Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Beast as Lion

"Beauty and the Beast" by Emily Winfield Martin

I recently shared that Emily Winfield Martin was having a showing of her collection, "Wolves and Wonders," featuring many images of women with beasts, which brings many classic fairy tale images to mind. I was excited to see this BATB painting, and here's her description:
"Beauty & the Beast is one of my favorite stories. I think it is such a lovely metaphor for reckoning with the savage & civilized parts we're all made of. And even if it was originally a an instructive parable about arranged marriages (this is the word on the street), I also think it holds a lot of significance about the contemporary idea of true love." 

Be sure to check out her illustration of Angela Carter's The Tiger's Bride, too! Above, Emily chose to portray the Beast as a lion, and despite the fact that most classic versions of the tale don't specify a certain animal, I feel like the lion has become a more trendy form for the Beast to take lately.
Donna Jo Napoli's novel "Beast"
The television show from the 80s has a very lion-like Beast
Annie Leibovitz' shoot for Vogue in April 2005
Alexandra Banti
Jun Suemi
Jean Cocteau's 1946 film (Thanks, Adam!)
Even this incarnation of the X-men superhero Beast! (Again, thanks Adam!)

I'm sure there are many others (feel free to share in the comments!). Traditional Western fairy tales were much more likely to feature bears or wolves, dangerous animals that people were familiar with, so it's interesting that we've been more interested in the exotic lion recently. (I still have yet to find anyone attempt to illustrate the Beast as described by Villeneuve-with scales that clanked and an elephant's trunk). 

Lions tend to represent strength, nobility, and (maybe ironically) are usually considered very beautiful animals. I don't necessarily agree with this website, but supposedly, here are some interpretations of what it could mean to dream about a lion (which could arguably be similar reasons for creating fairy tales involving lions):

"Lion is a symbol of strength, courage and royal and proud thinking. Lion in a dream is seen usually by those who are really freed from prejudices that prevent many people from doing what they like.

A Lion, which is seen in a dream of a single girl, means that she will meet her life partner, who will completely take under control everything in their relations. Even such situation is possible when the life of the girl will be subordinated to this man. Therefore it is necessary to know what lion means in the particular dream."


  1. Well, I guess a lion is rather cuddly if it lets you hug it as the ladies in these pics do. I remember that TV series. Interestingly, Ron Perlman, who played the Beast, Vincent, said that he had had little luck with the girls in his school years and here he was, with the Beast make-up, and women were drooling! Says something, doesn't it?

    1. Wow that is very ironic...I think there is definitely something in women that draws us towards loving out of pity, or almost this desire to love as a challenge-like to find someone no one else finds loveable and to be able to do what no one else could. It's sort of the same with other related stories too-Phantom of the Opera, vampire romances-we're told we're supposed to be horrified by some creepy man and yet that makes us drawn all the more to him!

  2. There is also the element of power. The lion's claws are out in the first image, yet she sits calmly; she has control and ease beside the fierce some beast. The second to last image, the woman exudes confidence while the lion looks directly at us. So I get a sense of power she has gained as well, or always had and it is magnified in the relationship. Vampire romances are in the same vein. Usually the end game for the heroine is she herself becomes a vampire and thus gains a kind of superwoman status. She embraces the Other and in so doing amplifies her own innate potential. The dynamic is very different from the use of the vampire in male fiction.

    1. That's a really good point! Hadn't thought of that.

  3. Probably the most famous lion beasts from "Beauty and the Beast" is the one from the Jean Cocteau film. That version was so popular that for a short time Marvel Comics even redesigned their superhero the Beast from the X-Men who usually looks more like either a caveman or something of an ape as, you guessed it, a lion-man.

    1. Ah, yes! I guess I think of Cocteau's Beast as sort of an animal hybrid, but he's definitely primarily lionesque. I've added it to the post. I didn't know that about it influencing the X-Men Beast (who is, probably not surprisingly, one of my favorite superheroes!). I tried to look up pictures of him as a lion man and couldn't find any, do you know of where to find an image? I did find this humorous post on the different faces of Hank McCoy: http://comicsalliance.com/beast-hank-mccoy-mutations-list-x-men/

    2. You should look up pictures by artist Frank Quitely. When Quitely started drawing the comic book New X-Men back in 2001, he wanted to redesign Beast so he'd look less similar to Wolverine. Both Beast and Wolverine had this sort of swept back hairstyle that came to two points. Truth is, that style had been used in comics for years as a visual indicator that a character had a feral nature. Timber Wolf from the Legion of Superheroes and Vixen a short-term JLA member both had that style. And Beast had it before Wolverine. Anyway, Quitely's Beast looked decidedly feline and Quitely admitted to being directly inspired by Cocteau's film which he saw when he was in art school. Here's a little article about "Cat-Beast" and some people's desire to return Beast's look to something more standard: http://www.panelsonpages.com/?p=20617

    3. Thanks! I've added this to the post too!