Illustration Beauty and the Beast by Warwick Goble, 1913

{Image description: an illustration with two people dressed in Middle Ages fashion. The woman is on the left, standing with her arms open and sad with what she's seeing. The man has a boar's head and is lying lifeless on the ground at the right. The background has some trees and flowers and the colors are green for the grass and orange for the clouds. There are also some tulips in foreground.}

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As a Capricorn lesson, Beauty and the Beast tells the story of a love that matured over time. Unlike most fairy tales, its origin is well defined. It was written by Gabrielle-Suzanne Barbot de Villeneuve and published in 1740 as novel with about a hundred pages. The story became popular with Jeanne-Marie Le Prince de Beaumont's adaptation, published in 1756, which is an abbreviation of the original, without some of the subplots, making it a shorter and more child-friendly tale. It is from this later story that most of the subsequent versions arise.

The narrative begins with the patriarchal family of a wealthy merchant who lives with his three daughters (the number of daughters and sons varies in the different versions), which right from the start gives a saturnine tone to the story. When the father goes on a trip to pursue a big business deal, the two oldest daughters ask him for expensive gifts—ambition is the shallower side of Capricorn, who covets social status without worrying about how it's achieved—but Beauty only asks him for a rose.

The rose is an element that appears in almost all versions of the tale and symbolises the love between Beauty and her father. The youngest daughter is the only one who shows wisdom and respect for her father by asking him for a trivial and inexpensive gift. But it is also the rose, as a metaphor of that love, that connects Beauty with the Beast, giving Beauty the opportunity to make her own choices, owning her destiny and fulfilling her Saturn, the significator in our natal chart of the mountain we have to conquer.

The merchant returns from his journey in the Winter, the season that begins with the longest night of the year and to which Capricorn lends his energy in the northern hemisphere. But despite the cold, snow and ice, Beauty's father decides to shorten the path through the forest. After a night spent under the worst of storms, he finds a castle where the sun is shining and where the snow has not arrived, and takes the opportunity to recover the necessary strength before resuming his journey. However, during all the time he spends in the castle, he doesn’t find a single soul. The top of the mountain can fill us up materially, but if we get there we lose sight of what is important, our base and our roots. When we reach it, we look around and realize that we are alone.

When he is about to return home, Beauty's father finds the rose his daughter had asked for, but when he picks the flower he unwittingly defies the authority of the Beast who rules the castle. Saturn symbolizes the limits and rules that we are obliged to live by as a group and as a society. The merchant's intention to take the rose without it having been offered to him breaks a basic commandment: “Thou shalt not steal”. At this point the lord of the castle reveals himself, frightening and horrible, to punish the merchant for the despicable act, threatening him with death. In most versions, the father bargains with the Beast and ends up offering one of his daughters in marriage, but in the Villeneuve and Beaumont versions the animal only accepts the exchange if the girl comes of her own free will.

At no time is Beauty forced to do anything. In an age of arranged marriages, when young women had little saying in these matters, often ending up in unhappy relationships or, alternatively, in asylums or convents, Villeneuve gives the protagonist agency over her own destiny. Capricorn symbolises above all responsibility, maturity and acceptance of the consequences of our actions. It is not out of remorse or guilt that she gives herself to the Beast, but out of a Capricornian sense of duty—after all, it was for her innocent whim that her father received such punishment.

Beauty goes to live in Beast's castle and finds a horrible and repulsive animal, but upfront and direct in his dealings and civilized in his manners. These characteristics are very descriptive of Capricorn. Although pleasant is not the word to describe it, this sign is aware of social rules, serious and solemn and also knows that the shortest distance between two points is a straight line. It is no accident that Mars is exalted in the sign of the goat. With frankness and directness, every night, the Beast asks Beauty: “Do you love me, Beauty? Will you marry me?"—in Villeneuve's version of the original the question is even more direct: "May I sleep with you tonight?"—to which the girl always answers, honestly and bluntly, "No."

As time goes by, Beauty loses her fear of the Beast and begins to develop within her a genuine affection for the hideous creature. But every night since her arrival at the castle, she dreams of a slender and handsome prince, to whom she is also getting used to and who asks her not to trust her eyes too much. This message reminds me of the phrase of the Little Prince, by Saint-Exupéry, “The essential is invisible to the eyes” and foreshadows the true nature of the Beast.

Beauty's love for her Beast faces a final test when she asks him to visit her father. The creature asks her if she hates him so much to the point of wanting to get away from him, a typical speech of Venus in Capricorn or in aspect to Saturn, who, despite aiming for stable and long-lasting relationships, so often distrusts the love of the other. The Beast assures Beauty that he will die of grief if she doesn't return after a while and hands her a ring that will allow her to return to the castle when she wishes, once again giving the girl control of the relationship.

The return to her father's house is also an opportunity for Beauty to make the conscious choice to leave the protected, but dependent, waters of Cancer (the opposite sign of Capricorn) and assume her maturity and autonomy, Capricorn’s challenges, in the castle where she already is the lady and queen. Beauty hesitates, but ends up going back to her Beast, only too late. When she returns to the palace the animal is at death's door. Disillusioned with her own ingratitude, Beauty finally agrees to marry the Beast, who before her eyes transforms into the handsome prince of her dreams. In Jean Cocteau's film La Belle Et La Bête, Beauty is slightly disillusioned with the transformation of her Beast into a beautiful prince. After all she had learned to love the monster and all the commitment invested in building up that love seems to lose importance when the loved one’s appearance is more valued than his essence.

Saturn confronts us with our physical and concrete limits. Ultimately and in a perspective of scarcity, with the frontier of what is essential to us. In doing so, it forces us to look beyond matter, wealth and ambition, to the subtler side of life, our soul and our spiritual essence. And this is the deepest meaning of this tale, the perfect marriage of these two levels of existence. Capricorn is the last Earth sign and, as such, symbolises the absolute domain of matter, but this domain only can only hold truth and meaning when it’s the real translation of the spirit in the physical and concrete plane. This sign is represented by a goat with a fish's tail, reminding us that material heights can only be reached if we are willing to dive into our depth.

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2013