No chance. No way. She won't say she's in love. Beauty wants adventure in the great wide somewhere alright, but is she in a cage of her own making? Join this mighty woman of valor on her quest to free not one, but two imprisoned hearts, and release the Wild Beloved within.
What was that beautiful Jewish phrase again?
Michelle Tumes - Untame Lion
The Lost Husbands: Episode 2
“Beauty and the Beast” Part 1: The Wild Beloved
Welcome to Lost in the Woods Fairy Tales ™. I’m your host, Autumn Woods, and I’m so excited you’re here. We’re continuing our foray into The Lost Husband Stories, tales of women who bravely venture forth, enduring extraordinary trials and tribulations to rescue the men they love from living anything less than an abundant life. Last time, we talked about overcoming impossible obstacles to fostering trust, intimacy, and communication in a marriage. But what happens when your man is more invested in these things than you are? Unlike last episode, where the zealous bride breaks trust in order to gain intimate access to her husband’s imprisoned vulnerability, this time, it is the lost husband who recognizes the love and need between them long before his heroine will admit it to herself. Like God, he loves her with an everlasting love, and knows that true freedom can only be experienced by them both when she willingly offers her love in return.
The story of “Beauty and the Beast,” has endured for generations in the hearts of men and women because it speaks of the transformative power of love. The earliest penned version of the story as we know it was written by French author Gabrielle-Suzanne Barbot de Villeneuve and published in 1740. This iteration offers a fascinating backstory left out of later adaptations and runs nearly 100 pages long. But the version of the story that nearly every subsequent incarnation can trace its roots back to was written by Madame Jeanne-Marie Leprince de Beaumont in 1756. This is the one that countless authors and filmmakers from Jean Cocteau to Shelly Duvall to Disney referenced before putting their own spin on the “tale as old as time.” In it, we’re taken on a journey with a young woman who knows the mechanics of her rescue mission, but learns that love is the oil that makes the machine run successfully.
So, let’s get lost, as we read Part 1 of (Beauty and the Beast).
Let’s leave our heroine here for the moment and get ready for the analysis. The structure will look a lot like something from season 1. And that’s ok. It’s supposed to. We’ll get to Beast soon enough, but first, we’ll need to take a closer look at Beauty. Don’t wander away from the campfire. We’re about to shed some light on the incredible treasure hidden in this story.
We begin, as we so rarely do, with a loving father. This generous “man of intelligence and good sense” gives his children every opportunity to better their characters and make the most of their gifts and talents, sparing no expense for their education in whatever they could wish to learn. Notice that the opportunities are given to all six children, regardless of their gender or dispositions. The merchant does not play favorites. Whether or not they choose to seize the chances he gives them is up to them. God does this with His children as well. He cares about our character development, giving us every opportunity to learn and grow and become kingdom-minded people who love Him with all of our heart, soul, strength and mind, and love our neighbors as ourselves (Luke 10:27). But it is up to us to freely choose whether or not to take Him up on His offers.
Beauty does not reject the opportunities her father gives, demonstrating that she has wisdom, which contributes further to her outward loveliness. Ecclesiastes 8:1 says that “a man’s wisdom makes his face shine, and the sternness of his face is changed” (NKJV). The Message translation says it this way: “Wisdom puts light in the eyes, and gives gentleness to words and manners.” So, if you want a spiritual facelift, get wisdom! There is a loveliness about a godly woman that transcends age and physical imperfection, because God’s holy character radiates from her eyes and resonates in the gentle timbre of her voice. Holiness in us is not perfection, but proof of continual sanctification, evidence that we choose to live set apart from the world, with a completely different agenda governing our thoughts, words, and actions: the agenda of drawing nearer to God and furthering His kingdom. If we “seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness…all these things shall be added [us]” (Matthew 6:33). And “all these things” can undoubtedly include enhanced physical beauty.
If the liveliness of wisdom changes a pretty woman into a raving beauty, a beautiful woman with no wisdom is like a white-washed tomb, “beautiful on the outside but on the inside… full of the bones of the dead and everything unclean” (Matthew 23:27). Beauty’s two older sisters fit into this description as perfectly as they do into their ornate gowns. There is nothing wrong with being lovely and having pretty things, as long as they do not take God’s place in your heart. But these women have made finery, wealth, and social standing their idols. The voluminousness of their skirts has taken up all the space in the chambers of their hearts and coldly shoved the Lord and His teachings out into the library with their younger sister, who recognizes them for the treasures they are.
Remember that in a series of three, it is the third element that breaks the pattern, in this case, the youngest sibling. While the two older sisters flounce about town pretending to be of higher rank than the merchant class they are born into, Beauty curls up with good books in the study. The elder sisters refuse to speak to their peers or associate with anyone below the aristocracy, but Beauty “speaks… kindly to the poor” with sweetness and sincerity. Treading on the countless proposals strewn at their feet by merchant men, the wicked sisters despise them in favor of dukes and counts. Beauty, on the other hand, kindly refuses her suitors in favor of caring for her father and continuing to mature into the woman she will become. We will explore the converse side of this later. For the moment, let’s focus on the virtuous part. Compared to her sisters, Beauty is kingdom minded. She protects the people in her charge because she loves them. She chooses to be a good steward of what she has that it may improve. Her sisters, in true false bride fashion, lust ambitiously for privileges and positions beyond their wisdom and capacity. They are not equipped to be great ladies because they do not know how to be noble servants. Jesus instructs us in Mark 9:35, “‘Anyone who wants to be first must be the very last, and the servant of all.’”
The entire family will have an opportunity to try their hands at servanthood in their own version of our world’s current “great shaking:” financial ruin. Tearfully, the merchant informs his family that they are bankrupt and must relocate to the final bit of security he can give them: a small country cottage on a plot of land which everyone must help maintain. Stripped of nearly every comfort they once knew, the family must start again, carving out a new life for themselves in the wilderness. At first, the evil sisters are in denial, insisting that they will escape their father’s misfortune in the houses of wealthy husbands, only to find that their horrible natures and empty purses have rendered them social pariahs. The only one given a lifeline in all of this is Beauty, whose godly nature has drawn the love and admiration of their neighbors and many wealthy gentlemen. But she does not take the easy way out. Instead, she chooses to remain with her family so that she may “comfort [her father] and help him with his work.”
Don’t roll your eyes; she’s not some self-deprecating martyr. Beauty does not leap up to meet the challenge of poverty with giddy excitement. She has to square away with herself first. When she hears her father’s news, she, too, is shocked and upset. She won’t miss city life per se, but books and candlelight and comfortable reading chairs cost money the same as any of the privileges her sisters enjoy. Her regular pursuits are about to become rare luxuries now that each action of her day to day life will take her ten steps to achieve for every one she took before. Worst of all, she sees the despair on her father’s face as he comes to terms with his inability to provide for his family as generously as he once could. He will need love and support to encourage him to find joy and humble confidence in his new role—bolstering that, of the three sisters, Beauty alone will willingly give him. After reflecting on these circumstances, Beauty resolves to move forward rather than remaining frozen in the past. “My tears won’t bring our fortune back,” she declares, “I must try to be happy without it.”
How is she able to arrive at this conclusion? The apostle Paul writes,
“I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation… I can do all this through him who gives me strength” (Philippians 4:11-13).
Beauty’s inner strength comes from the knowledge that her worth is not tied to her wealth. The attributes and character of God in her equip her to survive and thrive in her wilderness experience. Like Jesus, she is wild adventurousness tempered with a gentle and quiet spirit. She hungers and thirsts for knowledge and wisdom, as evidenced by her voracious reading habits. Each volume she opens is another world to explore, another adventure she gets to experience. Now, like the heroines in her stories, she is being given the opportunity to face down adversity with nothing but the unspoiled contents of her mind and heart and see what good she can make with them. Whether she is in a manor or a cottage, she is still an intelligent young woman who loves her family, seeks to do the best she can with what she has, and encourages others to do the same.
Here, in the humble cottage, Beauty and the men in her family discover strengths they never knew they had as they begin to work the land and care for their home. In true Proverbs 31 fashion, Beauty rises early every day to prepare breakfast and give her family the energy and encouragement to get up and get out the door for work. She cleans the house to give them a restful place to come home to and spins thread to keep the family clothed and mended. As she works diligently to protect her family and help them become their best selves, Beauty is undergoing the same kind of transformation as the men. Even though the work is hard for her at first, her new circumstances are a welcome test because they give her the opportunity to put actions to her words and beliefs. She feels her body and soul being pushed to their limits, and revels in mastering the changes and challenges. She inspires her father and brothers to find joy in their new life as she conquers new tasks and marvels at the pleasure taken in a job well done. God means for us to take joy in the good works he assigns us. “Nothing is better for a man than that… his soul should enjoy good in his labor” (Ecclesiastes 2:24).
If you’ve struggled with or been kept in bondage over the Proverbs 31 woman, let’s pause and address that for a moment. I’m not meaning to glamorize domesticity or hold it up as the only proper vocation for women or even say that you need to knock yourself out with work and never rest. Far from it! Don’t look at this chapter as a checklist. Most of us no longer have to do many of the things the Proverbs woman does, or are able to delegate them to others. Instead, look at the heart behind the way she invests her time. She lives by the adage “see a need, meet a need.” Whether the need is in her own home or out in her community, if she can improve the quality of someone’s life with the abilities she has, she does it with a joyful heart. Following this example, Beauty does the best she can with what she has where she is, and does it gladly. Everyone’s joyful task list will look different, but the point is to steward well everything that God has given you, because you are blessed to be a blessing to others (Genesis 12:2-3).
With that being said, God also intends for you to have times when you aren’t doing anything for anyone else. Instead, you’re resting in Him, focusing on Him, and enjoying your blessings. That’s why He made the Sabbath: to give us permission to opt out of burnout. Even Jesus had to go off by Himself to sleep and pray and commune with God, refilling his cup so that He could pour Himself out for others later. Proverbs 31:22 tells us that this virtuous woman “makes tapestry for herself”. She takes the time to do something creative that she is good at for no other reason than her own pleasure and enjoys it simply because she is reflecting the behavior and proclivities of her Heavenly Father. In like manner, Beauty allows herself time to sing while she spins or read after her work is done. She does not deprive herself of good things just because she has become the household servant. In fact, stimulating her mind and heart this way gives her the hope and courage to tackle the tasks she completes each day.
We see the word “virtue” in connection with Beauty and her relationship to the Beast constantly in this work. It can make us hate her and even fear for the state of her marriage if we don’t have a proper understanding of this word. The Hebrew phrase for “virtuous woman” in Proverbs 31:10-31 is “eshet chayil” (Jerusalem Prayer Team). The closest translation in English is “woman of valor.” According to Jerusalem Prayer Team, “[chayil] has a military connotation. It is mentioned over 150 times, both in the Old and New Testaments, and it always means ‘might’ ‘bravery’ or ‘success.’” This is in keeping with your God-given identification as an ezer kenegdo, a strong rescuer and warrior. God’s daughters are not simpering, whimpering women who hide behind their homes or careers and pass off all dangerous challenges to the nearest man. We are mighty women of valor who successfully wage war against the kingdom of darkness no matter where we are posted. We go out and conquer everything that threatens the survival and well-being of those in our charge, from hunger and thirst to disease and ignorance; from despair and bondage to the onslaughts of enemy himself. We do this because, like our brothers, we have been commissioned to be more than conquerors and to bring Jesus to all the world.
Beauty has locked onto the secret of finding joy in the battle. Unfortunately, her sisters are not as adroit at adaptation. They sleep in and meander out the door every morning to take walks, trudging through the bog of memories of wealth and status. Not only do they ditch their younger sister and refuse to help her, they also mock her for finding peace and happiness in simple living. But their father knows better. He sees the patience and virtue in his daughter that distinguishes her from her sisters. The joy of the Lord is her strength. She has a gentle and quiet spirit, a confidence in who she is that allows her to deal mercifully with her sisters instead of competing with them or intentionally making their lives even more miserable. Ironically, these traits antagonize the wicked women even more and drive them to behave like Cinderella’s stepsisters, blind to the benefits of the righteous example Beauty sets. If you are struggling with this kind of persecution, know that your Heavenly Father sees you and loves your beautiful heart. The wicked will be punished and the righteous rewarded in His time, and He will give you rest and relief. When the time is right, He will remove them or you from your current situation and draw you nearer to Himself to heal your wounds.
One year into their wilderness experience, the father learns that one of his ships has come into port with its cargo intact. While he prepares to meet the ship, his eldest daughters are busily planning to spend his money before he’s even earned it. They pester him to bring them finery so that they may adorn themselves for their grand reentry into society. Beauty only shakes her head and keeps her mouth shut. She knows that anything can happen, and does not intend to get her hopes up. What little money may come from the cargo will be devoured by her greedy sisters. She has no intention of asking for any favors. There is wisdom in this, but already, we are beginning to see a root of bitterness in Beauty’s heart. While she does allow herself little luxuries, she is beginning to make a damaging agreement with herself: she does not deserve to be cherished. She has spent a year as the family servant, bearing the rejection of her sisters. While she is appreciated by her father and brothers, her sisters’ cruelty is beginning to erode the edges of her natural resolve. When her father gently presses her to ask him for something, Beauty concedes and requests that he bring her a rose. But this is more out of regard for her sisters than because of her actual desire for a present. The truth is that she doesn’t want to start a civil war by asking for nothing and appearing too pious to them. Once her father leaves, she will be left alone to contend with the onslaughts of her sisters’ verbal abuse. Better to limit what they can use as ammunition.
At this point, we have to address what the wilderness experience is meant to do. If you allow it to, it strips you of the false things you once clung to and found solace in instead of God and the life He designed for you. It sharpens your current skills and senses because there are less distractions. It hones your focus on God and encourages you to draw near to Him. Finally, it equips you with the skills you have yet to develop and will sorely need in the next phase of your life. But if you’re not careful, bitterness can creep into the spaces you’ve emptied out along the way and poison the streams of living water flowing from your heart. Unlike her sisters, Beauty has gleaned all she can from this particular level of separation. She knows that she can make a good life out of bravery, hard work, simplicity, and familial love. She knows that she can run a home and encourage others. But she has shot past the edge of what she needed to learn from her time in the cottage and crash landed on the other side with severe heart wounds that she won’t acknowledge because there isn’t enough room for her own issues with her sisters’ belligerence taking up all the space in their home. She will need to be moved deeper into isolation, into a new kind of wilderness designed especially for her before she loses touch with her value and becomes ineffective.
Her opportunity arrives with her father’s second ruination. After discovering that all his earnings have been garnished in lawsuits, he promptly turns around and heads for home. It is interesting that he must get lost in the woods, because his identity has not been jeopardized by the terrible news. He doesn’t need to go questing to rediscover his purpose. In fact, he’s excited to go home and spend time with his children. Perhaps it must occur because out of all of his children, Beauty is the one he does not want to disappoint. She is becoming an independent woman, and there will be little he can provide for her before she takes the next step into adulthood. He cannot heal her wounds, but he can set her on the path to a great adventure better than any treasures he could have brought home. Notice that Beauty is the only sister who asks for something living as a present; something that does not grow in their new home. A single rose will die in its time, but while it lives, it brings happiness and pleasure to those who see and smell it. And, when properly maintained, the bush it grows from may last forever. In her desperation, Beauty has accidentally confessed that what she wants her father to bring her is the chance for a new and abundant life, ever growing and changing, away from the cottage and the servile existence she has assumed. A life in which she can be cherished and loved in return for simply being who she is.
Unwittingly, the merchant is driven by her subconscious desire deep into the forest. Pushed off his horse by a blinding snowstorm, he trudges through the darkness, the ominous chorus of howling wolves urging the man on toward a mysterious light in the distance. Discovering that the light belongs to an immense castle, the merchant thanks God for His provision and takes his horse to the well-outfitted stable for relief before entering the vast edifice. When he does, he finds that great preparations have been made for someone to warm themself by the fire and have an excellent dinner. He does not assume that these things have been done for him, and waits patiently to see if anyone will come to greet him or enjoy the comforts of the room. After a decent interval, he makes himself at home, albeit graciously. He sleeps off the cares and cold of the night before and wakes up refreshed and renewed with a fresh set of clothes. After polishing off a cup of hot chocolate, he thanks the kind fairy whom he assumes presides over the estate and has seen to his needs.
We know from the end of the story that he is correct. There is a good fairy who steers the magical mechanisms of the castle and sees that everyone in it is generously provided for. She is our Holy Spirit figure, giving gentle instruction and encouragement to the castle’s inhabitants, including Beauty, and showering them with gifts beyond measure. This comparison is further reinforced when we realize that much of what the good fairy does in the story is unseen, as is our Counselor and His work (John 14:17). You may be wondering, “If the good fairy is in charge, why doesn’t she set Beast free? Why doesn’t she give Beauty a hint as to what’s really going on?” The issue is that freedom is not foisted on anyone. It is a gift which must be received and accepted in order to be activated and fully enjoyed. Both Beauty and Beast have made agreements with one form of bondage or another. Just as we are given the freedom to accept or reject salvation and abundant life, they must choose liberation for themselves.
As her father prepares to take leave of the enchanted castle, he comes upon a beautiful rose arbor and innocently plucks a branch of the flowers to bring home as a gift for Beauty. Instantly, the Beast breaks on the scene with a terrible roar, charging his “ungrateful” visitor to beg God’s forgiveness for his theft and prepare to meet his end. When the merchant apologizes and explains his motivation, Beast dismisses his attempts at flattery and demands that in three days, one of the man’s daughters must willingly come to the castle to die in his place. If they are too cowardly to come, the merchant must return himself. This is the first and last act of cruelty to others we see Beast commit. Within moments of issuing this terrible command, he instructs the merchant to return to his room and fill the empty chest there with anything he likes, for the Beast doesn’t want him to return home empty handed. He even offers to deliver the weighty bride price to the merchant’s house.
Like the prince in “East of the Sun and West of the Moon,” Beast is not a bad guy. But he has lived with his curse so long that his humanity has begun to retreat behind his animalistic exterior. In his loneliness, the prince has forgotten how to speak as a man without the growl of the Beast in his throat. You may have experienced this yourself during a period of isolation. When you are removed from society, manners and graces that were once second nature to you atrophy like unused muscles. You forget how to carry on an engaging conversation; how to look out for the needs of others; how to present yourself with confident humility, remembering that you have value and good, God-given works to do in this world to glorify Him and bless others. And you can forget that you don’t have to gruffly take advantage of others in order to get what you need. Beast is desperate for deliverance, and although the terms of his curse do not require a human sacrifice per se, he gets diabolically creative to secure the kind of sacrifice that is required to set him free. But we can tell that this is not his true nature. This brief flash of cruelty is undercut again and again by his generosity and kind heart.
His demand that one of the daughters come to die in the merchant’s place is a powerful test to determine whether or not the prince has any hope of restoration. Unlike our last prince, he does not openly suggest that the daughter will be welcomed into anything but death once she arrives. Marriage in itself is a form of death, because you leave behind your old way of life and much of what was familiar to become a stranger in a strange land, starting a new life your spouse. When we join ourselves to God, we die to self and draw nearer to Him, allowing ourselves to be transformed by the renewing of our minds in Christ and becoming new creations (Romans 2:12). Neither of these choices is easily made and staying true to the commitments once you make them is daunting. Remaining a willing and active participant in them proves your strength of character even as it is being refined, and the rewards for your faithfulness are limitless. But Beast promises no rewards. If one of the daughters is willing to come to him with no other agenda than to selflessly lay down her life to save her father, that woman will show herself capable of love and courage powerful enough to liberate the prince from his curse. It is out of this wild hope that Beast strikes the terrible bargain with his frightened house guest.
Shaken as the good man is, he is grateful that he will be able to provide for his children in spite of his continued losses, and comforts himself with the idea that he will be able to leave something to them after his death, for he determines that he and not one of his daughters will fulfill the Beast’s command. But he underestimates the depth of his youngest daughter’s brave, reckless love. She does not even waste time crying about the possibility of her father’s death. Despite her sisters’ derogatory remarks and her brothers’ protective instincts, she rejoices at the opportunity to sacrifice herself to prove her love for her father, confessing that she is “not all that attached to life and would rather be devoured…than die of the grief” her father’s death would cause her.
Her remarks may sound radical, but they are actually very biblical. Jesus tells us, “Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends (John 15:13). And that “whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will save it (Matthew 19:23-24). Revelation 12:11 says that the brethren overcome the devil “by the blood of the Lamb and the word of their testimony, and [do] not love their lives to the death.” Part of our power as believers comes from knowing that Jesus’s sacrifice grants us victory even in our deaths, because to be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord (2 Corinthians 5:8). By choosing to die in her father’s place and counting the trial as a joy, Beauty is following Jesus’ example. “For the joy set before Him He endured the cross, scorning its shame…” (Hebrews 12:2). This joy came from the knowledge that His death would end the separation between God and mankind, giving us the opportunity to come home without fear or shame and be one with our eternal family and creator. Beauty’s alleged death should inspire her sisters to think better of her and change their ways, placing more value on the people in their lives rather than things, but it doesn’t. They are ecstatic to see her go because she will no longer torment their consciences with her godly nature. Beauty forgives them and encourages her father to allow them to marry the men who have come to call on them in his absence. “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do” (Luke 23:34).
Unwilling to let her face her choice alone, Beauty’s father travels with her to the castle, where they share a final meal together before Beast appears. He thanks Beauty for her kindness in coming of her own free will, and orders her father to leave by the next morning, never to return. Beauty comforts her father before they retire for the evening, assuring him that he must “leave her to the mercy of heaven [for it] may still take pity on [her].” And it does. In a night vision, Beauty is visited by our Holy Spirit figure, the good fairy, who tells her that she is “pleased with [her] kind heart,” and that she will be rewarded for what she has done to save her father’s life. This is the equivalent of God saying, “Well done, good and faithful servant; you have been faithful over a few things, I will make you ruler over many things” (Matthew 25:23).
Before this can happen, however, Beauty must be completely isolated from the parts of her past that she has mastered, because she is as sorely in need of redemptive love as her cellmate, and she won’t find it if she buries herself in caring for her home and family. After tearfully bidding her father goodbye, she courageously “[puts] herself in God’s hands and [resolves] not to bemoan her fate.”
We’ll return to Beast’s castle in Episode 3 to find out what happens next. Thanks for stopping by. Be sure to subscribe so you never miss an episode and rate the show on your favorite podcast platform. If you’d like to see what else is going on in the fairy tale forest or support the show, check out the Lost in the Woods Buy Me A Coffee Page. I’m Autumn Woods and I can’t wait to see you on the path next time you get Lost in the Woods.