Every so often, I see a random meme on social media or in a Buzzfeed-esque listicle about the curse in Beauty & The Beast. There are a lot of questions surrounding it. How old was Beast/Prince Adam when they were cursed? How long have they been cursed? How serendipitous for Belle to show up at the last minute after so many years! Chip… what’s all that about? All very good questions. And if you’ll allow me to speculate, I have some possible answers to the nature of the enchantress’ (fancy witch’s) curse.
We have to start with the curse itself. According to the opening narration of the 1991 animated film, the young Prince Adam is home alone (with his entire staff), an old beggar woman shows up asking for shelter from the cold in exchange for a rose, he disdainfully refuses, and she transforms into the beautiful young fancy witch, to punish him, “she transformed him into a hideous beast and placed a powerful spell on the castle and all who lived there. Ashamed of his monstrous form, the beast concealed himself inside his castle, with a magic mirror as his only window to the outside world. The rose she had offered was truly an enchanted rose, which would bloom until his 21st year. If he could learn to love another and earn her love in return by the time the last petal fell, then the spell would be broken. If not, he would be doomed to remain a beast for all time.“
One of the main sticking points is that the rose blooms until his 21st birthday, in “Be Our Guest,” Lumiere sings “… ten years we’ve been rusting…,” so without any other context, that whole exchange with the fancy witch happened when Adam was 10 or 11 years old. The question becomes who curses a 10-year-old for exercising Stranger Danger? And then tells him he can only break the curse by finding true love, which he probably has no real concept of? Because he’s 10. And where were his parents? Were they dead? Like even if we agree they went out on royal/noble duties, leaving the child in the care of the staff, they’d come back eventually, right? To make no mention of the fact that there’s a ripped portrait of a very adult looking Adam in the west wing.
All valid questions. I think I can answer most of them.
My hypothesis is that the curse is the same as or similar to the one from Sleeping Beauty, and in this instance, we’re going back to the original fairy tale. I know, we’re mixing media here, but in a world where Once Upon a Time exists and Doctor Strange opens up the Marvel multiverse, anything goes. The Sleeping Beauty curse was to put everyone inside the kingdom asleep for 100 years. It wasn’t a hard 100 years, like on a deadline, that’s just how long it lasted before Prince… Steve?* shows up. Aurora and the rest of the kingdom obviously wouldn’t age or die or deteriorate. Just sleep. The Beauty & the Beast curse kind of did the same thing. Turned them all into things, then effectively froze them in time. They don’t age or deteriorate or die while the curse is active. The curse is active until his 21st birthday, if he doesn’t find love by then, it becomes permanent, and they’re no longer “frozen,” and they eventually grow old and die as clocks and candles and teapots, etc.
Here’s where it all comes together. I believe the curse actually went into effect decades ago. Perhaps even a century or more. They are all frozen in time, with no concept of the passage of time in the outside world, or maybe it just passes slower within the confines of the castle, where the curse is centralized. Adam was indeed an adult of about 20 years old when he shunned the witch. The curse is just baseline “You’re a beast, everyone is a thing, find love by your 21st birthday!” The key to it all is the exact phrasing of the curse. Beast has to “earn the love of another.”
The permanency of the curse, where they live out their lives in their transformed bodies, is triggered by the possibility of the love of another. Adam/Beast treats this phrasing as a loophole, and by going into complete seclusion, there’s never the possibility of another to show up and learn to love the Beast, for the Beast to learn to love. He effectively enures the curse permanently exists in limbo. They are all frozen at the time when he was 20 years old. They never grow old or die, but they’re stuck in their transformations. That’s why there’s such a big to-do about Maurice then Belle showing up… the presence of another person. Maurice is the one who eventually introduces Belle into the castle’s narrative when she comes to rescue him. It’s like a prophecy was fulfilled and it triggered the curse’s endgame. Maurice showing up triggered the rose wilting because the curse “knew” Belle wouldn’t be far behind, and now the clock is ticking for everyone. Time is now moving at a normal pace, they are ageing. In the Broadway musical, it’s an explicit plot point that they are becoming more permanently the inanimate object they were transformed into.
This sort of explains where Adam’s parents were. Probably long dead. Hell, they could have died while they were out of town like Ana & Elsa’s parents in Frozen, since he is technically still a prince who never officially assumed the crown. The 2017 film gave a bit of backstory that his mom died when he was young, and his dad was abusive. It’s entirely possible the dad was caught up in the curse and was one of the chairs Beast smashed against the wall. Either one works, depending on how dark you want that backstory to be. Both are pretty dark. But parents dying off-screen is more on-brand than patricide.
And this explains why there was a castle and noble family within a mob’s march distance of the small provincial town that no one seemed to know or care about. You’d think a missing monarch who oversaw the region would warrant at least a “Hey, we haven’t seen that guy in a few years” if it had only been a decade. But a century is at least two generations, plenty of time for it to pass into myth and memory.
And finally, it explains what a 6-year-old is doing trapped in a 10-year-old curse. There’s no way Chip is older than the curse if the “ten years we’ve been rusting” is taken at face value as 10 years they’ve been under the curse. He’s 6 when the curse goes into effect and is stuck there. I’m not going to touch the question of where Chip’s chip is on his human body. His tooth gap exists both in cup form and human form. Where does the cup-form chip in the rim exist on human form Chip? That’s an entirely different can of worms raised by this guy on TikTok, and it 100% needs answers.
@electronicbert we need to talk about chip #disney #beautyandthebeast #belle #lumiere #princess #sketch #chip #skit #skitok #fyp ♬ original sound – David Ebert
This is all speculation, I have nothing concrete to back any of that up. It just makes the most sense. To me, anyway.
*My wife informs me it’s Prince Phillip. I realize I could make the change and no one would know, but this way is funnier