Friday, November 21, 2014

My Beauty and the Beast

As many of you know, Rooglewood Press is holding a fairy-tale short story contest. Last year, they held the contest and created the amazing Five Glass Slippers collection focusing on re-tellings of the Cinderella story. This year, the focus is Beauty and the Beast.

I've mentioned this before, but Beauty and the Beast is my all-time favorite Disney movie. Belle is my favorite Disney princess. Tale as Old as Time is my favorite Disney song. Chip is my favorite Disney sidekick, you get it. I like the original fairy tale too, though I don't like it as much as the Disney version. So of course, I HAD to write a story for it.

Esprit de la Rose

The 'Belle' of Esprit de la Rose is a young woman named Cecilia Lester. Her mother has recently died, and she has coerced her pirate father to ferry her from America to England so she can start a new life. However, having a pirate father complicates the voyage. Cecilia's father robbed the Fee, a race of vengeful mermaids, and they seek him out to punish him. Despite her father's absence for most of her life, Cecilia can't bear to lose her only other family so she takes the punishment meant for her father upon herself. She finds herself aboard The Rose, a blood-red brigantine inhabited by dreadful omens, frightening monsters, and a devilishly suave captain. Cecilia must cut through all of the mysteries and lies surrounding the ship, to truly discover the spirit of the Rose.

Like most of my writing, the story initiated from my problems and feelings concerning both the Disney version and the original. I'll just go through them all, shall I?

My first problem with both versions is Belle's name. I mean... Belle. It means beautiful, and I know it refers to her inner beauty not her outer beauty, and I know both versions prove that... but still. What, did her parents get a good look at her when she was born and go "Well, at least she'll be beautiful" and name her Belle? Or did the parents intend for it to refer to inner beauty, but didn't have enough initiative to wrack their brains a bit harder and come up with a name to prove this? I dunno. It always sort of rubbed me the wrong way. 

I chose 'Cecilia' because it is Italian for 'does not know her own beauty'. I thought this really fit Cecilia's personality, and I also liked the idea of her having an Italian mother and an English father, so I went with it. 

Here's another problems I have... why on earth did that fairy curse the prince/Beast when he was 11? E-LEV-EN! What? Really? Seems rather pretentious and heartless to me. This was the foundations of the Fee, and it also inspired them to become one of the villains in the story. More on the Fee later.

This next idea wasn't so much of a problem, but a "what if?". I truly love what Disney did with the Beauty and the Beast story. I love the addition of Gaston, who replaced the sisters from the original tale as the villain. I love the themes Disney showed through the conflict between him, Belle, and The Beast; physical features and strength neither make you deserving of love nor the best. It's the heart that matters. I felt that Disney covered these themes well, so I was already planning on not including a Gaston character in the story. Instead, I wondered... what would the story have been like if the Beast had had his own agenda apart from Belle's? In the Disney and the original, the Beast is rather a passive character who does precisely what the fairy intended him to do. He changes and learns how to love and how to be lovable. This is wonderful, but I always wondered what would have happened if there was more conflict between him and Belle. This is a major part of my story. 

Not all of the angst that fueled this story derived directly from the Beauty and the Beast story. Instead, some of it came from Christians. 

For so long, I lived among (and was) a pharisee Christian. Oh, I understood God's grace, and I understood that it was for everyone. Yet, I still carried with me a Christianese version of the pig's mantra from Animal Farm. "All people are given grace, though some people deserve more grace than others." It makes about as much sense as the pig's belief, but I lived it, and it is depressing to see entire churches living it. A couple years ago, I realized that grace is neither deserved nor preserved by my own doing. God showed me that judging others was tantamount to judging myself because I am the same as everyone else. I have done nothing to deserve God's grace. I will never do anything to deserve God's grace. That's why it is grace. 

I discovered this, and I felt free. Free to be friends with whoever, free to be myself, and free to simply live on God's grace and not worry about perfection or the law or the "right" way to be a Christian. For some reason, after discovering this, I seemed to have forgotten that there was a point where I was judgmental and harsh with certain types of people. I seemed to have forgotten that those type of 'Christian' existed. So to suddenly run into a pharisee Christian was extremely shattering.

This pharisee was spiteful and rude, taking smug pride in his ability to uphold an agenda without giving a care as to the spiritual impact upon those just learning about Christ and His love. It was shocking and jarring and I wanted to scream at him because he was so obviously blind and it was so painful. And then I started noticing it again. The smugness, the pride, the sickening reek of entitlement permeating every crevice of every aspect of every Christian's life. "Don't read that book, don't be friends with those people, don't share your true feelings, don't take the first-step in a relationship, don't dress that way, don't watch that movie, don't be that excited, don't, don't, don't don't don't don't don't." These Christians, these people, have taken something as beautiful as the Gospel and twisted it into their own machination of self-obsession. It's foul, ugly, and beastly, and I used to be that way.

The Fee represent those so-called Christians. The Fee represent the people who feel entitled to grace. The Fee represent the girl I used to be. In a way, this story was almost cleansing to write. It felt good to write all those ugly thoughts I had once harbored and stick them in the mouth of a villain. It felt like I was finally getting rid of them. I still struggle with being judgmental, but life is so much better with grace. It's so much better knowing I can mess up and God will still love me. It's so much better knowing that others can mess up and God will still love them. It's just beautiful. 

Well... I didn't mean to turn this blog post into a rant, but I'm rather glad I did. I've been meaning to share that for a while, but I never could think of what sort of blog post I would put it under. Just so you know, this grace that I have discovered is part of the reason I haven't been blogging. I didn't want to write anything online until I was sure of it, you know? That doesn't make much sense, but I always felt like I was slogging through a slimy fog every time I sat down to write a blog post. Now that I have it settled, everything is so much easier now! 

Anyway, I can't wait to enter my story into the contest! Like everyone, I do rather hope I am one of the winners, but even if I'm not, I am SO looking forward to reading the 'Five Enchanted Roses' collection once it comes out. If I don't win, I'll probably find some other way of letting y'all read it. 

And I just want to give a shout out to my completely amazing English teacher, because she is editing my story and she is helping me SO much. I love her to pieces.

So are any of you entering the contest? What are your stories about? I'd love to hear about 'em!

If you'd like to get more of an idea about Esprit de la Rose, check out my Pinterest board!


  1. That sounds awesome!

    I can't wait to read it!

    1. Thanks! If I don't win, I'll be sure to post/publish it somewhere. :)

  2. Your story sounds amazing! I would love to read it! :)

    Love your other thoughts as well :)

    1. Thank you! I can't wait to read yours as well! :)

  3. Esprit de la Rose sounds awesome! Thanks for sharing!

    Just curious… when are you planning on publishing Hail Frost? I loved Ember Flame and am looking forward to the sequel!


    1. Thanks! :)

      I'm so glad you enjoyed Ember Flame! I'm currently editing and re-writing a lot of Hail Frost. I really really wanted to have it published by the end of this year, but there was a lot more to edit than I had anticipated. I hope to write a blog post explaining the situation soon. I'm tentatively hoping to have it finished by April of next year though. :)

  4. I love the idea for your story! I hope it goes well, the final preparations.

    All you said about grace, it is almost like you took my thoughts and put them into words. I have been dealing with some of that too, and I still have much to learn, but God has been working on me and helping me. It is hard though, when fellow Christians mar the truth and change it to fit them. It makes it hard to talk to them, and take what they say as truth. Sometimes all we can do is return to the Bible - which we should do in all things - but what I mean is turn to it to know if what even some of those we trust are telling us the truth. (That probably makes little sense. I am still trying to find ways to put what I am learning into words.)