely.

All three of us were pretty children, with curly blond hair and blue-grey eyes; and if Grace's hair was the brightest, and Hope's eyes the biggest, well, for the first ten years the difference wasn't too noticeable. Grace, who was seven years older than 1, grew into a beautiful, and profoundly graceful, young girl. Her hair was wavy and fine and luxuriant, and as butter-yellow as it had been when she was a baby (said doting friends of the family), and her eyes were long-lashed and as blue as a clear May, morning after rain (said her doting swains). Hope's hair darkened to a rich chestnut-brown, and her big eyes turned a smoky green. Grace was an inch or two the taller, and her skin was rosy where Hope's was ivory pae; but except for their dramatic colouring my sisters lookedvery much alike. Both were tall and slim, with tiny waists, short straight noses, dimples when they smiled, and small delicate hands and feet.

I was five years younger than Hope, and I don't know what happened to me. As I grew older, my hair turned mousy, neither blond nor brown, and the baby curl fell out until all that was left was a stubborn refusal to cooperate with the curling iron; my eyes turned a muddy hazel. Worse, I didn't grow; I was thin, awkward, and undersized, with big long-fingered hands and huge feet. Worst of all, when I turned thirteen, my skin broke out in spots. There hadn't been a spot in our mother's family for centuries, I was sure. And Grace and Hope went on being innocently and ravishingly lovely, with every eligible young man -- and many more that were neither dying of love for them.

Since I was the baby of the family I was a little spoiled. our mother died less than two years after I was born, and our little sister Mercy died two weeks after her. Although we had a series of highly competent and often affectionate nursemaids and governesses, my sisters felt that they had raised me. By the time it was evident that I was going to let the family down by being plain, I'd been called Beauty for over six years; and while I came to hate the name, I was too proud to ask that it be discarded. I wasn't really very fond of my given name, Honour, either, if it came to that: It sounded sallow and angular to me, as if "honourable" were the best that could be said of me. My sisters were too kind to refer to the increasing inappropriateness of my nickname. It was all the worse that they were as good-hearted as they were beautiful, and their kindness was sincerely meant.

Our father, bless him, didn't seem to notice that there was any egregious, and deplorable, difference between his first two daughters and his youngest. On the contrary, he used to smile at us over the dinner table and say howpleased he was that we were growing into three such dissimilar individuals; that he always felt sorry for families who looked like petals from the same flower. For a while his lack of perception hurt me, and I suspected him of hypocrisy; but in time I came to be grateful for his generous blindness. I could talk to him openly, about my dreams for the future, without fear of his pitying me or doubting my motives.

The only comfort I had in being my sisters' sister was that I was "the clever one." To a certain extent this was damning me with faint praise, in the same category as accepting my given name as an epithet accurately reflecting my limited worth -- it was the best that could be said of me. Our governesses had always remarked on my cleverness in a pitying tone of voice. But at least it was true. My intellectual abilities gave me a release, and an excuse. I shunned company because I preferred books; and the dreams I confided to my father were of becoming a scholar in good earnest, and going to University. It was unheard-of that a woman should do anything of the sort-as several shocked governesses were only too quick to tell me, when I spoke a little too boldly -- but my father nodded and smiled and said, "We'll see." Since I believed my father could do anything -- except of course make me pretty -- Iworked and studied with passionate dedication, lived in hope, and avoided society and mirrors.

Our father was a merchant, one of the wealthiest in the city. He was the son of a shipwright, and had gone to sea as a cabin boy when he was not yet ten years old; but by the time he was forty, he and his ships were known in most of the major ports of the world. When he was forty, too, he married our mother, the Lady Marguerite, who was just seventeen. She came of a fine old family that had nothing but its bloodlines left to live on, and her parents were more than happy to accept my father's suit, with its generous bridal settlements. But it had been a happy marriage, old friends told us girls.

Beauty. Copyright © by Robin McKinley. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.

Meet the Author

Robin McKinley's other books include the Newbery Award-winning The Hero and the Crown; Newbery Honor Book The Blue Sword; Sunshine; Spindle's End; Rose Daughter; Deerskin; The Outlaws of Sherwood; and the short story collections The Door in the Hedge; A Knot in the Grain and Other Stories; and, with her husband, the author Peter Dickinson, Water: Tales of Elemental Spirits. She lives in England with her husband, three whippets, and over five hundred rosebushes.

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Beauty 4.6 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 230 reviews.
Withinu101 More than 1 year ago
My mother actually recommended this book to me when I was sixteen years old and I loved then and love it now. This is not your typical meet the beautiful protagnist and then she meets ugly beast and in time she learns to love him. This has a different twist to it! Beauty is not at all physically beautiful, her two sisters in which shocking are kind, and loving sisters. Beauty is just "plain jane" and throughout the book she discovers her talents, wit, sense of humor, her own beauty and the love of her life. Great book, for young women who are looking on the inside for something. Wonderful introduction of how to help others as well as discovering yourself!
pinkfairytale More than 1 year ago
This book is simply what the title states : Beauty ! I mean this is Beauty and the Beast no changes made just simply and beautifully retold! If you love Disney's Beauty in the Beast you will love this book. This is a great book for girls of any age who are just looking for a classic fairytale that is longer than 20 pages!
clemmy More than 1 year ago
I have never been a big fan of Disney's interpretation of things, and I found this book very refreshing in that Beauty and the Beast actually have a relationship and a reason to love one another. Beauty is very easily respected because she has reasons for all that she does. She loves to read, and she loves her horse Greatheart. This book is very well-written and enjoyable. It's a love story, but instead of "oh, they fell in love and lived happily ever after," we as readers watch their love develop and grow. Beauty must learn about herself and the Beast's history as she gets used to living in an overly large castle infused with magic who wait at her beck and call (sometimes before) and some who help without Beauty wanting it. At the end, you are convinced that they are truly and perfectly in love.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The story developed well and had great visual elements and strong characters. However, the ending seemed cut short and rushed after so much building and story-telling it just suddenly came to an end. It felt as if Mckinley wasn't quite sure how to wrap up all the loose ends and so took the shortcut way and everything just magically happened.
Books-Rule_Cats-Do-Too More than 1 year ago
This was such a lovely book until the ending. I felt that it left a lot to be desired. It wrapped up in about five pages, without much detail. Up until then the characters all showed depth and intrigue. I adored the enchanted castle. It was very magical and I couldn¿t help wishing I were Beauty, for I too was falling in love the Beast. When things finished however, there was not enough detail. It didn¿t make much sense, and I was frustrated with the lack of explanation. There is supposedly a sequel or another part at least, to this story, so perhaps I will read that to have my admiration of McKinley restored. I¿d still recommend the book to anyone who either likes McKinley¿s stories or people who enjoy this sort of genre period. Perhaps you¿ll have better luck with its ending then I did.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I've read this book every year since I was 13. The retelling is beautiful. Everytime I read it, I fall in love again. Its a sweet, sincere look at finding love based on the heart rather than looks. Wonderful book.
Reach_for_the_Stars More than 1 year ago
This is a book that I think any girl who watched Disney as a child should read. It brings a different spin to the classic tale but one that makes it more real. I bought it on a whim at college and have had to tape up the spin from frequent use.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I think every one should read this book, especially if you like fantasy. I loved it I found it to be a captivating story. It is like, yet unlike the Disney version of the fairy tale. I found it enough different that it wasn't repeating it. A good book!
Guest More than 1 year ago
'Beauty' is an astounding descriptive literary work. Robin Mckinely has found a way to make the traditional fable of 'Beauty and the Beast' into something so tangable you can smell her roses, feel the fresh air, and empathise with the characters. This book is one in a million!
Guest More than 1 year ago
Robin McKinley has weaved a story as beautiful and descriptive as they come. I have read this book three times and recommend it to anyone who liked the Disney version of the story. After reading this, you will fall in love with it. Her adventure scenes are thrilling, and her romance ones moving. You won't be able to but the book down!
Anonymous 3 months ago
Really like this author. After reading both versions I prefer the rose daughter better. This one is very Disney. That's ok, but rose daughter is much more nuanced and more interesting.
Anonymous 5 months ago
Enjoyed every moment and wished it never ended
MsValentina More than 1 year ago
Absolutely lovely version of Beauty and the Beast!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
So well written!!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The whole story is very lacking...
MissPrint More than 1 year ago
It has been many years since Beauty liked her nickname. It is better than Honour, to be sure. And better, at this point, to keep it than to admit the folly of such a nickname. But she knows far too well that she is no beauty. Not really and certainly not compared to her sisters. She is thin and awkward and short. No one quite believes it when their father returns home with tales or an enchanted house in the woods and a Beast who lives there. They don't even want to consider the bargain their father was forced to strike. She may not be pretty but Beauty is smart. She is kind, just like her sisters. And, when it comes time to make a dangerous choice, she is brave in Beauty (1978) by Robin McKinley. Beauty is the first book in a trilogy of companion novels by McKinley that retell popular folktales. Beauty is a retelling of the fairy tale "Beauty and the Beast." Originally published in 1978, this novel is also strikingly close to Disney's classic animated version of the story. Beauty is a pragmatic narrator who does not tolerate nonsense and values books and intelligence above almost everything else. Beauty's narration is thoughtful and brisk as the story moves along. Beauty is appropriately introspective as Beauty makes sense of her new surroundings and begins to unravel some of the Beast's secrets. This novel is filled with a level of thought and detail typical to one of McKinley's books. The settings are vibrant and evocative. The characters are vivid and authentic. Even with so much description and exposition, Beauty is an engrossing read. Beauty is a must-read for fans of fairy tale retellings and fantasy readers alike. Also ideal for readers who prefer smart heroines and romances with a slow burn. Possible Pairings: The Darkest Part of the Forest by Holly Black, A Curse as Dark as Gold by Elizabeth C. Bunce, Ella Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine, Princess of the Midnight Ball by Jessica Day George, Fire and Hemlock by Diana Wynne Jones, Wildwood Dancing by Juliet Marillier, The Perilous Gard by Elizabeth Marie Pope, Sorcery and Cecelia by Patricia C. Wrede and Caroline Stevemer, Extraordinary by Nancy Werlin
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This was a really wonderfull retelling. Part 1 was not so great, but the rest of the book was totally worth it. My advice is to go ahead and read part 1, but dont get discouraged!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
PatH More than 1 year ago
This was just a lovely rewrite of the classic tale Beauty and the Beast. The compassion and kindness that Robin brought to the young woman, Beauty, was timeless. Superb.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The best part of this book is how much it's not like Disney. Beauty is just like a normal girl under estimates herself and I felt like I could totally relate. The boom sucked me in the first time I read it and it still does.
RedRiver More than 1 year ago
I realy like this book it was great. Its a must have!!
kDreamer More than 1 year ago
This is my favorite version of Beauty and the Beast. One of the things is that there's a different tale about how beast was enchanted and there's poignant moments where he describes what 100 years of re-learning to be civilized has been like. For those who mention Disney...the only thing really in common is Beauty's love of books and the library, and McKinley invented it 1st. As for those who criticize the swiftness of the ending. After the enchantment is broken...what else really is there to tell?
eturner04 More than 1 year ago
This book was truly the best retelling of Beauty and the Beast that I have  read so far. Exceptional!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago