Saturday, November 2, 2013

Villeneuve's Epilogue to BATB, part II: Letter from the Beast to Beauty

 Finally! I'm excited to share the second letter which is part of Villeneuve's epilogue to Beauty and the Beast. You can read about the first in my archives, Letter from Beauty to the Beast.

As a reminder, these were translated for me by a friend, but he admitted it was very difficult work, and he is not a professional translator. But I am very grateful he was willing to take on this project! I'm not going to try to provide commentary, much of it is very confusing to me, and parts are more clear if you've read the full Villeneuve story, but it's extremely interesting to read Villeneuve's own musings on the idea of an animal bridegroom. So without further ado, here are what I found to be the most interesting excerpts:

"I ask myself why the ancient myths are permeated with such monsters, to the point where these fables that you like appear to me suddenly as a work of mourning among the gods that we have been tempted to lose.  There are beasts everywhere and it would suffice during a short weakness – or refusal - for the heroes to change their appearance and that, the angels that they promise to be, they find turned into beasts.  Most of these gods, bewildered on the shores of the sea where from all the aspirates that fall into ruin, do any of them choose to seduce their Beauty to make herself a beast, and not human?  There would be, then, in the Beast, evidence that a human is not inclined toward him or rather to the Monster – his former form in the fables – would be the image that authorizes to speak of delinquency. The essence of man is uncertain, a nothingness at all is able to destroy it.  This fiction in which we are engulfed, is probably only the result of a long story where the supernatural prepares the Beast to explain the naked form of desire.  I do not want to seek revenge for my beastness by playing the role of a scholar but nonetheless, when the desire to do violence, a god does not hesitate to disguise itself as a swan or as a bull and the young woman herself from the relentless Sun to deliver not far from here her body to become another bull that came forth from the deep sea.   

We were thusly made, you the Beauty and me the Beast, at this time of prior history – the universe that was the habitat of the strange fairy-tales of our story --, where humans and beasts were one and the same, before the original sin when we did not yet long for the gods and they for us.  This fragment of time that we lived brought us into a porous universe, where fairy-tales themselves, antiquated remnants of wandering goddesses in the lands of the sky in rural clothing, are subjected to strange tests that require that, flying-beings as they are, the come “as snakes” to the underground world to obtain their full enlightment under the rulership of the “Mother of Times”, the great Black, the primitive night giving birth to mediocre sleep and terrible Death that brought us into time. 

I was the Beast and also that other thing – because our earlier states never disappear entirely --, the unknown of your nights, the one who charmed you and that you feared having lost when you returned to the place of your father. You did not know then that I was not able to be that one or the other – the Monster – in your place.  These nights, that we received as ordinary        
in the world of humans, did I only dream them?  Were you there already my wife, as Psyché was in Love in Obscurity? I lost all memory of this dark period where I was the Beast and your Unknown One, whom you knew perhaps as it seems to suggest the narrator of our story.  Had she read Apulée too much?  We forget that all images are by nature deceitful, that they shape themselves only in order to assemble contradictions and gather them together: beast at the end of the day, I came in the night to trouble you in my previous form so that, by you, I rid myself of my facial image and my scales so as to be changed as human.                     
 
In light of that, you had pass through my appearance, that of the Beast, that you hold as my previous being.  I would say openly – but you would mock my intension -- that the Beast ticket that would authorize the woman to be woman and that for her that is a necessary image.  Also is it likely that she would consent to being her Beast-ness.  If my scales, the gnashing of my teeth and my terrible voice do not frighten you any longer as on the first evening, your disdain to enter this lower world will continue. Your absence had to lack to the point of causing me to lose my life for you to risk becoming animal-like like me.  That, which you do not want to admit, was in your bed and you will one day accept it because you did in fact accept to sleep with me.  My scales melted in sleep and my body lost its heaviness.  It was at the price of a snoring that surprised you and which, probably,  worried you.  Every metamorphosis requires a releasing of physical characteristics.  In the morning, your Beast confessed being the Unknown-one."

*Illustrations by Margaret Tarrant

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