Reading Backwards

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By Donna Jo NapoliBeast by Napoli
Pick it up
Read: August 2006
Rating: Charming

I love retellings of fairy tales. My mother built me a collection of really gorgeously illustrated books when I was very young, and my edition of Beauty and the Beast is one of my favorites. Of course I had to read this rendition by Donna Jo Napoli, which begins the day Prince Orasmyn is cursed in a garden in Persia and follows him as he eventually travels to France to meet Belle.

Aside from the fairy curse, it’s very realistic. This seems very much to be how an educated young man might react in this situation. The curse itself makes sense, and the conclusions Belle and her father make to make sense. Though the ending seemed a bit easy, I did enjoy it.

Orasmyn is a prince of Persia. He is a devout Muslim, well-educated, and the beloved son of both his parents. But at 17, he doesn’t know everything there is to know. While helping to prepare a camel for sacrifice he has to make a judgement call as to whether or not the animal is fit to be sacrificed.

He makes the wrong decision. That evening a pari, fairy, informs him that he has been cursed–his father will kill him the next day. Orasmyn begs his father to swear he will not kill any man that day.

But when Orasmyn awakes from a pari-induced sleep, he is no longer a man, but a lion.

As a lion, Orasmyn must keep away from humans, who will not bother to ask questions. But he isn’t lion enough to join a pride, either. He finally decides to act on phrases a French visitor spoke years ago, about roses and women, and Orasmyn journeys to France, where the familiar part of the tale picks up.
Though his time spent as a lion is interesting, I felt that too much time was spent on that and not nearly enough on his time with Belle. The ending also seemed like a swift leap from nearly friends to “Oh, I love you!” There’s no reason to neglect the old and familiar just because it’s old and familiar!

I don’t know that I would try another Napoli without positive recommendation, but this was interesting.


Written by Shen

August 31, 2006 at 12:12 pm

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