In most versions of "Beauty and the Beast," Beauty is the youngest of several siblings. In Madame de Villeneuve's tale, Beauty is the youngest of twelve--six brothers and six sisters--while she is the youngest of six in de Beaumont's tale.
In most versions of the tale, Beauty is a nickname granted because of the young girl's goodness, grace, and physical beauty. Beauty's real name is rarely revealed in the stories.
McKinley does away with the wicked sister motif found in the traditional tale, where Beauty's sisters are generally depicted as envious, spoiled, and always eager to deride their kind-hearted sister. Beauty's mean-spirited sisters serve as a foil to reflect her selflessness and goodness. Grace and Hope inadvertently serve a similar role, their beauty and grace reminding Beauty of her own awkwardness.
Governesses were responsible for the education of the children of well-to-do families. Beauty's formal education was nurtured under the tutelage of her governesses, a sign of her family's social rank and the social expectations associated with her position as a wealthy merchant's daughter. Though Beauty aspires to attend university, it is clear that such an avenue is closed to her, despite her faith in her father's influence. While boys were encouraged to expand their knowledge through a Classical education, girls were meant to acquire feminine accomplishments in areas such as music, painting, and language. Beauty's preference for Greek literature probably irked her governesses.
Beauty's father is usually described as a merchant, his fortune amassed through shipping and trade. In Madame de Villeneuve's story, the Prince's mother cites Beauty's social status as an impediment to her union with the Prince after his transformation, but it is soon revealed that she was a changeling child and the daughter of a king and a fairy.
Banns serve to announce that an engagement has been set and a marriage is going to take place. Banns were announced several weeks leading up to the proposed wedding so that any impediments to marriage could be discovered before the event was scheduled to occur. By having the banns published, Grace is acting on faith that Robbie will return unharmed and the wedding will proceed as planned.
Long before an engagement was announced or considered, young women of good standing established a trousseau, storing it in a chest in anticipation of the day they would marry. In addition to the bridal gown, the trousseau might include gowns, linens and towels for the home, bedding, and kitchenware. Often the contents of the trousseau were fashioned by the bride herself, or by the women in her family. That Grace's trousseau might be the "envy of three girls" indicates the finery of her collection.
Sophocles was an ancient Greek playwright. Only seven of his works survive in complete form. Those concerning Oedipus (Oedipus Rex and Oedipus at Colonus) and Antigone are the best known of his tragedies.
Retiring to the country permitted families to cut back on living expenses and escape the censure of society. In Jane Austen's Sense and Sensibility, for example, the Dashwoods have no alternative but to retire to a country cottage after the loss of their father and the subsequent reduction in their income.
One of the three great Athenian tragedians, Euripides explored the inner workings of his characters, depicting strong females and canny slaves, though often mocking mythological heroes.
Bred for riding, Greatheart is no cart horse. Though his breed is unknown, he is said to resemble the great horses that transported the knights of old. Given such a description, it might be possible that Greatheart is descended from the medieval Destrier, a breed of war horse, or charger, commonly labeled the Great Horse.