Series of characters based on the beasts from seven versions of the Beauty and the Beast fairy-tales from different cultures.
digital illustration, made with Adobe Illustrator
Everyone knows the French story of Belle and the Beast, as the Disney cartoon is based on this version. The daughter who asked the father to bring her a rose, and the father who has to give his daughter to the Beast (with fiery eyes and horns) as payment for the unintended theft. The daughter is righteous, so she agrees to live with the terrible Beast, who turns out to be not so terrible at all. When one day she leaves to visit her father, and upon return finds the Beast dying, she proclaims her love for him, et voilà, he turns into the handsome prince, the chant is broken, and they live happily ever after.
In other countries Beasts take other forms, so the Chinese Beast is just a serpent — probably less menacing, and certainly less imposing than the devil-like French Beast. The daughter of the man who invaded the serpent’s domain is less willing to go and marry the snake, so the snake sends a wasp to fetch her, and one is not enough, so many more follow. However, after the rough start, the Beauty and the Beast grow closer together, and again the enchantment is broken (he was a handsome man before becoming a snake) leading to the happy ending.
But Beasts are different not only in shape, they are also different by nature. The Japanese Beast is a monkey, and there is no enchanted prince hiding inside. The Beauty, as usual, obeys her father, and marries the Beast. He is not a bad husband, but she doesn't like being married to a beast. And she has a plan. She sends the monkey on a fool’s errand: «Go climb that tree please, and also please hold this heavy bowl while you are at it, and yes, you have to go to this smallest fragile branch over the river.» The Beast is fallen, and the Beauty returns to her family — a happy ending as well.
Old man, Austria
It might seem that Beauties are just virtuous daughters paying for their fathers’ sins, but this is not always the case. The Austrian beauty is a King’s daughter, and she stumbles upon the Beast (a non-impressive old man with a gray beard and a rich castle) all by herself. Well, the father played a role of course, as he had sent his daughters hunting for a singing rose. This note aside, it is the daughter who gladly agrees to the Beasts condition: I give you the signing rose now, and you will be my wife in seven years. And when the time comes, she has to pay, and this Beast is not a nice husband. Fortunately (if somewhat illogically), one day he says: «If you cut off my head in three blows at midnight, you will inherit my castle and all my earthly possessions». She does, the Beast is dead (did he want it to end this way?), the Beauty is happy and rich.
Water snake, Russia
The happy ending is of course never guaranteed. The Russian Beauty does not even have a father, and when a water serpent steals her clothes, she has no other choice but to marry him. It turns out that the underwater life is good, and the Beauty and the serpent (who has a human shape there) have two beautiful children. Unfortunately, the story does not stop there, as when the Beauty decides to visit her mother, the mother decides to cut off the serpents head (at least fathers did not do such things). The beauty drowns herself, her children turn into birds, and no one is happy.
Back to the Korean Beauty who has a father. This father is blind and poor, and the good daughter again has to pay for it, for some rice she is sold to merchants who need a maiden to sacrifice to the Dragon King. The Dragon King turned out all right, but here is the twist: he is not the main character here. The Beauty is missing her father, so the Dragon King lets her go back (in the shape of a lotus flower). Long story short, the Beauty marries another king, a simple non-Beast, in the end, and her father is blind no more. The Dragon King will presumably be happy with the next maiden next year.
The Beast does get the fair share of the story in Indonesia. There he — a Lizard with a human mother — is the protagonist, and he sends his mother to find a wife for him among seven sisters. Only the youngest and kindest of them agrees to marry him, but the other sisters make their marital life a living hell. They particularly enjoy wiping mud off their feet on his back. But righteous people (and Beasts) are rewarded, so the lizard builds a house and turns into a handsome man. The evil sisters want him now, but they can’t have him: a large mountain grows under his house, and he and his wife can finally live happily, without the unwanted attention of the relatives.