The love story of a young and beautiful girl who falls in love with an ugly monster is known to everyone, even through a Disney movie. In 1756, a much shortened and simplified adaptation of the fairy tale by the French writer Gabrielle-Suzanne Barbot de Villeneuve appeared, developed for the children’s reader by Jeanne-Marie Leprince de Beaumont. All the movies adaptations were based on this later, shorter text. This version gained great popularity.
But surely few people know that this beautiful story has its roots in the Canary Islands. Historians believe that it was inspired by the story of Pedro Gonzalez, a representative of the upper class among the Guanches, who lived in Tenerife. The Guanches are the pre-Hispanic inhabitants of Tenerife, but today the Guanches are also called the original inhabitants of the other islands. Pedro, born in 1537, suffered from a rare disease called hypertrichosis, or werewolf syndrome, which resulted in excessive hair growth.
Once he was spotted by one of the colonizers and given to the king of France as a wolf man – an amazing freak of nature. In this way, Pedro ended up at the court of the king, who, however, liked him very much. Among other things, he taught him: Latin, writing and reading. As a representative of the upper class of the Guanches, he also granted him the title of nobility.
In 1573 appears the “Beauty” and agrees to marry The “Beast”. Let’s add that she meets him for the first time on her wedding day. Despite her cruel illness, which could be a hindrance, this love story has a happy ending. Beauty falls in love with the Beast. The couple had six children, four of whom inherit the disease from their father. They moved to Italy and lived happily to old age.
An interesting fact about this story: There is a painting by Pedro in the National Gallery of Art in Washington. And in Ambras Castle (Innsbruck) you can admire the famous collection of portraits from the “Werewolf People” series, depicting the descendants of his family. One of these portraits shows a man wearing a “tamarco”, a typical Guanche garment, thus emphasizing his origins.