Date of Award


Document Type

Union College Only

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts



First Advisor

Judith Lewin

Second Advisor

Kara Doyle




tale, fairy, reader, beast, beauty


This thesis explores the reflective relationships that inspire transformation in the fairy tale Beauty and the Beast. Critics tend to reify the fairy tale, its characters, and its evolution, maintaining that the fairy tale is formulaic and its characters archetypal. These arguments suggest that the fairy tale only imitates what has come before and deny the fairy tale the possibility of dynamic meaning. I argue instead that Beauty and the Beast is a magic mirror that reflects its reader‟s psyche, resulting both in the tale‟s changing meaning and a transformed reader. The reflective relationship between Beauty and Beast, which enables physical transformation and emotional growth, emblematizes this reader-tale bond. My analysis of the myth of Cupid and Psyche, the French tales of Mmes de Beaumont and de Villeneuve, the Brothers Grimm folklore, and Disney‟s animated film describes how and why these variants change. New variants are products of the past tales, contemporary problems, and the reader‟s perception. The reflective relationship between Beauty and Beast extends to the symbiotic exchange between the reader and the tale, the author and his creation, and the society and its critique. By understanding these relationships, we embrace this tale‟s meaning as dynamic instead of dated.