I worked my way through quite a few B&B adaptations over the years, plus countless others “inspired by.” (It should be no surprise that I’m stoked for Beastly.) When those ran out, I moved on to other fairy tales and folklore. I picked up mythologies and anthologies. I read the reimagined stories of biblical characters and historical figures. I immersed myself in stories based on storytellers and in stories rooted in the “great works.” I read, I related, and I absorbed.
It was easy to hop from one thing to the next, to go deeper down the literary rabbit hole. Meeting the bunny was one thing, but following it was the adventure. Through the eyes of minor characters, I peered at classic stories from strange angles. Heroes and villains switched sides. Main characters could expound their motivations free of their original formats. Time periods were fluid. Stories I thought I’d known turned out to be more gruesome (and more satisfying). Different traditions added their own new dimensions. Though trying to find the source was sometimes slippery, I could piece the variations together into a satisfying mosaic.
My work in college was indubitably influenced by my early investigations. For my English major, I interpreted and connected a slew of literature. In Judaic Studies, I fell into Midrash, the biblical exegesis undertaken by rabbis. My communication and media studies classes examined how people interacted, both with each other and with their sources of information/entertainment. I learned a little too late about anthropology, though my brief flirtation exposed me to Claude Levi-Strauss’ mythemes, ur-myths, the Aarne-Thompson classification system, and Bruno Bettleheim. (More about him later.) It was in this class (Myth, Ritual, and Symbol) that I learned Beauty and the Beast was fairytale type 425C.
What all of this comes down to is that I love to fill in the gaps. The more I learn, the more I understand that all plots tangle and unravel each other. Across cultures, we tell and share and change the same stories. That, to me, is a tale as old as time.