THERE was once a merchant that had three daughters, and he loved them more than he loved himself. Now it happened that he had to go on a long journey to buy some goods, and when he was just starting out, he asked them, “What shall I bring you back, my dears?” And the eldest daughter asked to have a pearl necklace, and the second daughter wished to have a gold chain; but the youngest daughter said, “Bring back yourself, Papa, and that is what I want the most.”
“Nonsense, child,” said her father, “you must say something that I may remember to bring back for you.
“So then,” she said, “bring me back a rose, Father.”
Well, the merchant went on his journey and did his business and bought a pearl necklace for his eldest daughter and a gold chain for his second daughter, but he knew it was no use getting a rose for the youngest while he was so far away because it would fade before he got home. So he made up his mind to get a rose for her the day he would arrive home.
When all his merchandising was done, he rode off home and forgot all about the rose till he was near his house; then he suddenly remembered what he had promised his youngest daughter, and he looked about to see if he could find a rose. Near the place where he had stopped, he saw a great garden. Getting off his horse, he wandered about in it till he found a lovely rosebush, and he plucked the most beautiful rose he could see on it. At that moment he heard a crash like thunder, and looking around, he saw a huge monster – two tusks in his mouth, and fiery eyes surrounded by bristles, and horns coming out of his head and spreading over his back.
“Mortal,” said the Beast, “who told you that you could pluck my roses?”
“Please, sir,” said the merchant in fear and terror for his life, “I promised my daughter I would bring her home a rose, but I forgot about it till the last moment, and then I saw your beautiful garden and thought you would not miss a single rose, or else I would have asked your permission.”
“Stealing is stealing,” said the Beast, “whether you steal a rose or a diamond; I will take your life as payment.”
The merchant fell on his knees and begged for his life for the sake of his three daughters, who had no one but him to support them.
“Well, mortal, well,” said the Beast, “I will let you live on one condition: Seven days from now, you must bring your youngest daughter, the one you broke into my garden for, and leave her here in your place. Otherwise, you must swear that you will return and give your life to me.”
So the merchant swore and, taking his rose, mounted his horse and rode home.
As soon as he got home, his daughters came rushing around him, clapping their hands and showing their joy in every way. Shortly after, he gave the necklace to his eldest daughter, the chain to his second daughter, and then he gave the rose to his youngest, but as he gave it, he sighed.
“Oh, thank you, Father,” they all cried.
But the youngest said, “Why did you sigh so deeply when you gave me my rose?”
“Later on I will tell you,” said the merchant.
So for several days, they lived happily together, though the merchant wandered about, gloomy and sad, and nothing his daughters did could cheer him up, till at last he took his youngest daughter aside and said to her, “Bella, do you love your father?”
“Of course I do, Father, of course, I do.”
“Well, now you have a chance to show it.” And then he told her of all that had occurred with the Beast when he got the rose for her.
Bella was very sad, as you can well imagine, and then she said, “Oh, Father, it was all on account of me that you fell into the power of this Beast, so I will go with you to him; perhaps he will do me no harm, but even if he does, better harm to me than evil to my dear father.”
So the next day the merchant put Bella behind him on his horse, as was the custom in those days, and they rode off to the dwelling of the Beast. And when they got there and alighted from his horse, the doors of the house opened, and what do you think they saw there? Nothing! So they went up the steps and through the hall and into the dining room, and there they saw a table spread with all manner of beautiful glasses and plates and dishes and napery, with plenty to eat upon it. They waited and they waited, thinking that the owner of the house would appear, till at last the merchant said, “Let’s sit down and see what will happen then.” And when they sat down, invisible hands passed them things to eat and to drink, and they ate and drank to their hearts’ content. And when they arose from the table, it arose too and disappeared through the door as if carried by invisible servants.
Suddenly the Beast appeared before them and said to the merchant, “Is this your youngest daughter?” And when the merchant said that it was, the Beast said, “Is she willing to stay here with me?”
And then he looked at Bella, who said, in a trembling voice, “Yes, sir.”
“Well, I will do you no harm.” With that, he led the merchant down to his horse and told him he might come in a week to visit his daughter. Then the Beast returned to Bella and said to her, “This house and everything in it is yours; if you want anything, just clap your hands and say the word, and it will be brought to you.” And with that, he made a sort of bow and went away.
So Bella lived on in the home with the Beast and was waited on by invisible servants and had whatever she liked to eat and to drink. But she soon got tired of the solitude, and the next day that the Beast came to her, though he looked so terrible, she had been so well treated that she had lost a great deal of her terror of him. So they spoke together about the garden and about the house and about her father’s business and about all manner of things so that Bella lost altogether her fear of the Beast. Shortly afterward, her father came to see her and found her quite happy, and he felt much less dread of her fate at the hands of the Beast.
So it went on for many days, Bella seeing and talking to the Beast every day, till she got to quite like him, until one day the Beast did not come at his usual time, just after the midday meal, and Bella quite missed him. So she wandered about the garden trying to find him, calling out his name, but received no reply. At last, she came to the rosebush from which her father had plucked the rose, and there, under it, what do you think she saw? There was the Beast, lying huddled up without any life or motion. Then Bella was sorry indeed and remembered all the kindness that the Beast had shown her. She threw herself down by him and said, “Oh, Beast, Beast, why did you die? I was getting to love you so much.”
No sooner had she said this than the hide of the Beast split in two, and out came the most handsome young prince, who told her that he had been enchanted by a magician and that he could not recover his natural form unless a maiden should, of her own accord, declare that she loved him.
Then the prince sent for the merchant and his daughters, and he was married to Bella, and they all lived together happily ever after.