What is the deal with Argus’ and Beauty’s mothers?
Well, the original story had a host of interesting mom-figures in the background that generally don’t appear in shorter adaptations. We’ve got The Beast’s mother, a warrior-queen who more or less masterminds Beauty’s stay at the palace. Then we have Beauty’s mother, a fairy who dabbles with mortals and gets herself in trouble for it. Then we have The Beast’s guardian/godmother, a fairy who lays the curse on him after he refuses her advances… basically, a whole bunch of underused maternal figures, all very different from one another.
I liked the idea of Beauty’s hidden magical heritage, since we never see it outside of the original tale. I also enjoy making allusions to other fairy tales. Animal bride stories come in a variety of forms, but I thought swan maidens made for most tonally appropriate choice here (I coin-flipped between swan maidens and selkies, but I think swans make more sense since my adaptation doesn’t linger in the port city Beauty grows up in).
I decided three moms was too many for the story, so I chose to split the positive and negative maternal traits into two characters – Elise, Beauty’s mother, takes on the role of the good fairy who guides Beauty at the castle, as well as that of the Original-Story-Beast’s mother who engineers her incarceration there. Argus’ mother is the negative, controlling maternal figure. I ditched the godmother-seductress angle in favour of making her his biological parent, and a straight-up narcissist rather than a predator. I felt the complicated nature of abuse and loyalty could be seeded in the background without bringing the suggestion of sexual trauma too much to the forefront.
The idea of the good mother and the wicked mother is a really common trope in fairy tales. Usually fairy tales signal the wicked mother by making her the stepmother (because how could the “real” mom ever leave her kids in the woods/force them to be a servant/favour the other child/etc?? Surely this must be some false, other mother!) but really it all comes back to the same place– we have strong feelings about our families. When we love them, we love them more than anything and when we hate them…well, the betrayal is all the worse.