The Real Beauty and the Beast
We all know the fascinating Disney fairytale The Beauty and the Beast, but a few of us know the real story behind it.
Disney’s “Beast” character was actually inspired by a man named Petrus Gonsalvus who was suffering from hypertrichosis (Ambras syndrome).
This extremely rare disease caused his whole body, including face, to be covered with abnormal hair density and length.
In short summary: The inspiration behind Beauty and the Beast was Petrus Gonsalvus. He was given to King Henry where he was kept in a zoo. He gained respect when he showed he was intelligent and knew many languages. He later married and his children were also given away as pets.
Petrus Gonsalvus was born in 1556 and at the age of 10 his father gave him as a gift to King Henry II of France. There, he was kept as an animal in the Royal Zoo, but as soon as he started to read and write, he earned more respect. Even though the way he looked was out of the ordinary, he was very intelligent just like the Disney’s “Beast”, and people started appreciating him for his brilliant conversation and fluent French, Italian and Latin.
Needless to say it was hard for a man with this disease to find love or someone he could spend the rest of his life with, as most women were repulsed by his appearance. In an attempt to certify Gonsalvus was indeed a human being, the king’s scholars bribed the daughter of a court employee to marry him. The name of the girl forced to be the “Beast”‘s bride was Catherine and surely Belle’s character was inspired by this beautiful young woman. Petrus and Catherine had several children, but sadly those who inherited their father’s disease were also given as a gift to other noble courts in Europe. However, their story is an inspiring one as it proves once again that love can overcome looks and discrimination.
Hypertrichosis continues to fascinate doctors to this day, while the “The Beauty and the Beast” fairytale continues to captivate children all over the world. The story reinforces the idea that love is always stronger than ignorance and cruelty.