by Donna Jo Napoli

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Meet the Beast -- before there was Beauty

Orasmyn is the prince of Persia and heir to the throne. His religion fills his heart and his mind, and he strives for the knowledge and leadership his father demonstrates. But on the day of the Feast of Sacrifices, Orasmyn makes a foolish choice that results in a fairy's wretched punishment: he is turned into a beast, a curse to be undone only by the love of a woman.

Thus begins Orasmyn's journey through the exotic Middle East and sensuous France as he struggles to learn the way of the beast, while also preserving the mind of the man. This is the story of his search, not only for a woman courageous enough to love him, but also for his own redemption.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781439115459
Publisher: Atheneum Books for Young Readers
Publication date: 02/24/2015
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 272
Sales rank: 721,702
File size: 2 MB
Age Range: 12 - 17 Years

About the Author

Donna Jo Napoli is the acclaimed and award-winning author of many novels, both fantasies and contemporary stories. She won the Golden Kite Award for Stones in Water in 1997. Her novel Zel was named an American Bookseller Pick of the Lists, a Publishers Weekly Best Book, a Bulletin Blue Ribbon, and a School Library Journal Best Book, and a number of her novels have been selected as ALA Best Books. She is a professor of linguistics at Swarthmore College in Pennsylvania, where she lives with her husband. Visit her at

Read an Excerpt

From Part I: The Curse

The lion-ape lunges from the tree
a moment too late;
Bahram Chubina's arrow has already
sealed his fate.

I gasp roughly. Beast and warrior glow white, burning, against the gold ground. The sun glints off the illuminated pages as it glints off the metal mar %151; snake %151; that twists around and around from my wrist to my elbow. My fists clench; I am aghast at dying, aghast at killing.


I turn, startled.

Mother comes in, her face unveiled %151; she has not yet left the palace this morning. The pleasure of seeing the dark sliver moons under her eyes, her full cheeks, pulls me at once from the violence on the page to the sweet calm of our lives.

Father, the Shah of all Persia, has promised to find me a suitable wife soon. I will be the first adult male outside the young woman's family to ever set eyes on her bare face, to ever know her mysteries. Warmth threads up my throat to my cheeks. I stroke my short beard and smile broad to hide my thoughts.

Mother smiles in return. "You're reading the Shahnameh yet again?" She comes to my reading platform and bends over me. Her hair hangs wavy, freed from the braids that hold it tight at night and that she will rebraid before going outside today. It brushes my arm. With a fingertip she traces the spine of the lion-ape. "His eyes speak anguish."

Her words touch me with their femininity. Women speak through their eyes from behind the chador %151; the veil %151; that shrouds all else. They are accustomed to listening to the eyes of others, even those whose full faces show.

"Shall I read to you?"

"Battle stories." Mother wrinkles her nose. "I prefer Islamic verse."

"Islamic verse is in Arabic. These are stories in our own strong Persian. And they're not all battle. Let me read to you of Malika falling in love with Shahpour." Already I am thumbing back through the earlier pages.

Mother squats and catches my hand between hers. "Orasmyn, I've got a present for you. In my room. A book by Saadi."

The prospect intrigues me, for this great mystic, this Sufi, is known for mixing the spirit of Islam with the culture of Persia. But Mother's tone irritates. I pull my hand away. "I don't need help in choosing my reading."

"We all need help, Orasmyn."

"A prince doesn't."

Mother presses her lips together in a thin line. Then her face softens again. "I see you've done your prayers." Her finger now runs the part in the middle of my hair that I made during my cleaning ritual, the wudhu, before the prayers that precede sunrise. "Why didn't you come eat with us?" she asks. "Your father and I will be busy with festival duties most of the day. We had hoped to see you this morning, at least."

Today is the Feast of Sacrifices. Every royal family in every town across Persia has invited the poor to partake of the meat from the animal they will sacrifice this noon. Here in Tabriz there will be a double offering, for my family will add a sacrifice of our own to that of the local royal family. "I don't plan to eat on this festival," I say.

"Is that so?" Mother looks at me with curiosity. "You're dressed as a hajji %151; a pilgrim." Fondly, she brushes the folds of cloth on my back.

I draped this white cloth around me as the sun rose. It is almost a year since I returned from my pilgrimage to Mecca. These days, when I go out, I wear my ordinary tunic under royal robes, though of course I carry prayer beads and wear a white hat always. But today I will stand in white cloth with the other hajjiha, a cloud of purity. "I'm assisting at the sacrifice."

"Ah." Mother nods. "Then I understand your fasting. But, son, my gentle prince, not every hajji must take part."

I hear the question under her words. As a child I ran from the sacrifices, from the spilling of blood. As an adult, I take no part in the hunts. Mother says I am like the flowers that grow in my treasured gardens, more tender than flesh should be.

Still, today I fight off trepidation. The sacrifice is compassionate; as my father's heir, I must understand that. The animal dies to commemorate the ancient sacrifice by Ibrahim. "Don't worry about me." I kiss Mother's hand.

"I'll leave you to prepare, then," she says, straightening up. "At the prayers before the sacrifice, be sure to make your rakatha %151; your bows %151; deep and low, and to linger a moment before rising. That way I can pick you out from the other hajjiha and send you my strength." Mother leaves.

Her strength? A prince should rely on no one. But it is too late to protest; she is gone.

I open the rear doors, which give directly out to my private garden for praying, my belaq. We have palaces in many cities, and I have taken part in designing the gardens at three of them. I work with a cohort of servants, planting, pruning, mulching.

My special fragrance garden around the throne room in the central pavilion of our Isfahan palace is continuously in flower. The carpet I stand on now depicts that garden. The border bands hold daisies and pomegranates and heads of lions. This rug makes my feet want to climb. We winter in Isfahan, of course, on the arid plateau almost completely ringed by mountains.

My yellow roses are at our palace in Shiraz. On the first day of spring, we celebrate Naurouz, New Year's, there, surrounded by flowering persimmons. I always beg Father to take us to Shiraz early, even as early as the end of February, so that we can feel the bade gulhaye sourkh %151; the wind of roses %151; that blows strong in the afternoon. Processions fill the streets with music and torches for thirty days. I throw coins with lions stamped on them to the people I pass. They throw rose petals in return. All flowers grow in Shiraz, but gulhaye sourkh %151; roses %151; are what they throw, because the rose is my favorite, Prince Orasmyn's favorite.

But Shiraz is too hot in summer. So we return north to Tabriz, the capital, where I tend my most extensive gardens.

I step outside now and pass through my walled belaq out to the public gardens. To the west stands the mosque. To the south and east and north stretches garden. My eyes follow straight pebbled paths interrupted at regular intervals by a series of steps, on and on, until the paths are lost in the trees and the mountains beyond. It is easy to fool myself into thinking the garden continues forever %151; infinite.

I imagine I feel a wet breeze from the Caspian Sea to the east %151; though it is more than a day's journey away. I emerge from the shadows of the portico and walk along a maddi %151; a water channel %151; to the reflecting pool. The people will gather here after the sacrifice to await the cooked meat. The pavilion on the north side will host the men, while that on the south will host the women. Columns hold up the roofs of the pavilions, columns spaced widely, so that one group can easily see what the other does. The voices will be loud and happy.

But right now the pool and garden are mine. The air is faint with white jasmine. Clover and aromatic grasses crush soft under my bare feet. Sour cherry trees fan out in star designs. I step up onto the talar, the platform overlooking the pool, and gaze at the black-and-white limestone colonnades of the palace. The early sun gives an orangish sheen to the stones, almost the color of henna, and an idea comes to me.

Mother said not every hajji must take part in the sacrifice. So nothing should prescribe the participation of those hajjiha who do take part. Joyous moment, I am free to choose what duties I assume.

I race to the animal enclosures beyond the mosque, to the camel-holding pen, hoping no one has beat me to the task. Preparing an animal for sacrifice is just as important a part of the feast as slashing its neck.

Kiyumars is already in the pen, stroking the large she-camel. But no one else is about. I join this servant with a silent nod. We've known each other all our lives %151; we played among the herds of goat and sheep together as children; we tend the gardens of Tabriz side by side as adults %151; we fall into an easy camaraderie now. Kiyumars puts henna on the head of the camel, turning her the orange color that guided my feet here now. All is well. I rub the camel's eyelids with kohl. She is docile, more docile than I've known a camel to be. Kiyumars takes a sugar lump from his pouch and puts it in the camel's mouth. Ah, now I understand her cooperation, for I have a sweet tooth myself.

The necklace shines from the open box nearby. It is made of tiny mirrors set in red silk with gold em-broidered leaves. Carefully I lift it with both hands and hold it under the camel's thick neck. Kiyumars takes one end, and together we fasten the necklace in place. It hangs before her chest like a banner.

Kiyumars dips his hands in the henna again. He turns to the camel, about to rub color into her back, when he gasps.

I look over his shoulder. At first I cannot see it. But now halfway up her single hump a thin line shows, where the hair doesn't lie perfectly flat. It runs two hands-width long.

Kiyumars looks at me with frightened eyes.

We both know what the scar means. Someone cut fat from this camel's hump, a practice of our people for millennia. But now we know, through the teachings of Muhammad, that the Merciful One expressly forbids it: Live animals are never to suffer at the hand of man. An old scar, to be sure. Nevertheless, this camel has been defiled.

"She appeared to be the finest camel, my prince. In the name of the Merciful One, this is truth."

"Was no other camel brought here yesterday and prepared for sacrifice?" I ask, though I can see the holding pen is otherwise empty.

"She is the only one, my prince." Kiyumars' voice shakes. An error regarding sacrifices could call for grave punishment. The local royal family holds to old Persian customs that go against Islam; they would have Kiyumars nailed by his ears to the wall out front of the palace, just as they do to those who break the fast during the monthlong celebration of Ramadhan. I wince at the thought. My hand instinctively takes his upper arm and pulls him close. My chest swells with the need to protect Kiyumars.

But is it written anywhere that a camel who has been violated in this way cannot be sacrificed? I recall no such prohibition, though I have to admit I remember more of the Persian folktales in the Shahnameh than of the Arab holy words in the Qur'an.

I could ask the imam %151; the prayer leader %151; just to be sure. But the Feast of Sacrifices is one of the two most important holy days of the lunar year %151; so the Shah should know the rules that govern it. Likewise, the Shah's son should know. Consultation would be a sign of weakness.

The answer must lie within me.

Think, Orasmyn.

This camel is imperfect. But all the camels in our herd have some defect or other. They have to. Such is the way of the world. This may be the best camel available, despite her scar.

Kiyumars puts both hands to his cheeks, forgetting the henna in his desperation and turning himself orange. "It is my thoughtlessness. Jumail is the only camel prepared for sacrifice. Forgive me, my prince."

Jumail? This is the Arab word for "little camel," not the Persian one. This camel clearly belongs to Islam. I reach high and put my hands over her muzzle, trying to pull myself up so I can look into her eyes. The camel stares at me a moment, then blinks and jerks her head away. But she doesn't bare her teeth. Jumail is ready for sacrifice.

I scan my memory for wisdom from the Qur'an. "The Merciful One forgives our dietary lapses more easily than most other lapses."

"Yes," says Kiyumars with hope in his voice.

Now I search my memory for wisdom from our people's traditions, wisdom my nursemaid Ava taught me. "And eating camel meat rekindles faith," I say softly.

"The people will be grateful," says Kiyumars. "Especially the sick, my prince."

I think of the sick, for whom half the meat of this camel will be salted and set aside. They will chew it all year long for strength no other meat can give. Nothing would be gained by failing to sacrifice this beast.

And I cannot believe the Merciful One would want Kiyumars to suffer for an innocent oversight. Indeed, if animals are not to suffer at the hand of man, how then can humans be allowed such suffering?

I fasten a necklace of bells around the camel, high up and tight, so that it rides in front of the arch of her neck. Then I stand tall before my servant, my friend.

Kiyumars bows to me. When he rises, he smears the camel's hump with henna, putting extra on the scar that disappeared with his first swipe. I add a strand of precious stones between the necklace of bells and the necklace of mirrors. After Kiyumars finishes coloring the camel's back, I spread the fine Kashmir shawl across her. She is ready.

Everything has been done correctly.

Or almost everything.

In an instant I am cold. It is nearly impossible to be cold anywhere in my country in the summer, even at the start of summer, even in Tabriz. Yet I shiver now. It is as though a tiny being flutters around my head, blowing and blowing. It as as though a storm begins.

Copyright © 2000 by Donna Jo Napoli

Table of Contents

Part IThe Curse1
The Camel3
The Pari14
The Plan42
Part IIStrange Life53
Part IIILion87
My Pride114
Traveling Again126
Two Years134
Part IVNew World137
A Man139
Gule Sourkh157
My Child187
At Last248
Author's Note256
Author's Note on Language259

Customer Reviews

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Beast 3.9 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 41 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I am a person who can read up to ten books a week if I feel like it, but when I read this book I had to read it, completely. Except... At the start it started a bit slow, I was so sick of it was wanted to put it back, but once I read a little bit more it was like it dug its claws in my and pulled me in. Wonderful book. My Absolute favorite, it will be one of the first I buy for the library I plan on making. I was so impressed I spoke with Donna, she also told me, when I asked about the endings of her books, that it wasn't her story to tell, she was just writing what her heart told her. She is my favorite author, not to mention she is great to talk to.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Interesting book that FINALLY tells the side story from the beast's point of view where we've always heard about beauty's. Entertaining book that makes you forgot to stop and keep reading until the end of an chapter and soon starting on the next. Nice details on the location and words including the religion background of the character.
eidolons on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I've always loved the fairy tale Beauty and the Beast, so when I found this retelling I was excited. It is shelved in my local library as Young Adult, and I couldn't agree more with that designation. The story itself is interestingly set in Persia. I found the religious references and the folk lore fun to read. The majority of the story is set in both Persia and India. These were my favorite parts. I was hoping the Beauty part of the story would vary more than it did. But again, we had to travel to France and meet an oh-so-sweet girl who is destined to free the Beast from his curse.I was honestly disappointed with the lack of originality in the end. This did not stop me from enjoying the book for what it was - a retelling of a classic aimed at a younger audience than myself. I will definitely be recommending it to my niece and my own children when they're a bit older.
Rhinoa on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
A look at Beauty and the Beast where the Beast is a Persian Prince. He is making an offering of a camel but she is not pure. He decides to go ahead with the sacrifice anyway as all of the preparations have been made and there are no other camels they can use. As a result he is cursed to be killed by his own father and transformed into a lion.He first tries to live as a lion and travels to India. He tries to fit in with a couple of different prides but he doesn¿t really understand the laws of the lions. He has his own mind but in a different body. He is chased away on more than one occasion and is lucky to still be alive. From there he travels to France and the story becomes more traditionally Beauty and the Beast when a man finds the castle where he has been living and in exchange for his life he promises to being his youngest daughter to live with the Beast.I wanted to like this but it didn¿t really grab me. It was like reading two completely different books that had been sandwiched together. I know it¿s a fairy tale, but I still wanted to be able to believe in the story and the characters and I really didn¿t. My favourite was the little fox cub who got a very raw deal I felt poor thing. One thing I did like though was all the Persian detail and the glossary at the back of the book. A lot of research clearly went into writing it and it¿s a shame it felt so short and glossed over.
deslivres5 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I decided to read Beast by Donna Jo Napoli after reading Robin McKinley's retellings of the Beauty and the Beast (Beauty: A Retelling of the Story of Beauty and the Beast ; Rose Daughter).Beast tells the story of Belle and the Beast falling in love under extreme circumstances a castle in France, but the beginning of Napoli's tale starts in Persia with the son of the Shah and his beastly curse being handed down by a djinn.The language is lovely, the Beasts travels from Persia to France a bit heart breaking and the Islamic insights add lots of interest in this retelling.
spartyliblover on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
The class story of Beauty and the Beast told from the Beast's point of view starting from the curse until he finds a women who can love him. The main character is the Beast and he is well developed in his Persian identity and how becoming a lion changes him. The plot is well developed and although is just Orasmyn for about half the book, his struggles with how to remain human while a lion is intriguing. The changing setting from the deserts of Persia to the safari of India to the mountains of France are all well developed and easy to picture as the reader follows Orasmyn on his journey. This is a great view of the story of Beauty and the Beast for the tales lovers, also for slightly more romantic boys since the story is from a male point of view. It is an excellent book for a public library in the teen section for mature middle school readers and high schoolers.
_Zoe_ on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I can't say that I really enjoyed this book. It's a retelling of Beauty and the Beast, a story that I love, but in this case I didn't find that the retelling improved on the story at all. The premise is intriguing enough: this is Beast's story, starting from before he met Beauty and explaining how and why he came to be a Beast. Unfortunately, I thought the reason for his transformation was unsatisfying, the descriptions of his time as a beast were distasteful, and he was a pretty unlikeable character overall.Beast is set in Persia, and the protagonist is a prince. As his servant is preparing a camel for sacrifice at a religious festival, he notices that the camel has a scar that makes it unfit for this sacrifice. The servant has no alternative camel ready, an oversight that could result in a severe penalty, possibly even death. The prince, who has a good heart and a dislike for the suffering of others, weighs the risks and benefits and decides that the camel should be sacrificed despite the flaw. This will save the servant and help the people, who receive portions of the meat. And, he reasons, God is merciful.It's not entirely clear why this reasoning breaks down. The prince is turned into a beast (a lion, in particular) not by God, but by the angry spirit of the camel. I can't honestly say why the camel was angry, because it wasn't explained what exactly happens to an animal that is sacrificed inappropriately. For whatever reason, though, the prince is punished for his attempt to do good by being turned into a lion, and the curse will only be broken if he wins a woman's love (this part is explained by the camel being female, though again, the logic here isn't entirely clear to me). Needless to say, if the goal is to bring the Beast to life by providing his backstory, the backstory needs to make sense. I wasn't exactly satisfied in this regard.So then the prince is a lion, and does lion things. Although as a man he has never laid eyes on a women other than his mother, his first act as a lion is to mate with some female lions in the palace hunting grounds. This wasn't described in very much detail, but I still could have done without it. I just didn't need to hear about his ¿thrusting¿. Also, note that this is a YA book, or possibly even children's. The prince also spends a lot of his time hunting, which I didn't find very interesting. Basically, I wasn't really into the story until the requisite scene where Belle's father encounters the beast while seeking shelter from the storm; i.e., until Napoli's story converges with the traditional version. Unfortunately, this didn't happen until more than halfway through.I did enjoy the development of the Beast's relationship to Belle, but I couldn't fully like him because of the way he treated her pet fox. This fox was possibly the best character in the story; he was loving, playful, loyal, forgiving, and basically wonderful all around. And the Beast constantly thought things along the lines of ¿What a stupid animal¿ or ¿That foolish fox....¿, for no particular reason that I could see. I'm not sure how he changed from someone who seemed so compassionate initially into someone who thought badly about innocent animals; and no matter how well he treated Belle, I think his ideas about the fox were more telling about his personality.So, an initially likeable man is transformed into a beast because he made a religious error while trying to help others; once he's a beast, he becomes less likeable rather than learning any sort of valuable lesson.I've enjoyed other books by Donna Jo Napoli in the past, but I think I'll stick to Robin McKinley for Beauty and the Beast.
datwood on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I Love Napoli's books with a fairy tale base. The stories are interesting and the characters great. She doesn't talk down or preach to her audience. I really need to buy some more titles.
snapdragongirl on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This is a story of a Shah's son from Persia who improperly allows a camel to be sacrificed. In revenge, a pari (Persian fairy) turns the man into a lion. The only way to remove the curse is to have a woman fall in love with him. Conveienced that this will never happen, the lion goes to India to live as a lion. Unable to live in a pride, the man must face the reality that his only hope is to find a french woman who loves roses just as much as he does. I didn't particuarly like this book. I felt it was a little long. The writing was good but uneven. The first part of the book is dedicated to the main character living as a lion. I felt this part of the book could have been much shorter. The author feels the need to document every kill. The end feels almost forced, as though the author needed to finish up the story and didn't want to spend too much time on it. It's an okay read, but not what I had expected.
SiennaLC More than 1 year ago
I'm a huge fan of this writer, I have yet to read a book of hers that I do not like. This book is no exception. It had me from start to finish and even though I know the story and how it ends I was curious to see how she would write it out. Job well done
SleepDreamWrite More than 1 year ago
That cover, the one with the rose. Love stories with theme of Beauty and the Beast. This one was really good. The setting was good.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I first read this book when i was in middle school, its one of the few books i aculy remeber the title to. So i took some thing from it. Its from the beast point of view. its not some disney fariy tale just to let you know.
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EmilyD More than 1 year ago
1.5 stars. One of my friends once said that Donna Jo Napoli has her "good" books and her "weird" books. I can't compare since this is the only book I've read by her, but it's definitely one of the weird ones. First of all, this retelling of "Beauty and the Beast" was well-written and well-researched (though apparently she did more research on lions than on history). The fact that the Beast was a Prince of Persia was a unique twist. It was also unique in the fact that the Beast was completely animal instead of an animal/man hybrid. In most reviews of this book, people said that the focus on Orasmyn's religious practices was unnecessary, but I thought it was very interesting, and was one of the very few things I liked about this book. Yes, very few. Napoli described Orasmyn's leonine bodily functions in too much detail. There was one scene that I won't name since this is a spoiler-free review, but at that part I just thought "Did I really need to read about that?" It was too graphic for any book, YA or not. I didn't like the pace either. It was very slow (nearly slow to the point of being dull) until Belle comes in, and then the last 50 pages of the book are pretty rushed. The book literally ends at the exact moment Orasmyn turns back into a man. I would have liked it better if we could have seen Orasmyn and Belle's relationship develop a little more, instead of just reading about Orasmyn as a lion. Also, I think that since there was a glossary of Farsi and Arabic words in the back of the book, it was unnecessary for the meanings to be given in the text.
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Guest More than 1 year ago
I thought it was great. This story is about a Persian Prince who turns into a beast and he has to leave Persia to find his true love. He goes to France and he meets Belle. Its a new twist on Beauty and the Beast. This time Beast gets to tell his tale.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book is forever carved into my heart, love is like the universe-nobody really knows what happened but they do know so much life came out of it. I completely love how the author stirrs love with utter confusion and loss into a tale of two people so inexistent to themselves but the entire life,love and fate of each other.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I would give this book zero stars if I could. Its weak storyline gives it nothing but even weaker characters make it even worse. And since when is the beast a Muslim? This book will eventually become part of the forgoten masses of book that were acclaimed when first written but will not stand the test of time itself. All in all it is a peice of junk so save your money and don't buy it.