Cover image for Beast
Napoli, Donna Jo, 1948-
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
New York : Atheneum Books for Young Readers, 2000.
Physical Description:
260 pages ; 20 cm
Elaborates on the tale of "Beauty and the Beast, " told from the point of view of the beast and set in Persia.
Reading Level:
630 Lexile.
Program Information:
Accelerated Reader AR MG 4.6 8.0 44703.

Reading Counts RC High School 6.7 13 Quiz: 23482 Guided reading level: NR.
Geographic Term:
Added Uniform Title:
Beauty and the beast. English.
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
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Item Holds
X Young Adult Fiction Young Adult
X Young Adult Fiction Young Adult

On Order



Elaborates on the tale of Beauty and the Beast, told from the point of view of the beast and set in Persia.

Author Notes

Donna Jo Napoli was born on February 28, 1948. She received a B.A. in mathematics, an M.A. in Italian literature, and a Ph.D. in general and romance linguistics from Harvard University. She has taught on the university level since 1970, is widely published in scholarly journals, and has received numerous grants and fellowships in the area of linguistics.

In the area of linguistics, she has authored five books, co-authored six books, edited one book, and co-edited five books. She is also a published poet and co-editor of four volumes of poetry. Her first middle grade novel, Soccer Shock, was published in 1991. Her other novels include the Zel, Beast, The Wager, Lights on the Nile, Skin, Storm, Hidden, and Dark Shimmer. She is also the author of several picture books including Flamingo Dream, The Wishing Club: A Story About Fractions, Corkscrew Counts: A Story About Multiplication, The Crossing, A Single Pearl, and Hands and Hearts. She has received several awards including the New Jersey Reading Association's M. Jerry Weiss Book Award for The Prince of the Pond and the Golden Kite Award for Stones in Water.

(Bowker Author Biography)

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

Gr. 7^-10. In this take on "Beauty and the Beast," Napoli focuses on Beast before French beauty Belle enters his life. The first-person story begins in Persia, where proud prince Orasmyn, who loves roses, makes an unfortunate decision that sets in motion a curse: he becomes a lion who can only be restored by the love of a woman. Realizing he must leave Persia to prevent his father from killing him, he uses his instincts, both human and bestial, to embark on a torturous trek that leads to India, back to Persia, and eventually to France, where he's heard the roses are the best in the world. In France, he settles in a deserted, purportedly haunted castle and revives the gardens, not an easy task in his beast form. Eventually, a man who was lost in a storm arrives and picks a rose. Here, the traditional tale kicks in, with the only difference being the Beast's laborious efforts to make his castle habitable for the expected young woman. Napoli skillfully shows Orasmyn as both human and beast; he learns to survive and to kill and eat prey, yet he always maintains his humanity. She also infuses her tale with a keen flavor of ancient Islamic culture and religion. It's a winning version for genre fans. --Sally Estes

Publisher's Weekly Review

Despite its wonderfully imaginative premise, this refashioned Beauty and the Beast falls curiously flatÄit is more cerebral than romantic in tone, more laborious than lush in its execution. Unlike Robin McKinley, whose Beauty and Rose Daughter focus closely on the heroine, Napoli (Crazy Jack; Zel) concentrates on the Beast. He is first met as Orasmyn, son of the shah of Persia. As the royal family prepares for a sacred feast, Orasmyn makes a grave error in permitting a scarred camel ("a beast who knew suffering") to be sacrificed in a holy ritual. Although the sacrifice has been offered to God, it is a djinn (a spirit that can take on disguises) who takes offense and curses Orasmyn, who awakens the next day to find he has been turned into a lion. The bulk of the novel is devoted to Orasmyn's life as a lion, everything from his probing of the complexities of his fate and his Islamic prayers to his constant efforts to obtain food and his inability to resist other animals' kills. More attention seems paid to the mechanics of Orasmyn's strange existence than to the narrative logic; the storytelling strains when Orasmyn walks, by night, to the South of France and finds a beautiful castle that has been abandoned and left unplundered, presumably because it is rumored to be haunted. When Orasmyn finally meets Belle, they fall in love over the Aeneid, which Belle reads aloud to him in Latin (quoted here, without translation). At her father's, Belle misses "reading and praying together" with Orasmyn; love is mentioned but not emphasized. The weight of the historical and cultural settings overpowers the mysteries and enchantment of the original plot. Ages 12-up. (Nov.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

School Library Journal Review

Gr 8 Up-Orasmyn, a sensitive Persian prince, becomes the Beast in Donna Jo Napoli's inventive retelling of the fairy tale that explore the relationship between a beast and a beauty (Atheneum, 2000). In this case, Orasmyn tells about the enchantress who turned him into a lion, leaving home, and his struggles in the wilds of Iran and India. Eventually, he travels cross-country to France with the hope of finding a true love who will break the spell. Images, both sensual and violent, convey the realities of his predator's life. There are also parallels to real-life love stories as the lion tries to relate to Belle, the brave young woman who restores his humanity. Those unfamiliar with Islamic and Persian terms and practices may find some passages challenging, but the new vocabulary offers opportunities to learn about other cultures. Robert Ramirez's measured, low-key delivery is a good match for the concisely modulated text. The unique focus of this recording makes it useful for libraries seeking to expand culturally diverse audiobook collections, but listeners may need supporting materials to get the most from this intriguing tale.-Barbara Wysocki, Cora J. Belden Library, Rocky Hill, CT (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.



From Part I: The Curse The lion-ape lunges from the tree a moment too late; Bahram Chubina's arrow has already sealed his fate. I gasp roughly. Beast and warrior glow white, burning, against the gold ground. The sun glints off the illuminated pages as it glints off the metal mar -- snake -- that twists around and around from my wrist to my elbow. My fists clench; I am aghast at dying, aghast at killing. "Orasmyn?" I turn, startled. Mother comes in, her face unveiled -- she has not yet left the palace this morning. The pleasure of seeing the dark sliver moons under her eyes, her full cheeks, pulls me at once from the violence on the page to the sweet calm of our lives. Father, the Shah of all Persia, has promised to find me a suitable wife soon. I will be the first adult male outside the young woman's family to ever set eyes on her bare face, to ever know her mysteries. Warmth threads up my throat to my cheeks. I stroke my short beard and smile broad to hide my thoughts. Mother smiles in return. "You're reading the Shahnameh yet again?" She comes to my reading platform and bends over me. Her hair hangs wavy, freed from the braids that hold it tight at night and that she will rebraid before going outside today. It brushes my arm. With a fingertip she traces the spine of the lion-ape. "His eyes speak anguish." Her words touch me with their femininity. Women speak through their eyes from behind the chador -- the veil -- that shrouds all else. They are accustomed to listening to the eyes of others, even those whose full faces show. "Shall I read to you?" "Battle stories." Mother wrinkles her nose. "I prefer Islamic verse." "Islamic verse is in Arabic. These are stories in our own strong Persian. And they're not all battle. Let me read to you of Malika falling in love with Shahpour." Already I am thumbing back through the earlier pages. Mother squats and catches my hand between hers. "Orasmyn, I've got a present for you. In my room. A book by Saadi." The prospect intrigues me, for this great mystic, this Sufi, is known for mixing the spirit of Islam with the culture of Persia. But Mother's tone irritates. I pull my hand away. "I don't need help in choosing my reading." "We all need help, Orasmyn." "A prince doesn't." Mother presses her lips together in a thin line. Then her face softens again. "I see you've done your prayers." Her finger now runs the part in the middle of my hair that I made during my cleaning ritual, the wudhu, before the prayers that precede sunrise. "Why didn't you come eat with us?" she asks. "Your father and I will be busy with festival duties most of the day. We had hoped to see you this morning, at least." Today is the Feast of Sacrifices. Every royal family in every town across Persia has invited the poor to partake of the meat from the animal they will sacrifice this noon. Here in Tabriz there will be a double offering, for my family will add a sacrifice of our own to that of the local royal family. "I don't plan to eat on this festival," I say. "Is that so?" Mother looks at me with curiosity. "You're dressed as a hajji -- a pilgrim." Fondly, she brushes the folds of cloth on my back. I draped this white cloth around me as the sun rose. It is almost a year since I returned from my pilgrimage to Mecca. These days, when I go out, I wear my ordinary tunic under royal robes, though of course I carry prayer beads and wear a white hat always. But today I will stand in white cloth with the other hajjiha, a cloud of purity. "I'm assisting at the sacrifice." "Ah." Mother nods. "Then I understand your fasting. But, son, my gentle prince, not every hajji must take part." I hear the question under her words. As a child I ran from the sacrifices, from the spilling of blood. As an adult, I take no part in the hunts. Mother says I am like the flowers that grow in my treasured gardens, more tender than flesh should be. Still, today I fight off trepidation. The sacrifice is compassionate; as my father's heir, I must understand that. The animal dies to commemorate the ancient sacrifice by Ibrahim. "Don't worry about me." I kiss Mother's hand. "I'll leave you to prepare, then," she says, straightening up. "At the prayers before the sacrifice, be sure to make your rakatha -- your bows -- deep and low, and to linger a moment before rising. That way I can pick you out from the other hajjiha and send you my strength." Mother leaves. Her strength? A prince should rely on no one. But it is too late to protest; she is gone. I open the rear doors, which give directly out to my private garden for praying, my belaq. We have palaces in many cities, and I have taken part in designing the gardens at three of them. I work with a cohort of servants, planting, pruning, mulching. My special fragrance garden around the throne room in the central pavilion of our Isfahan palace is continuously in flower. The carpet I stand on now depicts that garden. The border bands hold daisies and pomegranates and heads of lions. This rug makes my feet want to climb. We winter in Isfahan, of course, on the arid plateau almost completely ringed by mountains. My yellow roses are at our palace in Shiraz. On the first day of spring, we celebrate Naurouz, New Year's, there, surrounded by flowering persimmons. I always beg Father to take us to Shiraz early, even as early as the end of February, so that we can feel the bade gulhaye sourkh -- the wind of roses -- that blows strong in the afternoon. Processions fill the streets with music and torches for thirty days. I throw coins with lions stamped on them to the people I pass. They throw rose petals in return. All flowers grow in Shiraz, but gulhaye sourkh -- roses -- are what they throw, because the rose is my favorite, Prince Orasmyn's favorite. But Shiraz is too hot in summer. So we return north to Tabriz, the capital, where I tend my most extensive gardens. I step outside now and pass through my walled belaq out to the public gardens. To the west stands the mosque. To the south and east and north stretches garden. My eyes follow straight pebbled paths interrupted at regular intervals by a series of steps, on and on, until the paths are lost in the trees and the mountains beyond. It is easy to fool myself into thinking the garden continues forever -- infinite. I imagine I feel a wet breeze from the Caspian Sea to the east -- though it is more than a day's journey away. I emerge from the shadows of the portico and walk along a maddi -- a water channel -- to the reflecting pool. The people will gather here after the sacrifice to await the cooked meat. The pavilion on the north side will host the men, while that on the south will host the women. Columns hold up the roofs of the pavilions, columns spaced widely, so that one group can easily see what the other does. The voices will be loud and happy. But right now the pool and garden are mine. The air is faint with white jasmine. Clover and aromatic grasses crush soft under my bare feet. Sour cherry trees fan out in star designs. I step up onto the talar, the platform overlooking the pool, and gaze at the black-and-white limestone colonnades of the palace. The early sun gives an orangish sheen to the stones, almost the color of henna, and an idea comes to me. Mother said not every hajji must take part in the sacrifice. So nothing should prescribe the participation of those hajjiha who do take part. Joyous moment, I am free to choose what duties I assume. I race to the animal enclosures beyond the mosque, to the camel-holding pen, hoping no one has beat me to the task. Preparing an animal for sacrifice is just as important a part of the feast as slashing its neck. Kiyumars is already in the pen, stroking the large she-camel. But no one else is about. I join this servant with a silent nod. We've known each other all our lives -- we played among the herds of goat and sheep together as children; we tend the gardens of Tabriz side by side as adults -- we fall into an easy camaraderie now. Kiyumars puts henna on the head of the camel, turning her the orange color that guided my feet here now. All is well. I rub the camel's eyelids with kohl. She is docile, more docile than I've known a camel to be. Kiyumars takes a sugar lump from his pouch and puts it in the camel's mouth. Ah, now I understand her cooperation, for I have a sweet tooth myself. The necklace shines from the open box nearby. It is made of tiny mirrors set in red silk with gold em-broidered leaves. Carefully I lift it with both hands and hold it under the camel's thick neck. Kiyumars takes one end, and together we fasten the necklace in place. It hangs before her chest like a banner. Kiyumars dips his hands in the henna again. He turns to the camel, about to rub color into her back, when he gasps. I look over his shoulder. At first I cannot see it. But now halfway up her single hump a thin line shows, where the hair doesn't lie perfectly flat. It runs two hands-width long. Kiyumars looks at me with frightened eyes. We both know what the scar means. Someone cut fat from this camel's hump, a practice of our people for millennia. But now we know, through the teachings of Muhammad, that the Merciful One expressly forbids it: Live animals are never to suffer at the hand of man. An old scar, to be sure. Nevertheless, this camel has been defiled. "She appeared to be the finest camel, my prince. In the name of the Merciful One, this is truth." "Was no other camel brought here yesterday and prepared for sacrifice?" I ask, though I can see the holding pen is otherwise empty. "She is the only one, my prince." Kiyumars' voice shakes. An error regarding sacrifices could call for grave punishment. The local royal family holds to old Persian customs that go against Islam; they would have Kiyumars nailed by his ears to the wall out front of the palace, just as they do to those who break the fast during the monthlong celebration of Ramadhan. I wince at the thought. My hand instinctively takes his upper arm and pulls him close. My chest swells with the need to protect Kiyumars. But is it written anywhere that a camel who has been violated in this way cannot be sacrificed? I recall no such prohibition, though I have to admit I remember more of the Persian folktales in the Shahnameh than of the Arab holy words in the Qur'an. I could ask the imam -- the prayer leader -- just to be sure. But the Feast of Sacrifices is one of the two most important holy days of the lunar year -- so the Shah should know the rules that govern it. Likewise, the Shah's son should know. Consultation would be a sign of weakness. The answer must lie within me. Think, Orasmyn. This camel is imperfect. But all the camels in our herd have some defect or other. They have to. Such is the way of the world. This may be the best camel available, despite her scar. Kiyumars puts both hands to his cheeks, forgetting the henna in his desperation and turning himself orange. "It is my thoughtlessness. Jumail is the only camel prepared for sacrifice. Forgive me, my prince." Jumail? This is the Arab word for "little camel," not the Persian one. This camel clearly belongs to Islam. I reach high and put my hands over her muzzle, trying to pull myself up so I can look into her eyes. The camel stares at me a moment, then blinks and jerks her head away. But she doesn't bare her teeth. Jumail is ready for sacrifice. I scan my memory for wisdom from the Qur'an. "The Merciful One forgives our dietary lapses more easily than most other lapses." "Yes," says Kiyumars with hope in his voice. Now I search my memory for wisdom from our people's traditions, wisdom my nursemaid Ava taught me. "And eating camel meat rekindles faith," I say softly. "The people will be grateful," says Kiyumars. "Especially the sick, my prince." I think of the sick, for whom half the meat of this camel will be salted and set aside. They will chew it all year long for strength no other meat can give. Nothing would be gained by failing to sacrifice this beast. And I cannot believe the Merciful One would want Kiyumars to suffer for an innocent oversight. Indeed, if animals are not to suffer at the hand of man, how then can humans be allowed such suffering? I fasten a necklace of bells around the camel, high up and tight, so that it rides in front of the arch of her neck. Then I stand tall before my servant, my friend. Kiyumars bows to me. When he rises, he smears the camel's hump with henna, putting extra on the scar that disappeared with his first swipe. I add a strand of precious stones between the necklace of bells and the necklace of mirrors. After Kiyumars finishes coloring the camel's back, I spread the fine Kashmir shawl across her. She is ready. Everything has been done correctly. Or almost everything. In an instant I am cold. It is nearly impossible to be cold anywhere in my country in the summer, even at the start of summer, even in Tabriz. Yet I shiver now. It is as though a tiny being flutters around my head, blowing and blowing. It as as though a storm begins. Copyright © 2000 by Donna Jo Napoli Excerpted from Beast by Donna Jo Napoli All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.

Table of Contents

Mapp. viii
Part I The Cursep. 1
The Camelp. 3
The Parip. 14
Koomap. 31
The Planp. 42
Part II Strange Lifep. 53
Bloodp. 55
Birdsp. 73
Deathp. 79
Part III Lionp. 87
Alonep. 89
Indiap. 100
My Pridep. 114
Traveling Againp. 126
Two Yearsp. 134
Part IV New Worldp. 137
A Manp. 139
Gule Sourkhp. 157
Larderp. 165
Candlesp. 174
My Childp. 187
Bellep. 192
Deerp. 201
Didop. 221
Lettersp. 232
At Lastp. 248
Author's Notep. 256
Glossaryp. 257
Author's Note on Languagep. 259