Myth or Magic: A Cursed Child?

Myth or Magic is back, and I couldn’t be happier! Today we’re diving into one of my favorite animated movies.

“Did the enchantress in Beauty and the Beast curse an actual child?”

Julie P.

As with many of the questions I get for Myth or Magic, this relates directly to the Disney movie (the animated on from 1991, that is). It’s something a lot of people have brought up over the years: the prologue states clearly that the prince was given “until his 21st year” to break the curse. Then, years pass before Belle arrives. “Ten years we’ve been rusting,” according to Lumiere. So, did the enchantress curse an 11-year-old?

At first glance, that does seem to be the case. But let’s look a little closer, shall we?

The opening of the movie shows a stained glass window, depicting the prince’s encounter with the enchantress. In it, the prince is clearly tall, filling two-thirds of the doorway, as you might expect from a man in his late teens or early twenties. What’s more, we see the newly-transformed beast rip a portrait of himself to shreds in a fit of anger. That portrait is identical to the man we see at the end of the movie, not a child ten years younger. And the stained glass prince at the end of the movie is practically identical to the stained glass prince in the prologue. So it seems as though the prince isn’t aging in those ten years, but it’s still hard to be sure.

Let’s look at what is, in my opinion, the most compelling evidence: the Chip factor.

Chip is a teacup, one of the many enchanted servants in the castle (and that brings up plenty of questions for another day). He is also a child. The Disney Wiki lists him as seven years old, and while that’s not an official source, that age makes sense to me based on his behavior and way of speaking. So that begs the question: was Chip born as a teacup? What weird kind of magic is at work here?!

Photo by Lydia Matzal on Unsplash

In 1991, Disney released a direct-to-video sequel to Beauty and the Beast, called Beauty and the Beast: The Enchanted Christmas (that’s right, folks, we’re doing a deep dive). The story, which technically takes place after the curse is broken, mostly takes place the year before, while the curse is in effect. But there are even more flashbacks within that, going all the way back to the day the prince is turned into a beast (that’s right, the poor guy was turned into a beast on Christmas, of all days). And who do we see in the background but our favorite teacup! That’s right, Chip is there, looking the same as he does post-curse. (Granted, it brings up another question, as Chip doesn’t know what Christmas is when Belle brings it up, but I guess 10 years without Christmases is enough for a kid to forget.) Kids grows like weeds, so we can only assume his aging was halted during the ten-year period he was a cup.

So here’s my theory. When the enchantress says the rose will bloom until his 21st year (at which point he will no longer be able to break the spell), she means he’ll live as a beast (and his servants as objects), frozen at the age he was when he was first cursed, for 21 years. The story takes place ten years into that time. While some adaptations show the rose as nearly dead (adding tension to the story with a ticking clock), the ’91 animated movie doesn’t reference that at all. The consensus of the servants is that, with Belle leaving to go take care of her father, she’ll have no reason to return, and the Beast will never love anyone else. That is what makes their situation at the end feel hopeless. Plus, you know, the angry mob attacking the castle.

What do you think? Am I reading too much into a kids’ movie? Quite possibly, but it made for an enjoyable weekend of ‘research’.

I’d love to keep doing Myth or Magic, so let me know what plot holes or burning questions you have about your favorite (or not-so-favorite) fairy tales! And check out the ones I’ve already answered, like why Ariel doesn’t just write a note to explain her problem or why Snow White’s stepmother doesn’t use magic to make Snow White less pretty than her.

Until next time, word nerds!

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