October 6, 2012

The Talking Fountain, By Diana Părpăriţă

Editor's note: The second winner for September provides a disarming look at "Beauty and the Beast." For those of us who have always viewed Beauty's father with a jaundiced eye, this tale will prove especially satisfying.


Daddy sold me. He sold me to pay for something he'd stolen. He's a monster and a thief. That's what the beast keeps telling me.

But that can't be. Daddy's a good man. He would never steal. He'd never hurt anyone. He'd never hurt me.

It's the beast that's evil. It's the beast who wanted to kill Daddy. Daddy did nothing wrong, he told me so himself. He took an apple from a tree, just one apple, and he didn't even know the tree belonged to anyone. It's the beast who wanted a life in return for a single apple. It's the beast who's a monster.

And it's not true that Daddy sold me. I wanted to be the beast's prisoner in his place. How could I let the beast hurt him? He's my Daddy! He raised me, worked our land by my side, brought home wool for me to spin and weave so I can make new clothes, pretty new clothes to wear at mass. My Daddy is the best daddy in the world. We were so happy together.


It's the beast who's evil. He doesn't let me go to mass, doesn't let me see Daddy. And he does horrible things to me. He locks me in my room at night, a room high up in the tower, with bars at the window so I can't run away. And he yells at me when I talk about Daddy, yells and screams and growls and scares me out of my wits. He's evil.

I tried to run away once. I snuck into the garden. There's a fountain there that speaks, with a real, human voice, but it says nothing but lies. And there's a bird made of fire that doesn't burn, and a tree that makes apples of pure gold, and a white horse with wings and something like a spear on its head that shines in the dark, but I didn't stop to look at any of them. I only had eyes for the tall, dark garden wall that stood between me and my freedom and Daddy.

And then I heard the beast's breath behind me. I didn't turn to look. I just ran as fast as I could, and I heard the twigs break and the pebbles screech under his paws, closer and closer. Then I felt his claws close around my arm and he yanked me back so hard I though my arm would break. He spun me round and put his arms around my shoulders and pressed me against his chest until I couldn't breathe. I chocked on his fur and I screamed, but there was no one to hear me. I could feel the beast's breath in my hair, his head lowered over mine and something warm dripping down from above and I thought it was drool and I thought it was gross, but when it dripped on my cheek it felt like rainwater. The fountain says it didn't rain that day, but the fountain says nothing but lies. It says Daddy stole the beast's gold.

***

"I have a daughter," the man said. "She's the most beautiful, most obedient little thing. And she'd do anything for her Daddy, anything."

He gave a look at the gold apple he'd dropped and licked his lips.

"What d'you say? You can use a good woman. Deep down, you're a man, aren't you? Just like the rest of us. And every man needs a woman, at least one."

He gave a short, raucous laugh.

"So, what d'you say? One gold apple. She's worth more than that, you know. But for you, because you're so persuasive…"

He pointed at the claws closing around his neck.

"Is she worth more than your miserable life?"

"It's not for me. I've had other offers. I'll have to give their money back, unless you want her used. And you deserve the best, and you deserve to be first, but it's a lot of money. And I don't have it anymore, I swear."

I should have wrung his neck. The fountain said he deserved it, and the fountain speaks the truth, always. But I thought of the girl. I let go of his throat and kicked the apple to his feet.

"Take it. And send me the girl. If she isn't here by nightfall, unharmed, I will hunt you down and kill you."

He picked it up, wiped it on his coat and bit it to make sure it was real gold.

"Send her back when you're bored of her," he said. "Daddy can always find some use for his little girl."

"She's mine for life," I growled, and he smiled a wicked smile and nodded and went away.

"She will hate you!" the fountain screamed. "She will miss him. She'll want to run back to him. She'll be miserable here. She'll ask me about him and she won't believe me and she'll throw rocks at me and curse you."

"But will she be safe here?"

The fountain gurgled and spluttered.

"She will hate you. She will hate me. She will hurt us."

"But will she be safe?"

"She will be."

I haven't asked if she'll ever be happy here, if she'll ever stop hating me. I already know the answer, I don't need to hear it. I am her jailer, not her guardian. I'm the beast that keeps her away from her father, that's all I'll ever be to her. But I can never let her go back. I'll always keep her here, keep her safe, for as long as I live.


Diana Părpăriţă lives in Bucharest, Romania.

26 comments

  1. Fascinating twist of a familiar tale. Loved reading this.

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  2. Amazing tale, it is very similar to Beauty and the Beast, except this young girl characteristics contrary Beauty’s characteristics.

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  3. This was a fascinating twist on Beauty and the Beast. I love how this author gives the story from both the daughter and the beast’s perspective. Like most fairytales, it portrays fathers as uncaring of their child’s welfare, but this version takes it a step further and depicts the father as cruel. Fathers often viewed their children as property. He would have given his daughter to anyone if it had benefited him. In de Beaumont’s version of Beauty and the Beast, by telling Beauty that it was the rose that he had picked for her that made the Beast angry, he essentially is forcing her to take his place because he knew it was in her nature to be selfless. Similarly, in this version the father still makes himself out to be better than what he is. He wants his daughter to think well of him so he let’s her think it is her idea to go to the Beast in his place.

    Abbey Ward

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  4. I, too, like the two different views although I think Diana did a terrific job of showing between the lines that Beast was not really horrid in the first section of the story.

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  5. Molly G.
    This story made me hate the father, and love the beast. No one would ever think that the father would be the reason Beauty ends up with beast, especially under those circumstances. Besides the father, the first thing that I found interesting was that an apple was used instead of the rose. The apple immediately made me recall and connect the story with Snow White, but both are extremely unique. The garden scene was described in such detail it made me feel as if I could walk into it. The garden was quite an enchanted place. The fountain that always lies or always tells the truth is a great new aspect to this fairytale. Since Beauty does not trust the beast she thinks the fountain lies, but everyone else knows it can do nothing but tell the truth; the fountain gives such an a tantalizing twist. The fountain was probably my favorite part of this retelling.

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  6. Beautifully written :-). I could really feel the tension between the real and the imaginary, between truth and perspective, between intent and inerpretation. Way to go - please write more :-). Cip.

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  7. The warm water--a tear?

    The beast is very sympathetic, harking back to the non-Disney tales when there is nothing ever said about him being anything other than civil. The father stole from him, after all.

    And he treats Beauty well. Only in this version, she doesn't know it.

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  8. This is a heartbreaking reinterpretation of Beauty and the Beast.
    I love the hints that this is a magical, fantastical castle, with a phoenix and a unicorn and golden apples and talking fountains. It really helps build the world around these characters.

    I thought Beauty’s father here was truly monstrous. I don’t think he even deserves the title “father”.

    I think the most moving part of this story was a tie between the Beast crying over Beauty and his decision to save her from the horrors her father has planned for her no matter the cost to himself.
    The poor thing is so misguided about her father. I almost want the story to keep going so she can realize that the Beast is on her side and is trying to save her from the real beast in the story.
    I like that it’s told from both her and the Beast’s perspectives- Beauty is an unreliable narrator if there ever was one.
    A great little read.

    Danielle L.

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  9. What a beautifully tragic retelling, it’s incredibly interesting to read both perspectives. Although Beauty’s pure and loving nature isn’t centerfold in this story I feel as if it is still true, it’s just hidden behind her dismay from being separated from her father. A father I might add whom is truly horrid, selling his daughter for one golden apple! Not only that he has plans to sell her to someone else when the Beast tires of her, disgusting parentage. It’s wonderful how unselfishly good the Beast is, to take Beauty in after he sees how horrible her father is. He takes her in even though the fountain tells him that she will hate him and the fountain, hurting both of them. Although the fountain says she will hate both of them I still feel as if there is hope; as time goes on and Beauty discovers Beast’s good heart she will learn to love him and understand that he did what was best of her.

    Anna W.

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  10. Jake Crawford


    An interesting take on the story of Beauty and the Beast. I found it quite odd that the story was from the point of view of a talking fountain that tells lies. The perspective of the fountain is interesting because Beauty sees it as untrustworthy while many others know it is only states truths. It was defiantly an interesting narrative tool to tell the story as it sees it from the events that unfold in the garden. I also enjoyed the apple playing a big role in this telling. The whole seen remedied me of The Garden of Edin with the setting being in a garden of course and all the consequences tied to the apple. This tale, like the original, really shows how low the fathers character is by trading his daughter to the beast for the golden apple which seems even worse than the original where the trade was to at least preserve a human life.

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  11. At first, this story reminded me a little of Angela Carter's "The Tiger's Bride". Carter vilifies the father and the beginning is similar. In "The Tiger's Bride" the girl's father loses her in a card game. Carter's story is very dark, and the protagonist seems more mature then the girl in this story. After the first few sentences, this story takes on a life of it's own. I loved this author's use of short simple sentences to help us get a sense that the girl of her story is less mature, perhaps in her early teens?

    The use of two viewpoints was very well done. The view of the fountain stands out as either "saying nothing but lies" or "speaks the truth, always". People often believe what they want to believe.

    I think most people would be able to relate to the heroine, because we all want to believe that our parents would always have our best interests in mind. But, as anyone who is familiar with fairy tales, we know that rarely are the parents acting with their childrens' well being foremost in their thoughts. Somehow to me, it is almost more believeable that this father would sell his child, then a father would sit back and allow his beloved daughter to be abused and mistreated right under his very eyes as happens in alot of time tested fairy tales. Greed is a more common motivation then simple neglect.

    This story leaves alot of unanswered questions at the end. I think that this makes the story more memorable, as it allows each reader to attempt to fill in the blanks in their own minds.

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  12. That was a very weird twist to a classic story. The first part was kind of awkward. The girl originally sounded to me like an escapee at some mental institution with the way she talked about her father. Then as she started talking about her escape, it became a little strange when she was talking about all the things in the garden. The fountain, the burning bird, the flying unicorn, and the tree with golden apples all reminded me of a bunch of Greek myths, especially the tree with the golden apples. Then I got to the second part of the story which at the beginning confused me. I thought it was over the father's perspective, only for me to realize that it was the beast's perspective I was reading. I also loved the twist at the end where the beast was protecting the girl from a horrible father, which after reading all of it I have to say I should of seen it coming with the way the girl sounded like she was trying to convince her self that her father was good.
    TJ

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  13. I loved the way the story here was put together. How it spoke from all three view points and even had the fountain speak of how it would all turn out. In this version the father is just horrible. Selling her off to beast for a golden apple and reasons with beast because he will have debts to pay by selling his daughter off? I believe in this version that very statement is what drew beast to agree to the deal. He saw how horrible and degrading her father was and felt the need to save the girl from this horrible life that she would be living if she had stayed with her father. Beast understands that she will always hate him but he has such compassion that he just feels that regardless of how she feels he must save her. It kind of brings new meaning to the phrase “Damsel in distress”, which I thoroughly enjoy.

    Brandon Dell

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  14. This story is amazing! I really enjoyed this “Beauty and the Beast” like tale. The beast, even though he is a brute, really cares about keeping the girl safe. It’s really interesting that the girl says the beast is very evil, was the beast really trying to scare her and treat her badly, or was the girl just exaggerating her story? I kind of like to look at it like the beast is just protecting the girl from her evil father. The father is clearly not a good man at all. The girl is naïve of how evil her father is; he is willing to give her away for life for whatever the beast wants her for. The girl’s father treats her as though she is an object, a piece of his property. He does not care about what happens to his daughter, and the beast is going to protect the girl from her father. This story can be viewed other ways, but if you look at it this way it almost becomes more meaningful and more beautiful of a story. This is a very good version of the “Beauty and the Beast” story!

    Haley Baker

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  15. Wow, love hurts? Is it worth all that heartbreak to keep her safe from her father? This is a very interesting take on the story of "Beauty and the Beast". The Beast loves her so much that he chooses to keep her knowing she would hate him for it. I understand the saying "Love always perseveres" but I don't think this situation is doing any one of them any good. I understand that the Beast's love for her won't let him give her back, but maybe it's the only way she will believe him. I like this story very much because it tells the same story from both perspectives and they are very different! It makes me wonder if things are as bad as she thinks or whether she hates the Beast as much he thinks she does?

    Adam B.

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  16. I really enjoyed this perspective of Beauty and the Beast. I love the innocence that comes into play at the beginning of the story. When Beauty calls her father "Daddy" it makes the story feel as if a young child is so sweet and innocent to ever believe her father would hurt her. It immediately gives the image that Beauty is a "Daddy's girl," which is the case in the other stories of Beauty and the Beast. I started feeling bad for her because she was in such denial. It was made me uneasy to think how much Beauty disliked the Beast in this story because from reading the other versions of this tale I have always rooted for the Beast when he shows how much he cares about Beauty. I love the different view points throughout the story though. It kept my attention and really had me thinking more deep.

    Hannah R.

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  17. This was a very interesting version of Beauty and the Beast. It seems as if it relates much to the Grim’s version which is my favorite, but I really enjoyed the twist of this tale. The father in this version seems much more ruthless towards his daughter in this one than in the Grim’s. He begging the Beast to give his daughter away for a golden apple is very selfish. Another aspect of this tale that made it interesting was the suspense. Throughout the story, I found myself almost sitting on the edge of my seat with the immense details; such as the beast’ drool dripping onto her face. The details and suspense made reading this version very enjoyable and easy to follow. The idea of having a tree that can produce golden apples is such an awesome idea for putting into a fairytale. Fairytales are often riddled with magical fruit or unique golden objects and having golden apples in this tale was icing on the cake.
    AJ

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  18. With the two sides to this story, I have to agree with both.
    Beauty is just seeing the beast as the one thing that is keeping her from her father. She sees him as mean and harsh. Kind of how some girls see their fathers. But Beauty thinks her father has done no wrong. Will she believe the fountain? It doesn’t say. But I really liked this story.
    The beast shows his love for Beauty by looking out for her safety. Which is something a father should do. Though, I am not sure if that’s not what Beauty’s father was trying to do in the first place.. Did he know she’d be safe there? That he’d love her like a father?
    So many questions! A husband is supposed to love his wife and be constantly looking out for her. Is this the kind of love the beast felt for her? We all know the Disney version where he turns human and they live happily ever after. But this ever after is only happy for her father. Why? Because, according to the fountain, he was happy to get rid of her. Made her seem like she was annoying to him. But the beast just wanted her safe. And I think that that is a great definition of love: feeling true love is knowing you feel safe.

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  19. The Talking Fountain, By Diana Părpăriţă
    This story is somewhat like Beauty and the Beast the Disney version, it starts off with a girl explaining how she hates this horrible beast because the beast has taken her from her father, or so she thinks there is a talking well which the girl speaks of, she thinks this well tells nothing but lies ,but the well tells her the truth about how she became the beast’s prisoner, which is very messed up because she became the prisoner because her father sold her for a gold apple that he tried to steal, then when he got caught he persuaded the beast to take his daughter instead of killing him for his crime. In a way the well is kind of like the mirror in the Disney version. Even tho the beast is doing a horrible thing he has good intentions to keep her safe but has a very nasty way of showing it. I thought this short story was mind blowing it had a great twist.

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  20. This story was extremely satisfying. I’ve never liked the father in Beauty and the Beast, with the exception of the Disney version, but we’re talking literary sources here. Beauty’s father was always absent, and seemingly uncaring to what he was truly putting her through, and I could never get him or like him. This story showed him in a way that I have felt about him for so long, it was great to read. I also loved the unrequited love. Although I wish Beast could have his happy ending, and so could Beauty, it is also obvious to me that sometimes people don’t get their happy endings, and poor Beauty didn’t in this story. I still love how the Beast’s true inner nature, that of such goodness, is still shown without the happy ending. He is willing to take care of the girl, and keep her away from an evil father, even if she hates him for it. But he does it because he seems to love her. And he would rather she hate him and be safe, rather that not know him or possibly love him, but at a horrible cost to her emotional strength. After all, how horrible would it be to go home and truly realize how horrible her father is, emotionally and physically?

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  21. Definitely a great story that helps the reader see what Beauty and the Beast perspectives are. As I was reading it seemed like there was a relationship with child abuse, and quickly made me think of all those children who are sold into slavery; sometimes even by their own parents due financial needs. As the girl or Beauty describes how awful the Beast is to her and is keeping her away from her dad with no escape, I feel a sense of desperation and starvation for freedom. It makes me hate the beast for keeping her locked up and doing horrible things to her. However when the point of view is turned over to the Beast, I start to develop a hateful attitude towards the father, because due to him Beauty is trapped in the Beast’s house. While she is crying for helping and arguing that her father would never do such thing to her because he is such a good man, the father is enjoying himself without any remorse for what he has done to his very own daughter. It is a sad story, yet the retelling of it is very interesting to see that perhaps she is blinded by the awful action her father took because of her immense love towards him.

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  22. Thank you to everyone who left comments. Knowing that my stories are read and appreciated is always a blessing, and reading your comments has brightened up some of the most difficult months of my life.

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  23. This story was very interesting. It reminded me of beauty and the beast except in this one, the father does not seem as caring. He was quick to give up his daughter not even thinking about how she would feel. He knew that she would do anything for him and he took advantage of that. I’m not sure if I like this version. It showed to us how the beast wanted the daughter safe and that was his plan, but to the girl, she had no idea that he was nice. She was very unhappy. She was deceived and confused why her father would trade her in because of something he stole. It’s very interesting because she loved her father so much that she was for sure, he would never do anything to hurt her. She mentioned all the things he did for her which made me think about how people do things for you, but it doesn’t mean they want to or that they care. This story had a twist on it, very good story.

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  24. I really liked this interesting and unique take on the Beauty and the Beast story. I was a little confused with the transition when it goes from the girls perspective to the dads, or to the fountains. They seem to show the different perspectives on the girls horrible situation. The girl appears to feel how you would expect her to. She feels trapped, like a prisoner, and wants to escape. The flip side is that the father “gave” her to the beast not only to make amends for stealing the gold apple, but also to keep her safe. I thought it was interesting that the beast was portrayed so negatively, from the girls perspective even though the beast felt he was acting as her keeper and protector. It seems like a more realistic approach than the Disney version where the girl realizes the beast is actually nice, but trapped in a beastly body.

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  25. Wow. In every version of “Beauty and the Beast” that I have read, or watched, I have disliked the father. This tale by Părpăriţă takes those feelings to another level entirely! I’m not sure how I feel about the outcome in this tale. The fountain tries to tell the girl the truth, but she loves her daddy so much that she just won’t believe it. Part of me wishes she would believe the fountain, or somehow discover the truth herself. Yet another part of me doesn’t want her to know. For little girls especially dads are very important. They are our first true love, before we understand what romantic love is. They are the brave hero, our knight that slays the dragon. By not pushing the issue with the young girl to make her understand that her daddy is the real monster, the Beast has given her a precious gift. Not only has he saved her from her father, he has saved her loving memories of her father.
    - Freyja of Sessrumnir

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  26. In class, we have discussed over and over how crappy most of the parents, at least most of the ones who are still living, in fairy tales are. Much was said about some particular parents, especially the fathers, because sometimes they didn’t seem to be doing whatever ill-willed action with intentional ill will. In this short and focused version of “Beauty and the Beast”, Beauty’s father is an absolutely horrendous man. He quite literally sells his daughter to the beast. As if that wasn’t enough, he makes it clear that the beast can have his way with her, and when he grows bored of her, he should send her back to her father so that he may sell her to other men. Beauty’s father is a disgusting man, and frankly, he should be shot. Excuse my strong and violent opinion. The redeeming character here is really the beast. He is the only one who has Beauty’s interest and safety in mind. He is even so good as to allow her to hate him for her whole life, so long as she is safe with him. It was refreshing to have the beast start out as and continue to be the sane and good character of the story, and to illustrate just how bad some fairy tale parents can truly be.
    Rachel B.

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