Is Disney’s ‘Beauty and the Beast’ Based On a True Story?

Beauty and the Beast is many Disney fans’ favorite animated film. The movie was so popular that it grossed $425 million at the box office and became the first-ever animated picture to be nominated for an Academy Award for Best Picture. The live-action remake, released in 2017, quickly became one of Disney‘s most popular movies ever.

As the film is so magical, involving curses and talking candlesticks, fans might be shocked to learn that Beauty and the Beast was very likely based on a true story! Read on to learn about the tragic life of the man who provided inspiration for the Beast.

Disney’s version of ‘Beauty and the Beast’

Beauty and the Beast
Beauty and the Beast | Source: Disney

Beauty and the Beast tells the love story of Belle, a beautiful bookworm from a “provincial town,” and the Beast, a cursed prince who lives locked up in his castle because of the hideous, animal-like appearance that the curse has placed upon him. One day, when Belle’s father is riding through the forest, the Beast captures him and locks him up in his dungeon. Belle goes after him, and finding her father, offers the Beast a trade: her father’s freedom for her own imprisonment.

Amidst the background of the delightfully cursed, musical castle, Belle and the Beast unexpectedly fall in love. Back in town, a pompous man named Gaston has been scheming to get Belle to marry him. He riles up the villagers to go kill the Beast in order to win Belle’s hand but ultimately falls to his death. The curse on the Beast and the castle is broken with Belle’s proclamation of her love, and Belle and the human-again Beast live happily ever after.

The original Beauty and the Beast story

Disney’s film is based on the French story, Belle et La Bête (French for Beauty and the Beast) by Madame Gabrielle-Suzanne Barbot de Villeneuve. The short story was originally published in La Jeune Américaine et les Contes Marins in the year 1740 and follows the adventures of a girl named Beauty (or Belle, in French) as she falls in love with a beast living in a castle.

Disney seemed to follow the original story almost completely accurately. The main difference between the Disney film and the original story is that Gaston, the man who tries to woo Belle in the Disney film, does not exist in the story. However, he’s replaced by several of Belle’s antagonistic sisters who treat Belle with no compassion. The general plotline of the movie seems to stay true to Madame de Villeneuve’s story, however.

The tragedy of the real “Beast”

Fans may assume that Beauty and the Beast is clearly a made-up fairy tale, but would you believe that the story of Belle and the Beast may have been based on a true story?

Some think that the Beast was based on Petrus Gonsalvus, a man who was born in 1537 in the Canary Islands of Spain. Apparently, Gonsalvus suffered from hypertrichosis, which is a genetic condition that causes an excess of body hair.

Because of his condition and unusual appearance, Gonsalvus was horrifically kidnapped as a child, kept in a cage and treated like an animal, and then given to King Henry II when Gonsalvus was only 10 years old.  Luckily, Henry II didn’t seem Gonsalvus as an animal and decided to raise him as a nobleman.

After Henry II’s death, Gonsalvus was treated as a sort of experiment by Henry’s surviving wife, who decided to try to find a beautiful wife for him to see what would happen. Gonsalvus was married to Catherine, the daughter of a royal court servant.

Although he only met her for the first time on their wedding day, they remained married for 40 years. Tragically, four of their seven children also were born with hypertrichosis and were given away as “gifts.”

This is the true story behind The Beauty and the Beast. Sadly, the talking candlesticks were pure fiction!