Have you ever wondered what would happen to Disney's Beauty and the Beast if someone took all the magic out of it?
... well this book is what happens.
“I’M NOT HUNGRY!” she screamed back, rage billowing out of her more forcefully than she had imagined possible. Thinking of the triplets and their behavior hadn’t improved her mood.
“YOU’LL COME OUT OR…I’LL BREAK DOWN THE DOOR!”
“HUFF AND PUFF ALL YOU LIKE, YOU MONSTROUS WOLF!” she spat. “GO RIGHT AHEAD! IT’S YOUR CASTLE, AFTER ALL. DO WHATEVER YOU WANT WITH IT. I’M JUST YOUR PRISONER!”
“YOU CAN’T STAY IN THERE FOREVER!” the Beast roared.
“JUST WATCH ME!” Belle spat back.
“FINE! THEN GO AHEAD AND STARVE!”
This childish dialogue between Belle and the Beast basically sums up As Old as Time: a caricature of the 90’s Disney version of Beauty and the Beast, that doesn’t delve deeper into the characters or the magical world. Instead As Old as Time is full of inconsistencies, over-done, flat, two-dimensional characters, and falls way short of the Disney film.
And by being ‘just’ a retelling of Disney’s story, the author didn’t have to come up with her own characters or world-building, instead she just piggy-backed on people’s childhood nostalgia – and utterly failed.
I DNF-ed the book, I hated Belle so much, felt sorry for the Beast, was generally confused by the inconsistencies of the story, and was annoyed by the boring characters.
I didn’t quite realize that this was a retelling of Disney’s version of Beauty and the Beast, and not of the original book. I just picked it up in preparation for the live-action Disney film and was utterly disappointed. The author didn’t fix Disney’s mistakes and inconsistencies, took all magic and wonder out of it, and didn't expound more on the characters or the story backdrop.
In this retelling of Disney's Beauty and the Beast, the Beast is enchanted by Belle’s mother. There was a backstory about why the Enchantress cursed the Beast (because the people of the kingdom turned against magic-users and fairy tale creatures and basically the prince - a child at the time … did nothing?). There was a mention in the book where the Beast said that he was a child when he was cursed and “what could I have done?”. But this doesn’t fix the problems the story-line has. The Enchantress’ reason for cursing the Beast was that: “there is no love in your heart at all, Prince–just like your parents…”.
BUT, the prince was an eleven-year-old boy when he was cursed because he was “selfish, spoiled and unkind”. Realistically how can a ten-year-old child learn to be unselfish and kind with no positive role models and no one to love him? That is not what happens to a child who is isolated, unloved, and turned into a hideous monster! And anyway what about other spoiled, rude, and selfish children - does the Enchantress go around arbitrarily handing our punishment?
If you think about it, a ten-year-old boy who has no parents and obviously learned from fairy tales to distrust haggard looking, old women should definitely not let the obviously-evil witch into his home!
If anything, fairy-tales taught us not to trust old women (and apples and stepmothers)!
Did the enchantress really expect the prince to learn to be kind, and caring, and loving by isolating him from the rest of the world, locking him into an enchanted castle that no one remembers, and by turning an unloved little boy into a hideous monster?
How the fuck is a child supposed to learn about kindness and generosity from a witch who cursed him and robbed him of his childhood for no good reason!
He was fucking right to turn that bitch away!
And the enchanted castle just raises soo many questions:
- Where do the original furniture go?
- Who decides which furniture stays and which is replaced by cursed servants?
- Are all furniture enchanted people? Or do the servants get sucked into the existing furniture?
- Is there sentient furniture that's not a person? And if so what happens to that furniture once the curse is lifted?
- How are the servants not majorly pissed at the beast after all those years?
- The beast grows up during his enchantment, so why doesn’t Chip grow up too? Or was he conceived during the enchantment? In that case how the fuck does a teapot conceive – and with what???
- What happens to the sentient pots of mustard and stuff when they get used up - do they die or are they replenished - and is that actually a person? If so what is the mustard made of?
- And finally, which poor soul got turned into the chamber pot?
I absolutely detested Belle in this book, and as someone who loved Belle in the Disney film, this made my disappointment so much greater. The prince is cursed for being selfish, spoiled, and unkind, but really Belle isn't any better. During the first 40% of the book Belle looks down her nose on everyone from her high horse and gives no thought to the consequences of her actions, she’s pretentious, arrogant, and condescending.
For example, when she destroys the Beast’s last chance at breaking the curse, she doesn’t take responsibility for her actions, basically she just shrugs and says: well you weren’t going to break the curse anyway so what difference does it make.
She gives “gentle insults” to the villagers and basically thinks she’s the only person with a brain in the village – not everyone has all day to read Belle! some people need to work hard to survive (this is in a time when rural France was poor and overpopulated).
And to top her arrogance off, she thinks that she’s way too good for the Beast, instead he should set his hopes for some” nice peasant girl”.
Belle is like the original hipster.