Once upon a time, in a grand palace with stone towers that seemed to touch the sky, there lived a princess. Her skin was fair and her hair curled in long, red ringlets, her eyes a piercing blue framed by gold lashes, and her lips full and smiling. She stood on the tips of her toes as if ready to fly away at any moment, graceful as a swan with a voice as clear as a new bell.
On the outside, the princess was beautiful. All who saw her fell before her, eager to do as she pleased. She was famous in her homeland, the grand city of Paris, and the people adored her.
But though she threw spectacular balls and wore the finest dresses and had a voice sweeter than a morning dove's, she had no love in her heart.
In fact, the princess cared for no person but herself; she flaunted her beauty and manipulated all who saw her to do her bidding. She thought that she- and only she- was meant for greatness. She thought that she was a goddess.
On the princess' eleventh year, she hosted the biggest, most spectacular party to celebrate her birthday, to which anyone and everyone was invited. The gates were open wide, the flags raised high, and the princess dressed in her finest gown and tiara.
The ground outside the castle walls was white with freshly fallen snow, which piled higher on the ground as the hours of festivities went on inside. There were feasts and dances, and no one inside was aware of the raging snow storm that had come upon them. A bitter wind crashed against the castle walls, tossing snow into drifts and tearing branches from the rose bushes that decorated the grounds beyond the terrace.
The princess took the center of the stage built for the band just as the moon found its peak in the sky above the castle, and as the voices and revelries ceased, she began to sing.
Her sweet voice filled the air, and all was silent. Her guests watched and listened with amazement, too shocked by the beauty of the song to look away.
This lasted for several minutes before all attention was wrenched away from the princess; a loud pounding on the castle door rang out through the grand hall.
The princess was filled with anger at the interruption, and stormed to the doors to confront whoever had distracted her from her song. She threw open the doors and met the eyes of an old peasant with shriveled white skin and a hollow face.
"Please," the elderly man said, his voice hoarse. "There's a wild storm outside. I need to take refuge, or surely I will be killed."
A small crowd of spectators had gathered around the princess, watching the man with curiosity and some with disgust.
The princess let out a loud, clear laugh. "And why should I help you? What do you have to offer me?"
The man reached into the fabric of his worn coat and pulled out a rose, dry and browned from the harsh weather.
The princess frowned down at it, her nose wrinkled in repulsion. "You would offer such a shameful gift to a princess? Not only is this flower... grotesque... but you took it from my own garden. That makes you a thief, peasant!"
"Please, your highness, won't you let an innocent old man take shelter here just for the night?"
The princess turned her back on him, arms crossed in anger.
"Do not be deceived by appearance," the man warned. "What is on the inside of someone is far more powerful than anything on the outside."
"Then perhaps you'll find a way to survive," the princess mused. "Away with you, beggar."
She clapped her hands and the guests hurried to close the doors, but a burst of wind knocked them back.
The princess gasped as she caught sight of the transformation; the old man's sagging skin and worn clothing seemed to shift and straighten out, and all at once he was a beautiful young man.
He wore a frown and his forehead creased as he spoke. "I warned you about looks being deceiving, princess."
The princess fell to her knees, her eyes wide as she stared at the handsome young sorcerer. "Please spare me! I'm sorry for my ignorance... Just give me another chance!"
The man put up a hand to silence her, and her mouth fell closed. "You will have another chance, princess, and you will learn what I tried to teach you." He snapped his fingers and the princess let out a sharp scream, and as the sorcerer directed the magic with his hand she was lifted into the air and began to change.
Her body grew to be the size of a bear, and dark hair sprouted thickly from her skin. Tusks ripped through her gums and curled over her lips, and horns sprang from her head beside each furry ear. Talons replaced her nails, her teeth sharpened into fangs, and her clothes became dark rags.
When she landed once more on the ground she laid in a heap, cowering into the floor as she realized what she'd become. Screams echoed around her as her guests caught sight of the hideous beast that had been their fair princess just a moment before, and they began to run from the cursed castle.
After he casted a spell on the fleeing guests to make them forget the princess and her castle, the sorcerer threw magic further inside. One by one, the castle staff warped into inanimate objects that were, in fact, animate.
The last thing that he did was change the rose, which perked up and became fresh and bright again at his touch.
"You have another chance," the sorcerer repeated, and the princess looked up to meet his eyes with a painful glare. "You will learn to appreciate what's on the inside and take no notice of outward appearance. If someone falls in love with you before your twenty-first birthday, your body and your castle will transform back into their original forms. But." He held up the rose, and as he did so it became encased with a glass case that hovered above his upturned palm. "If you cannot accomplish this, you will live this way for the rest of your life."
The beast squeezed her eyes shut and gnashed her teeth together in agony, before burying her head in her furry arm.
When she raised her head again, the sorcerer was gone. In his place was the glass case that held the rose that he had offered her.
A single petal floated down from the flower and landed on the floor of the case.