Stockholm Syndrome: Psychoanalysis in Beauty and the Beast
Freud Lacan Fairy Tales Children’s Story Stories

As with almost all well-known fairy tales, Beauty and the Beast has been retold over the years, having stemmed originally from the French, La Belle et la Bête. In the story, Beauty displays classic symptoms of Stockholm Syndrome – the paradoxical developments of reciprocal positive feelings between hostages and captors, which occur as a coping strategy following traumatic experiences – when she falls in love with, and eventually marries, the man (beast) who kidnaps and imprisons her.

In Charles Perrault’s Beauty and the Beast, as well as in the story penned by the Brothers Grimm, there are no serenades spun out by chipped china teacups, but Beauty is still seen to keep company with bizarre creatures, most notably ‘footmen, […] having heads like apes, but dressed in the richest of liveries.’ So lonely is she, that despite the strange ferocity of their appearance, Beauty finds the change ‘an agreeable one.’ Disturbing as this may seem, the words of literary critics Bennet and Royal ring true –

‘A fairy tale is not so far from a horror story after all,’ – Bennet and Royal

In the Disney version with which we’re all familiar, Belle befriends candlesticks, clocks and other inanimate objects – she may well be suffering from stress-induced mental illness. Belle’s insistence that a candlestick and a clock are her friends relates to Freud’s popular essay, The Uncanny, in which he states that ‘children do not distinguish at all sharply between living and lifeless objects.’ This suggests that Belle has regressed and reverted to a childlike state of being. Her extreme isolation has driven her to conjure company in inanimate objects.

Pick up your copy of The Original Folk and Fairy Tales of the Brothers Grimm to read the original fairy tales.