A rich merchant lived in the city with his three daughters. His youngest is named Belle(French for "Beauty") for she is both lovely and pure of heart. The merchant eventually loses all of his wealth, and he and his daughters must go live in the country. One day, he hears that one of his ships has come in, so he returns to the city. He asks his daughters if they want anything as a gift while he is gone. His two oldest daughters ask for jewelry and dresses, thinking that his wealth has returned, but Belle only wants a rose. The merchant finds that his ship has been seized to pay his debts, and he has no money to buy his daughters their presents.
On his return he becomes lost in a forest. He sees a castle and enters it, seeking shelter. He finds a table laden with food and a note reading "eat" and a table filled with wine and a note saying "drink". The merchant eats and drinks and his heart is lightened. He prepares to leave, when he spots the most beautiful rose garden. He remembers that Belle had requested a rose and decides that he should at least bring her one. Upon picking the most lovely rose there, a hideous Beast appears and tells him that for taking his most precious possession after accepting his hospitality he must stay his prisoner forever. The merchant begs to be let free, saying he only picked the rose for his youngest daughter. The Beast agrees to let him go only if the merchant will send his daughter to live in the castle in his place.
The merchant is upset but accepts this condition. He tries to hide the secret from Belle, but she pries it from him and willingly goes to the Beast's castle. The Beast receives her graciously and treats her as his guest. He gives her lavish clothing and food and carries on lengthy conversations with her.
Eventually, Belle becomes homesick and begs the Beast to allow her to go to see her family. He allows it, if she will return exactly a week later. Belle agrees to this and sets off for home. Once there, her older sisters are surprised to find her well fed and dressed in finery. They grow jealous and, hearing that she must return to the Beast on a certain day, beg her to stay another day, even putting onion in their eyes to make it appear as though they are weeping. Belle's heart is moved and she agrees to stay.
When Belle returns to the Beast's castle late, she finds him dying in his rose garden, his broken heart killing him. Belle weeps over him, saying that she loves him and when her tears strike him he is transformed into a handsome prince. The Prince informs Belle that long ago a fairy turned him into a hideous beast after he refused to let her in from the rain. Only by finding true love, despite his ugliness, can he break the curse.