Happy Spring-ish time!  In honor of the Beauty and the Beast movie, I’m giving away a paperback of Forgotten Menagerie. Skip to the end of the entry on how to enter.

Disney’s live action “Beauty and the Beast” opened on March 17th to mixed reviews but a strong showing at the box office and it’s still doing very well. I haven’t seen it yet, so take my thoughts in that context. A review I read balked at the added exposition and at giving more back story to the characters. I’ll leave it up to those who’ve seen it to decide if Disney’s approach worked. But it’s vital that the Beast be not just a monster, but a misunderstood monster, so that we can better accept Belle’s affection for him.

There are many applications for the concept of the “misunderstood monster.” Labeling the “other” a monster has a long history (is perhaps older than history). Recognizing that stereotypes and propaganda don’t paint a reliable picture inspires us to understand the monster — usually recognizing that they’re not really a monster at all.

On the flip side, the misunderstood monster could be someone who appears legitimately evil from our vantage point but who considers their motives or purpose to be noble, to be misunderstood. Learning about their purpose doesn’t mean we have to accept or agree with their actions, but understanding them may help predict their actions or be useful in understanding them in other ways. Again, taking away the monstrous and understanding the human workings beneath is required to form a rational analysis.

Wait, am I adding political subtexts to Beauty and the Beast? Why shouldn’t I? Fairy tales often included lessons, and probably had more subtext than was realized even at the time.

In researching Beauty and the Beast for Circlet’s A Beastly Affair anthology, I learned that some of the pre-cursor tales were cautionary tales warning women about abusive relationships — and offering hope that they could survive and rise above their circumstances. (Others, and other interpretations, suggest these stories were offered as hope to young women destined for arranged marriages.) The personal and political have always been entwined, and love has never been as uncomplicated as Disney’s tales would have you believe. Understand the monsters around you; reject the stereotype; never fear to speak your own truth so that other may understand you.

I don’t have more information on A Beastly Affair yet, but I’m offering a giveaway of a paperback of Forgotten Menagerie to tide you over. In this book you’ll find tales of unusual shifters. In my story, “Mirrors, the Moon and the Boy,” the protagonist thinks himself a monster, and it takes a very special young man to show him he may have misunderstood everything.

Leave a comment to enter the giveaway. On April 20th I’ll put all the email addresses in a hat and I’ll pick one. I’ll contact the winner to get your mailing address. Until then, look out for — and seek to understand — the monsters around you.

Images from The Graphics Fairy