Saturday, 2 October 2010

Beast



Orasmyn is the prince of Persia and heir to the throne. His religion fills his heart and his mind, and he strives for the knowledge and leadership his father demonstrates. But on the day of the Feast of Sacrifices, Orasmyn makes a foolish choice that results in a fairy's wretched punishment: He is turned into a beast, a curse to be undone only by the love of a woman.
    Thus begins Orasmyn's journey through the exotic Middle East and sensuous France as he struggles to learn the way of the beast, whilst also preserving the mind of the man. This is the story of his search, not only for a woman courageous enough to love him, but also for his own salvation.





This book provides a rich back story for the most famous beast in the world - Belle's beast. It combines Islamic and Persian culture with European. It blends the wild with the tame.
In it, we see how he must have struggled to learn to walk as a beast, hunt, hide from humans and to find a balance between his basic animal needs, and his own spiritual and mental needs. It explores the differences between man and beast, questioning, I think, the line between what is human and what is not. Perhaps it is just sentience, or perhaps it is religion. Maybe depending on your personal beliefs religion-wise, you'd choose the religion over sentience or argue that in order to be sentient you must have religion. I don't know. It is interesting, either way.

Orasmyn repeats to himself several times that he is the Prince of Persia, and does not require help, and that he can do whatever he is tasked to. He maintains the mantras of his homeland, even if many of his Islamic practices are dropped because his animal needs are greater (prayer before killing, for example). He experiences the strength of carnal desires - not just hunger and thirst - but lust and fear. He realises, with horror, that his animal self sees any living thing as meat, regardless of his own humane thoughts.

He is deprived of speech, human hand dexterity and colours, but his other senses are sharpened. He must learn to communicate with just his eyes, and by scratching words in the ground. He also learns how to care for others different to himself - a fox cub and Belle.  He manages to control his base senses and to reveal his true self to Belle, even if he can't tell whether she understands.
He also, and readers might note the irony, learns that how he sees Belle is just a shallow, face-value appraisal, realising that she is more complex than he thought.

It is perhaps a more selfish portrayal of the beast, as we watch him lure Belle to his castle, working hard to make it habitable for a human. It was entirely for his own benefit, but somehow it's easy to forgive him this.

The imagery is potent and the heart of the story, the part where he woos Belle, is touching and revitalised. Because of the true animal form of Beast, unlike the more traditional speaking form, the end result feels that much more rewarding and deserved.

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