The underlying basis of any version of Beauty and the Beast seems to be the metamorphosis of a character from human to animal, or vice versa. The story line also usually includes a wedding of some kind, which unites a human and an animal. The movie Shrek, although it may seem to differ on the exterior, has many of the same central themes as the prototype of Beauty and the Beast; especially the one written by Jeanne-Marie Leprince de Beaumont in 1757.
Perhaps the main similarity between the texts is human transformation. While Shrek was born an ogre and does not transform, his love, Fiona, transforms every night from human to ogre because she is cursed by an evil witch until she is able to find a true loves kiss. This is similar to the Beast in de Beaumont’s tale, who said “an evil fairy condemned me to remain in that form until a beautiful girl would consent to marry me” (Tatar 41).
Both stories also center around one moral: looks can be deceiving. Shrek is not, by human standards, attractive. His tough exterior makes those around his believe he is a mean being who lacks compassion for others. We learn later in the movie, however, that he is sensitive and self conscious about his appearance. This is why he lacks the need to connect with others. In de Beaumont’s story, Beauty has two beautiful sisters who have rotten personalities. The Beast, who is described as a monster, gives Beauty’s father (who was a stranger to him) a place to stay and food to eat when his journey took a disastrous turn.
This tale is very concerned with virtue. Beauty falls in love with Beast even when he is still under his hideous curse. Also, their marriage turns out to be very successful because it was “was founded in virtue.” In Shrek, there is also an association with the concept of virtue; however, it is much less explicit. Fiona shows merit when she agrees to marry Shrek, although she knows that this might not be enough to break her terrible curse. In fact, it wasn’t and instead of turning into a human for good, she is permanently transformed into an ogre. Shrek proves his virtue when he thinks she is still beautiful as an ogre.
In the movie, the protagonist, Shrek is an ogre who lives far away from civilization, in a swamp. In de Beaumont’s version of Beauty and the Beast, the Beast lives in a castle where “not a soul is in sight” (Tatar 34). This also seems to foreshadow what their dispositions are like. By living away from people, Shrek and the Beast are assumed to be distant and unfriendly.