LIT 4334: The Golden Age of Children's Literature

The Tiger’s Bride

on January 17, 2013 12:47pm

“He dragged himself closer and closer to me, until I felt the harsh velvet of his head against my hand, then a tongue, abrasive as sand paper. ‘He will lick the skin off me!’ And each stroke of his tongue ripped off skin after successive skin, all the skins of a life in the world, and left behind a nascent patina of shining hairs. My earrings turned back to water and trickled down my shoulders; I shrugged the drops off my beautiful fur,” (Carter, 66).

In the classic story of Beauty and the Beast, by Jeanne-Marie Leprince De Beaumont, the innocent and virtuous Beauty falls in love with the Beast for his kind nature, in spite of his beastly appearance. As a result, the beast’s curse is lifted and he transforms into a handsome prince. In the case of Angela Carter’s “The Tiger’s Bride”, however, the Beauty not only gives up her innocence, by showing her naked body to the Beast, but the Beast is not a kind man by nature, but a swindler who won the Beauty in a gamble with her father.
In the woods, when the main character sees the Beast, a tiger, shed his disguise and reveal his true form, she expresses feeling as if her chest ‘ripped apart,’ (Carter, 63).

Here, for the first time, the Beauty appears to show sexual attraction to the Beast, rather than mere love for his character. She is attracted by his beastly form, not in spite of it. Upon shedding her clothes, and bearing her nakedness for the first time, the Beauty experiences a sense of freedom, the shedding of social constraint and expectation to clothe oneself and restrict oneself within a certain form. She essentially sheds the disguise that society forces one to wear, to be chaste and virtuous, to appear acceptable.

The_Tiger__s_Bride_by_odingraphics

At the end of the tale, the girl is allowed to return to her father, having done her deed and paid her father’s debts. The girl decides to remain in the Beast’s estate, however, and sheds her clothes, walking naked into the Beast’s room. Here, instead of the Beast transforming into a human, the Beauty’s human flesh is shed for that of a fur coat, as she transforms into a beast, herself. At this moment, is it as if Angela Carter is expressing that humans are in fact the beasts, and the purity and innocence that we seek can only be found in the animal kingdom. Not only are there no social constraints in the animal kingdom, but the act of sexual attraction and action are simply natural, and necessary, rather than seen as something to restrict or deny, especially in the case of an unmarried young woman. By shedding the form of humanity, the Beauty and the Beast are able to be truly free, without any need for virtue, charm, or civility. They have instead returned to the purity and beauty that is nature.

Source: Carter, Angela. “The Tiger’s Bride.” The Classic Fairy Tales: Texts, Criticism. Tartar, Maria. New York: Norton, 1999. 63, 66. Print.

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2 responses to “The Tiger’s Bride

  1. I agree that Angela Carter is writing in order to show the longing of women during this time to have some sort of sexual freedom. Being that young women were their father’s property, they had to obey his every command; even if it meant for Beauty to give up her virtue to pay her father’s debt. But I like that you made a point to say that she actually seemed sexually attracted to the Tiger. She seemed to release her natural animalistic urges when she commits to him. But I don’t agree when you say that innocence and purity are found only in the animal kingdom. I believe that its the opposite in that humans are the ones who put aside their “animalistic tendencies” to remain pure and virtuous; it is in the animal kingdom that sexual freedom is acceptable and encouraged. Yes, nature is portrayed as pure, but not in the sense of how we see it. By pure, it is not bombarded with restraints and restrictions. Nature and the animal kingdom is every thing for itself.

  2. smmejia says:

    “The Tiger’s Bride” was published in 1979 in a collection of re-written short stories by Angela Carter so I don’t think that the women of this time had a longing for sexual freedom what with the Sexual Revolution of the 1960s that happened the decade before. However, our Western society is one that advocates sexual repression so I am sure that both genders may constantly be searching for this sexual freedom. I think that Beauty’s revealing of her body and the sexual theme of the story are not the central themes but part of it. I believe that it is more about female agency as Beauty chooses for herself when she wants to be naked in front of The Beast, and it is her who approaches The Beast at the end of the novel to join him in love. The fairy tale does take place in an older, antiquated time, but because it was written in the late 1970s, I feel that it is a story advocating the empowerment of women. The empowerment of women also includes the empowerment of women in the sexual realm in this story.

    Also notice that Beauty becomes a tigress. Tigers are symbols of power and ferocity and have an element of rawness. Beauty is powerful and ferocious by pursuing her attraction to The Beast on her own terms, and she chooses to become a part of his world. She is, thus, raw and pure by returning to a more, as humans would see it, “primitive” form. Animals are not tainted by society’s notions of sexuality being negative and gender expectations. Beauty chooses to be a part of a purer and innocent world where there is no concept of shame as it relates to sex and how the participants of sex are expected to act. Beauty is at the same time in control and also still very innocent.

    In “The Tiger’s Bride” Beauty is an allegory for both the empowerment of women and a return to nature where both partners who engage in sex do so because both have the desire to and sex is not shameful but pure.

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