"Here comes the Beast, and Beauty!"

Angela Carter refers frequently to fairy tales in her work, and Beauty and the Beast is particularly present.  She has translated the original written tale by Madame le Prince de Beaumont, and her collection of adult fairy tales, The Bloody Chamber (1979) contains two versions in The Tiger's Bride and The Courtship of Mr. Lyon.  In The Tiger's Bride, the heroine recognises the beauty of the tiger-beast and becomes a tiger like him, in direct contrast to the usual ending in which the beast is restored to humanity.

Carter is not alone in rewriting fairy tales from a feminist, contemporary or comic angle.  Interesting comparative reading may be found in Emma Donoghue's Kissing the Witch(1997).  Donoghue's Tale of the Rose concludes, 'And as the years flowed by, some villagers told travelers of a beast and a beauty who lived in the castle… and others told of two beauties, and others, of two beasts.'

The question of what makes a beauty, and what a beast, is also a reference to Fevvers' own physicality.  Ungainly, coarse, oversized, greedy, she is nevertheless attractive, fascinating and occasionally wildly generous.  Whether she is female or freak, fact or fiction, she lies somewhere between the extremes of beast and beauty, and both Walser and the reader spend the duration of the novel seeking to pin down her position on that spectrum.