Disney has a habit of changing the stories before animating them. They remove most of the scary parts, and make sure that only the bad guys die in the end.
In the original myth, Hercules kills Megara (Though some tellings state that she survived her beating, and was then given to Iolaus), then after completing the twelve labors, spends 50 princesses in one night, and fathers a child with each of them.
The original Hunchback of Notre Dame ends with Esmeralda being hung, and Quasimodo laying down with her corpse until he starves to death.
Not even actual American history is safe from the Disney touch, as Pocahontas never got her “happily ever after” with John Smith.
In the original story, the Beast is a lot more of a sympathetic character. Both the original and the Disney movie have the same origin for the Beast, he starts off as a prince or other royalty, then one rainy night, a woman shows up and asks for shelter, but is turned away. This woman turns out to be a fairy or witch of some kind, and then curses the prince to become the Beast.
Now, in the original telling, a merchant is about to leave on a last attempt to regain his fortune. He bids his daughters good-bye. Two of them ask for jewels and fancy dresses as souvenirs of their fathers trip, the third, named Belle, asks for just one rose. Unfortunately, the merchant’s venture was a failure, and he begins home with nothing. When it begins to rain, he finds a large manor house. The doors are open and a large dinner has been prepared. He sees nobody around, so he just digs in. After eating, he finds a room and goes to sleep. In the morning he starts to look around and discovers are rose garden. Now he remembers his promise to his youngest daughter, and clips a single rose. This was a terrible mistake on his part because our now beastly prince storms into the garden and tells the merchant that he is condemned to death for stealing his most prized possession after all the hospitality he was shown earlier. The merchant explains that he only picked the rose for is daughter, and the Beast allows the merchant to return home, but only so long as her comes right back after delivering the gifts. He is given jewels and dresses for his daughters, and is also allowed to bring the rose to Belle.
The merchant returns home, and explains the situation to his daughters. After discovering her what father’s fate will be, she decides to talk to the Beast herself and see if she can’t save her him. The Beast takes one look at Belle and falls in love. He accepts her as a prisoner exchange of her father’s life. When she agrees, he tells her that she is now the lady of the estate and states that he is there to serve her. She is dressed in the best silks, the servants of the house ensure that her every wants and needs are met. Her only restriction, is that she cannot leave the estate.
Beast is an absolute gentleman the entire time. He ensures that she lives a life of luxury and does nothing but tell Belle how much he loves her. In fact, every night, Beast would ask Belle to marry him, and every night, she tells him that he is just a friend. That’s right, Beauty and the Beast is one of the first literary instances of the friend-zone.
After a while, Belle asks to visit her family as she is feeling homesick. Beast gives her a mirror that lets her see the castle, and a ring that will bring her right back when she spins it around her finger. Beast tells her that she must return within one week, and then lets her return home. When she arrives, her sisters are jealous of all the fine clothes she has on and of the stories of how luxurious the castle is.
Belle’s sisters go to great lengths to convince her to stay home instead of returning to the castle. She doesn’t feel that great about breaking her promise, so she uses the mirror to see what is going on. In the mirror, she sees the Beast lying on the ground in his rose garden, dying. She quickly turns the ring to go back to him. She begins to cry and tells Beast that she really does love him, and as her tears drop on him, they wash all the beastliness away, revealing the handsome prince underneath. The Prince tells her of the curse, and that only finding love, despite his ugliness, would cure it. They are married shortly after and live happily ever after.
You may notice a few differences from the Disney version.
First is the inclusion of a villain. Gaston makes no appearance in the original. This isn’t really a bad change, modern audiences tend to want some action, and you can’t have a climactic battle without a villain.
Second, in the Disney version, everybody in the castle is cursed, not just the Prince. In the original story, the curse kinda made sense. The prince was a prick, and her curse only effected he one that wronged her, ultimately making him a better person. But in the Disney version, the fairy went so far as to even turn the child of a servant into a damn teacup. What the hell is the life lesson that Chip was supposed to learn here? What about the dog that was changed into a foot stool? Why change the damn dog? What kind of bitch was this fairy? Quite frankly, not only did she probably deserve to be left in the rain, but she also probably should have been driven off with torches. Just imagine the terror she would have unleashed if she was allowed inside for a whole night?
Lastly, the other major change was in the Beast himself. Originally, he was only changed physically, he was still the same person mentally. This means that the person that Belle falls in love with is the same with or without the fur, it just took almost losing him for her admit her love. While he may have been the kind of dick that leaves women to freeze in the rain, he was still an OK guy.
The Disney version of Beast is a bit closer to a villain himself. He’s abusive to Belle and just about as animalistic mentally as he is physically. He fights off wolves with tooth and claw, he slashes at things with his claws, and growls at people he doesn’t like. It’s not just the violence that differentiates this Beast from the original either. Remember how the original Beast made Belle the lady of the castle and treated her like a princess? This Beast starts things off by locking Belle in her room and denying her dinner. He’s a total prick. While the original Beast was a nice guy, the Disney Beast is pretty much is pretty much Sabertooth.
Now think about this for a minute. The curse was to be lifted once he found true love in spite of his horrific appearance. The curse was designed to make him better himself, and what would be the point of the curse if he still wasn’t himself mentally while cursed? If the change is only physical, then we can only believe that he was a violent controlling prick before the curse was placed on him. Now that the curse is lifted, are we supposed to believe that he is suddenly not abusive?
Of course, it’s possible that the Disney version of Beast just snapped after the curse. Not only does he have his own impending death looming before him, but he is also responsible for the fate of all his cursed servants. Maybe that added stress just pushed him over the edge to where he became the animal that he now appeared to be. This is even worse for Belle, Beasts sense of identity is completely wrapped up in his being Beast. He doesn’t know how to be Prince Charming anymore, but suddenly he’s forced to be the man he forgot even existed. If his mind wasn’t broken before, then it most certainly is now.
Either way, Belle has a future of wearing large sun glasses and talking about how clumsy she must be.
Disney actually made this story more horrifying. It’s the complete opposite of what they have done with every other Princess. It’s almost as though they’re making up for taking all the bad stuff out of the other movies.