This month, Disney’s live action adaptation of the animated classic, Beauty and the Beast, hit theaters – and bookworms everywhere are thrilled to see this library-loving princess brought to life. Belle has always been the Disney Princess for girls who love to read. After all, the very first time that we meet Belle, she’s headed to the bookstore (and to a scene that put ‘sliding on a rolling bookcase ladder’ on every bucket list). Later, the Beast shows us the way to every reader’s heart when he presents Belle with a stunning library. Books are everything to Belle – they are her form of escapism in the town and a mark of the Beast’s love.
It’s no wonder that when Belle learns that the Beast is almost illiterate, she decides to teach him how to read. She’s not the only Disney heroine who gives her romantic lead reading lessons, however. In Tarzan, Jane also learns that her wild new friend doesn’t know how to read and takes it on herself to teach him. Despite the many similarities in the two situations (and the fan theories that suggest Belle is even related to Jane!), these two women take very different approaches to lessons. While Jane starts at the very beginning, Belle launches straight in with the kind of reading that would be daunting to many good readers: Shakespeare. But whose method is better?
See Jane Teach
Jane uses the time-tested method for teaching young children to read: simple-sentence picture books in the style of ‘See Jane Run’. Maybe she just really wanted to teach Tarzan how to read her own name…
This makes sense. It allows Tarzan to learn the very basics. Short words are easy to understand and pronounce. The clear pictures help with learning, as Tarzan is able to see the words illustrated – although he might be too distracted by the strangely dressed children to be able to concentrate on it! In short, this is a sensible, classic decision of Jane’s.
It’s not, however, problem-free. These stories are designed for small children – and even then, they’re not that exciting. For a grown man, albeit one raised by apes, we can imagine that ‘See Jane Run’ doesn’t exactly provide an incentive to improve reading skills. Who would want to, if they thought that was all there was to read? Jane and her father are busy teaching Tarzan about bikes and astronomy and waltzes, and reading the words connected with these things would probably be far more interesting.
Also, we want to know why Jane even had these books with her in the first place. Was she intending to teach the gorillas how to read?!
Beauty and the Bard
Belle, meanwhile, isn’t having any of Jane’s picture books. With the vastness of that glorious castle library at their disposal, she reads Beast William Shakespeare’s Romeo And Juliet.
It’s certainly daunting and it wouldn’t necessary be the most useful kind of language to learn, either. Shakespearean English is far removed from the prose of most other books, so the Beast wouldn’t be able to easily transfer his new vocabulary to other stories. Luckily, the Beast did learn a tiny bit when he was still human (although he struggles with ‘two’…). This may seem odd – a French noble not taught to read Shakespeare? But we’ve seen glimpses of Adam as a young Prince – and if he didn’t want to do something, he wouldn’t. Which is probably what happened with reading lessons. Why would he care about a boring old book when he could do whatever he wanted?
This is why Belle’s approach is perfect. Adam has already gone through the basics and hated them. He thought that books were boring and ignored his entire library for years – until Belle read him a story that captured his heart. At the end of their first read, the Beast is enraptured, and begs her to read it again right away. That’s the mark of the true reader. How many times have we felt the urge to re-read a great book as soon as we close the back cover?
And The Winner Is…
Belle! While Jane stuck with how to read, Belle taught Beast why we read. She welcomed him into the magical stories that captured her own heart and sparked an interest that will carry Beast past the tough parts and to a place where he can love reading. We’re betting that even if Jane managed to present Tarzan with a library, he wouldn’t care enough to read it – but Beauty and the Beast will be sharing their library for the rest of their lives.
What are you most excited about seeing in Beauty and the Beast? Comment and let us know!