Thursday, August 23, 2018

The Huntsman and the Beast, by Carrie Vaughn

★★★★☆ A delightful subversion of Beauty and the Beast

(Fantasy Adventure) The prince’s huntsman finds himself trapped in an abandoned castle, prisoner of a once-human beast. (11,019 words; Time: 36m)

"The Huntsman and the Beast," by (edited by Sheila Williams), appeared in issue 09-10|18, published on by .

Mini-Review (click to view--possible spoilers)

Pro: The curse was for her to be a beast “until I find a man who can tame me, and submit to his will.” Huntsman tames her without trying to, and he does it with kindness, not force. She submits to him, not as a slave to a master, but as a trusted companion when she agrees to hide as part of his plan. For we are all “tamed” if we’re civilized at all, and we take turns “submitting” to one another’s wishes because we know it’s wrong to always insist on our own way. Thus the two of them satisfy the letter of the curse, but not the intent—and entirely without realizing they’re doing it. Bravo!

What’s particularly satisfying is that Huntsman is trying to win her trust and to protect her when he accidentally lifts the curse. Even better, by appearing before the prince as a noble lady, she rescues Huntsman too. We know they’ll make a good couple because they’re already a good team.

It’s a very moving moment when she wants to open that bottle of wine that her father had put away to drink in celebration of victory.

In the original Beauty and the Beast, of course, we had a female beauty and a male beast, and the curse was that he must find someone to love him despite his ugliness, but he either can't or won't share the details with her. This story subverts almost every element of the original: the genders, of course, but also both partners pretty much know what's going on, and they work together.

Con: It’s hard to see what Huntsman sees in Beast at the start. He’s sympathetic before he has much real reason to be.

The prince is a little over-the-top; enough to be annoying but not enough to be funny.

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2 comments (may contain spoilers):

  1. 5-stars from me. I really liked this story.

    About your Con, on Page 60 of my paper copy of Asimov's, the story covers this aspect. The Huntman lives in the age of chivalry and fairy tales. It is his reality. Plus he is a kind person. Works for me.

    As for the Prince, he's just the kind of idiot that gets himself and his servants into trouble.

  2. Reprinted online at Lightspeed 123 (Aug 2020):