Once upon a time there was a merchant who had three daughters. He loved them more than anything else. One day he had to make a long journey to buy some goods. Before he left, he said to them:
"What would you like me to bring home from the trip, my dears?"
The eldest daughter asked for a necklace and the second daughter wanted a gold chain. But the youngest daughter said:
"Just come back by yourself dad, that's what I want the most."
"Nonsense, little child," said her father. "You must wish for something that I will bring to you."
"Then bring a rose back, father," she said then.
The merchant set off on his journey and bought his goods. He also bought a pearl necklace for his eldest daughter and a gold chain for his second daughter. He knew there was no point in buying the rose for his youngest daughter, as it would wither before he got home. So he decided that he would buy her a rose on the day he would come home to his house.
When he had done all his shopping, he rode home and forgot about the rose until he was almost home. Then he suddenly remembered what he had promised his youngest daughter and looked around to see if he could find a rose. He then discovered a large garden. He got off his horse and wandered around on it until he found a beautiful rose bush. From it he plucked the most beautiful rose he could see. At the same moment he heard a crash like thunder behind him. Turning, he saw a huge beast with two tusks in its mouth and fiery eyes surrounded by bristles and horns emerging from its head and bending down over its back.
"What are you up to," growled the Beast. "Who says you can pick my roses"?
"Please, sir," said the merchant, trembling with terror. "I promised my daughter to bring home a rose and when I saw your beautiful garden I thought you wouldn't notice if I took a single little rose, otherwise I would have asked your permission".
"Stealing is stealing," said the Beast, "be it a rose or a diamond. Your life is forfeit."
The merchant fell on his knees and prayed for his life and for his three daughters, who had no one but him.
"OK, thief," said the Beast, "You may keep your life on one condition: Seven days from now you must surrender your youngest daughter to me, or you must return and surrender yourself. This you must swear to do"!
So the merchant swore to obey, mounted his horse, and rode home with his rose.
As soon as he entered his house, his daughters came rushing towards him, clapping their hands and showing their joy in every way. He gave the necklace to his eldest daughter, the chain to his second daughter and then he gave the rose to his youngest daughter with a deep and anguished sigh.
"Oh, thank you, father," they cried with joy. But the youngest said, "Why did you sigh so deeply when you gave me my rose"?
"I'll tell you later," said the merchant.
For several days they lived happily together, but the merchant wandered about gloomy and sad, and nothing the daughters did could cheer him up. Finally, he took his youngest daughter aside and said to her, "Bella, do you love your daddy"?
"Of course I do dad, of course I do".
"Well, now you have a chance to show it," he said, and then he told her all that had happened when he picked the rose for her and met the Beast.
Bella was very sad, as you can imagine, and then she said:
"Oh, father, it was because of me that you fell into the hands of this beast. I will go with you to him. Perhaps he will do me no harm, but even if he does, it is better to he hurts me more than he does you any harm my dear father."
So the next day the merchant took Bella with him, who got to sit behind him on the horse and they rode off to the Beast's abode. When they arrived and got off the horse, the doors to the house were opened. What do you think they saw there? Nothing! So they went up the stairs, through the hall and into the dining room. There they saw a table set with all kinds of beautiful glasses, plates, dishes and napkins, and on the table there was plenty of good food to eat. They waited and waited, thinking that the owner of the house would come. At last the merchant said, "Let us sit down and see what happens."
When they sat down, things to eat and drink were served to them by invisible hands and they ate and drank to their heart's content. As they rose from the table, the table lifted from the floor and disappeared through the door as if carried by invisible servants.
Suddenly the Beast stood before them and said to the merchant, "Is this your youngest daughter?" When the merchant replied that it was, he looked at Bella and said, "Is she willing to stay here with me?"
Bella replied with a trembling voice, "Yes, sir."
"Well, no harm shall come to you." Having said this, he brought the merchant down to the horse and said that he would come this weekday every week to visit his daughter. When the Beast returned to Bella, he said to her: "This house, with all that is in it, is yours. If there is anything you desire, clap your hands and say what it is and it will be brought to you". After this he made a slight bow and went on his way.
So Bella lived in the Beast's home, served by invisible servants, and given what she liked to eat and drink. Although he looked so terrible, she had been so well treated that she had lost a great part of her terror of him. But she got tired of her loneliness so the next day, when the Beast came to her, they talked to each other about the garden, about the house, about her father's business and about all sorts of things.
Bella completely lost her fear of the Beast. Shortly afterwards, her father came to see her and found her quite happy. He then felt much less fear of his fate at the hands of the Beast. This went on for several days. Bella met the Beast every day and talked to him. Eventually she began to like him quite well.
One day the Beast didn't come at his usual time, just after dinner and Bella missed him. She walked around the garden trying to find him. She called his name, but got no answer. When she came to the rose bush where her father had picked the rose, she happened to look under it and what do you think she saw! It was the Beast lying curled up without life or movement. Bella felt sad and remembered all the kindness the Beast had shown her. She threw herself down beside the Beast and said, "Oh, Beast, Beast, why are you dying? I love you so much."
Scarcely had she said this when the skin of the beast parted, and out came the most beautiful young prince. He told her that he had been bewitched by a wizard and that he could not regain his natural form unless a maiden, with all her soul, declared that she loved him.
Then the prince sent for the merchant and his daughters. He married Bella, and they all lived happily together for many, many years.