- Confirmed: Word of God states that though the Beast's official age is not mentioned in the movie, it is strongly indicated by the narrator's statement that the rose "would bloom until his 21st year." As the rose has already begun to wilt by the time Belle arrives at the castle, it is very likely that the Beast is 20 years (i.e. on their 21st year) of age by this point. This has been confirmed by the Beast's artist Glen Keane, and also in the filmmakers commentary for the extended edition, where it is specifically stated that the Beast's/Prince's 21st birthday would occur at some point after the enchanted rose has lost all of it's petals and the curse had either been broken, or else become permanent.
After living in close quarters with the Beast and his servants for several months, she still only ever calls him "Beast." She should know his real name by then. She calls him Beast because she wants to and because he's okay with it.
- Perhaps he simply did not want to be associated with his former name while stuck as beast, and simply neglected to tell her it? Heck, he could have told her to call him that.
- "Beast" is what she calls him in the bedroom.
- At the beginning of the movie we see that the Beast has regressed to an animalistic state, walking on all fours and growling ferociously. Perhaps by that point the curse was working its effect on his mind and he forgot his name in addition to how to behave like a human, and didn't remember it until he was returned to his proper form.
- In his first real scene he refers to himself as The Beast. It could be a mocking self-awareness towards his appearance or that could just be what he sees himself. If you ask Belle at Disneyland she apparently says that he was a Beast so long that he forgot his real name. Glen Keane (Beast's animator) said that the longer he spent as a Beast the more animal he became and that after ten years he was more or less half and half. He couldn't remember how to read, using a spoon was beyond him, he was barely wearing any clothes. Keane also said that if Belle had never showed up (or came back) he would have eventually degenerated far enough that he would abandon clothes, forget how to speak and be consumed by his animalistic instincts and lose his human mind forever. This lends credibility to the "its been too long" idea. Maybe he hasn't forgotten and just doesn't identify with it anymore.
- Another theory (one often used in fanfiction) is that the Beast is so ashamed of himself he doesn't feel as if he's worthy of a name anymore and insists that Belle calls him "Beast" because, in his mind, names are things for men.
- It's Sleeping Beauty.
- She doesn't once describe ANYTHING pertaining to Beauty and the Beast, original story or otherwise, except the magic spells and maybe the far-off places.Belle: Far off places, daring swordfights, magic spells, a prince in disguise! ... Here's where she meets prince charming, but she won't discover that it's him 'till chapter three.
- The story for Sleeping Beauty starts off with "Once upon a time", whereas Beauty and the Beast doesn't. There are no swords in the story at all, but Phillip takes down Maleficent with a one-sided sword-fight. The magic spell is not just the curse, but also the fairy gifts. The "prince in disguise" relates to how Phillip looks rather un-princely in his riding costume, and Aurora doesn't discover that he's a prince until much later (the third act).
- The movie, when the lyrics are sung, shows the almost exact scene where Aurora and Phillip meet and fall in love, about when Aurora stops avoiding him.
- She doesn't once describe ANYTHING pertaining to Beauty and the Beast, original story or otherwise, except the magic spells and maybe the far-off places.
- It's Aladdin, which happens to be the next released movie in the Disney animated canon and already was in the works at that point. Far off places (the exotic East), daring sword fights, magic spells (the genie's powers, Jafar also used magic with his staff) a prince in disguise (poor boy who becomes a prince). And when Jasmine and "prince Ali" go on their date, it isn't until later that she realizes he's actually Aladdin (not a real prince at that point, but her prince charming) in disguise.
- It's A Song of Ice and Fire. Westeros has lots of sword fights, lots of magic spells, and one, possibly two princes in disguise if you subscribe to a certain popular fan theory.
- It's The Princess Bride. Far-off places? Check. Magic Spells? Eh, a miracle can count! Swordfights? Double check.
- Perhaps it's Tangled or The Tales of Flynnigan Rider from there. To Rapunzel, going to the city of Corona feels like a far off place from her tower. Flynn and Maximus sword fight. Magic hair/flower. Mother Gothel "disguised" Rapunzel's identity as a princess from Rapunzel, and disguised princess Rapunzel from the rest of the world.
The key difference was that Beast was horrified, not just by his own change, but by the curse being inflicted on his servants. As has been stated before, it seems pretty unfair that they were punished for his offence (especially the children), and I believe this made Beast realize what a truly selfish jerk he was. He saw how his action affected all those around him, and his bitterness and rage at the start of the film was from his guilt and self-hatred more than anything else. This also explains why the servants didn't seem all that upset about it, even after he let her go; they seemed more upset over the fact that he lost his one true love than about the curse, and even Cogworth seemed resigned to his fate. They never blamed him for what happened; they just wanted him to stop hating himself and find the love he needed to break the spell. As to how this ties to comparisons with Gaston: the servants did challenge Beast to change even before Belle arrived, and while they followed his orders in general, they were more than willing to break or ignore them when necessary (like helping Maurice). Gaston, on the other hand, has his near-sociopathic self-indulgence fueled by the enabling villagers. He is never questioned or challenged, except by Belle.
This is key: it shows that Belle BY HERSELF could not change Gaston nor Beast, and the best part is she knew this. She knew that her love alone wouldn't work; Gaston was a Jerkass through and through, and she was ready to write Beast off as one too. it was only after the servants told Beast what he did wrong and showed him the folly of his ways (something that would never happen to Gaston) did she see anything worth saving in him. It may seem like random rambling from me, but it seems to me that, at least in the Disney version, the servants' role in the Beast's redemption is severly overshadowed.
- A sort of sub-WMG from this same troper: the Beast/Gaston parallels can be seen as an allegory for substance abuse.
- Another fridgy guess: the reason Belle knew she couldn't change Gaston or Beast through The Power of Love? She was an avid reader and quite intelligent, and realized the inherent flaws in such a fairy tale-like situation she found herself in.
- Another thing you have to consider is that the Beast, unlike Gaston, feels guilt from his actions even if there is no one there to call him on them. This ties in neatly to his self-hatred, before his transformation he was much like Gaston in that he was selfish and self-absorbed. He couldn't really love anyone because he was completely in love with himself and it was only after learning to hate himself that he could begin the transition into being a better person. By the time the film takes place he's depressed, bitter, and very, very angry, but he's not really all that selfish because he absolutely hates himself and everything he's become. But while he is often rough with people he feels bad about it enough to try and make it right, case in point when he goes to save Belle after chasing her out of the West Wing. It's one of his first selfless acts and her gratitude is the thing that proves to himself that maybe he can be better.
Furthermore, the enchantress seems to have done everything she could to avoid the beast dying. She left him the magic mirror. Also that rose seems to have been a big draw for people who ought to know better, so it plays a big role in getting Belle to the castle and talking to the beast. You could even argue that the transformation sequence activating at the exact moment it did saved his life.
- Given that the Beast is a Prince, and a Prince is usually the son of a King and Queen, it's not outside the realm of possibility that his parents were King Louis and Marie Antoinette. thus him shunning the people of France for beheading his parents.
- On a related note, perhaps there wasn't actually any conditional elements in the curse at all, and even if Belle had confessed her love an hour in, the curse wouldn't have ended until he turned 21.
- The sorceress was knew the curse-breaking event wouldn't occur until the very last moment anyway so she didn't feel that she needed to actually include the condition.
He clearly loves at least some of his servants in a familial way, above and beyond what was expected of nobility at the time (who commonly treated their servants like furniture). What's to say that one of them, perhaps Mrs. Potts or Cogsworth in a parental way, or Lumiere in a best friend way, didn't love him back?
- or they wanted to teach him a lesson so they sold him to a circus, where he was displayed in a sideshow and the barker would recount the story of what happened to him (think the beginning of Freaks)
- This is not the case in Cartoon-Verse: Word of God states that though the Beast's official age is not mentioned in the movie, it is strongly indicated by the narrator's statement that the rose "would bloom until his 21st year." As the rose has already begun to wilt by the time Belle arrives at the castle, it is very likely that the Beast is 20 years (i.e. on their 21st year) of age by this point. This has been confirmed by the Beast's artist Glen Keane, and also in the filmmakers commentary for the extended edition, where it is specifically stated that the Beast's/Prince's 21st birthday would occur at some point after the enchanted rose has lost all of it's petals and the curse had either been broken, or else become permanent.
- He had a broken arm that didn't heal quite right. It's not enough to cause him major problems (he's a perfectly functional cup) but still not completely fixed.
- He has/had a physical disability that does not significantly impact functioning, but showed up as a cosmetic flaw when the castle's residents became enchanted objects. Note that when he turns into a human, we see him riding the dog, and his mother picks him up immediately afterward. Maybe the "chip" is a club foot or slight trouble walking.
- Alternately, he's missing a chip in teacup form because he'd just lost a prominent baby tooth before he transformed, so the "gap" in his smile migrated to his rim.
- beau is the masculine word for beauty (Belle is the feminine tense).
- Unlikely because Furries are people who dress up in animal costumes and take on the persona of that animal. They also have 'fursonas' identities they use in the Furry community. Sometimes full-on sex occurs, but often two or more furries engage in a behavior called "yiffing" (dry-humping or other sexualized interactions). Besides she wasn't disappointed but instead is rather confused as to what had just occurred (He just died and turned into a human, and besides she has absolutely no problem with kissing him).
- If anything regardless this WMG he's Bi, but leans closer to men. As he shuns every woman in the entire village (Including those three beautiful blondes) except one. While he likes to spend his time in a bar full of rowdy hairy men who constantly praise him on his manliness. Hell, it's even implied that Gaston just wants Belle as a trophy, not as someone to actually embrace. His character trope page even implies he has no interest in sex itself, he just wants kids for the sake of having kids.
- This would also explain him eating 4 dozen eggs as a kid to get larger. He may have been aware of his homoerotic tendencies as a child and tried to become hypermasculine in order to make up for it. Also explains him still being extremely hammy and over-the-top. And maybe the reason he goes after Belle is because he knows he doesn't stand a chance with her and that even if they get married, they probably wouldn't be very intimate with one another. But then again, he becomes increasingly persistent with Belle, but that might have more to do with his general inability to cope with rejection (be it romantic or not) and just general insecurity, or the reputation he has among the townspeople as a man who stops at nothing to get what he wants (may be an example of .
A trivia game published by Disney Interactive stated that his real name was Adam, but Disney itself (as well as the animators) confirmed that they never had the time to name the Prince. Any ideas what his name might be?
- Borderline Jossed. Dan Stevens (who portrayed the Beast in the 2017 movie) and Paige O'Hara (who voices Belle in the 1991 movie) have accepted the name "Adam" in interviews.
That person is the Doctor. Belle was going to be his companion after he regenerated from the Beast into the Prince. He's also Gaston because that was him in the past under the effect of a Chameleon Arch. It's wibbly wobbly timey wimey stuff.
- It's quite possible, considering that France has a history as a pretty anti-Semitic country (no more so than some parts of Europe we could name, but history and historical novels do mention this, and modern-day France has experienced quite a spate of anti-Semitism as well). In addition, Belle is highly educated, which is unusual for both her time period and her gender. But throughout history, education has remained extremely important to the Jewish people. It's quite possible Maurice was a benevolent Education Papa, which is how Belle got her love of reading.
- On the other hand, the sequel does focus on Belle celebrating Christmas. But since none of the original writers or directors were involved with the sequel, we can easily apply Fanon Discontinuity.
- Additionally, if this theory were to be true, it would give the story a whole new layer. One could make the argument that parts of it serve as a Call-Back to the story of Esther—a beautiful woman, yanked from her home (where she was raised by an older man who functioned as a single parent) to be the captive and queen of a hot-tempered ruler. In Belle's case, there is no Haman, per se, but Gaston functions somewhat in that role when he and the villagers try to kill the Beast/subdue and harm the servants. Regardless of the Haman issue, Belle still serves as an instrument of freedom just like Esther, and part of her reward is royal status.
- Unless you consider the first sequel subject to Fanon Discontinuity, then it would also explain Belle celebrating Christmas.
- Belle, from the beginning, has complete control over her situation, only the wolves in the forest stopping her from leaving outright when she flees after the Beast notices her looking at the rose, and she's rebellious, if not anti-social, towards the Beast until he allows her past his gruff exterior.
- Meanwhile, The Beast has completely embraced his new beastial nature, deciding that someone who the servants let in for his own safety is trespassing and making him a prisoner purely for that small reason, and doesn't expect the curse to lift at all, and just waits for the penny, or rather the last rose petal, to drop. Classic Stockholm Syndrome sufferer behaviour.
- Alternatively, people could conceivably have become more than one item. Lumiere may have been, or have been in control of, all the candlesticks in the castle. The silverware did synchronize awfully well...
- This could explain also, how Chip was able to load, ignite and pilot Maurice's woodchopping machine without any hands.
- As for why they let Belle get to the castle: they could sense that she had the power to make the Beast love, so they let her pass and stayed out of the way during other occasions of people moving to/from the castle because they sensed the importance of the events unraveling before them (Belle coming back to save the Prince, the mob would have been too much to fight and were important to the curse's resolution as well, etc.)
- In fact, in addition to protecting the castle, they could have also been there to arrange for the curse to break. After all, they drove Maurice to the castle, and the gate unlocked itself to let him in. Maurice getting there was the catalyst for the curse breaking. So in addition to keeping people in, they're also the agents of Contrived Coincidence the curse used to resolve itself.
- This would have made Gaston´s original fate of being devoured by them a BIG Karmic Death.
Yes, that He-Man. One story or game has his name as Adam, he's a prince, and blonde. The enchantress was probably Evil-Lyn.
- Most seem to agree that the enchantres) is a Jerkass, then she might not have thought about preserving the Beast's youth. It could simply be negligent oversight, and that she just meant to curse them, and given no thought that the Beast might age, while the servants do not. Or, it was her being even more cruel by having the master eventually age and die and leave the servants with no one to serve, thus they become no more meaningful than the items they resemble? Utter cruelty, yes, but for someone who cursed a whole castle for one person's mistake, you can't really expect her to pull punches. First rule when dealing with the Fairies is don't piss them off because they have a horrible sense of Disproportionate Retribution. Hell, the Beast may have kindly said that he couldn't let her stay and she could have cursed him for that. Or he could have been in a temper tantrum at the time and the Enchantress/Fae appeared then, to everyone's misfortune.
- There's a shot near the beginning of the movie where the Beast rips up a portrait of himself as a young man. He is absolutely older than 11 in the painting, possibly as young as 15 or 16 but he may as well be in his early 20s. I imagine he must not have aged during the curse because he looks the same after transforming back to a human as he does in the painting, despite being 10 years older. Perhaps the comment by Lumiere that they have been "rusting for 10 years" was an approximation, or he was unable to keep track of how many years have passed.
- Word of God states that though the Beast's official age is not mentioned in the movie, it is strongly indicated by the narrator's statement that the rose "would bloom until his 21st year." As the rose has already begun to wilt by the time Belle arrives at the castle, it is very likely that the Beast is 20 years (i.e. on their 21st year) of age by this point. This has been confirmed by the Beast's artist Glen Keane, and also in the filmmakers commentary for the extended edition, where it is specifically stated that the Beast's/Prince's 21st birthday would occur at some point after the enchanted rose has lost all of it's petals and the curse had either been broken, or else become permanent. In other words he was 10 turning 11 years old at the time he was cursed and was turned human when he was 20 turning 21 years old.
- So Beast is Louise XVII, the son of Marie Antoinette who was rumored to have been smuggled out of Temple prison during the Revolution.
At one point those three characters really were meant to be Belle's sisters- but this role of theirs was cut, to save time, because they weren't necessary, or both. They were still left in, but as mere background dressing, to establish that Gaston has fangirls.
- He seems to go through all five stages throughout the film (although the first two are only hinted at in the prologue)
- Denial: I'm not a bad guy Ms. Enchantress, really!
- Bargaining: Please don't do this, I'm sorry! I won't do it again!
- Anger and Depression: He's stuck in these two for most of the movie, with the two of them tightly connected. He often swings wildly from bouts of explosive rage to crushing self-loathing and loneliness.
- Acceptance: When he finally decides to change for Belle's sake and improve himself in an effort to be worthy of her love.
- He slides back into depression after releasing Belle, almost to the point of suicide, but perks back up once she returns and even accepts his own death when stabbed by Gaston.
- The Enchantress was actually Joséphine de Beauharnais' ghost: she and Napoleon's ghost had seen that he was becoming a bad person, and, after dream warnings failed to make him correct his actings, decided to give him a lesson and transformed him in a Beast. How? It's Napoleon, he had picked up a few tricks as a ghost. Why? Given what had happened with Napoleon François' mother, both Napoleon and Josephine weren't in the mood to leave anything to chance and went overboard...
The explanation? The prince isn't the Crown Prince, and nobody noticed his mysterious disappearance because he'd been sent away from court (due to his bad temper and behaviour) to live in a castle in the countryside with a small group of servants until his manner improved. His parents were waiting for the servants to send word of a change in his behaviour before they would visit him, and when the curse struck, the servants weren't able to send word, so prince's parents just assumed he was still as bad as ever and didn't bother to check up on him.
- An 1805 date would explain some of the fashion choices, from Gaston's long tight trousers and tall boots, Lefou's waistcoat, high collar, and cravat, the narrow dresses sported by Belle and the other village women, the Bimbettes low necklines and short sleeves. The few who are still wearing breeches are older gentlemen, such as Maurice. The exception is Belle's yellow ball gown, which is loaned to her and has likely been in storage since the 1790s.
- Alternatively, perhaps he was dictating?
Based on Disney's The Sword in the Stone, where Merlin has mobile furniture that can follow orders. Of course Nimue as his girlfriend (in the novel that Disney's Sword and the Stone is adapted from) would have learned the spells to grant furniture mobility from Merlin and have perfected it by turning people into furniture which fixes the bugs (such as Merlin's sugar bowl giving him too much sugar) The enchantress is also a beautiful blonde woman, and Nimue is normally portrayed as blonde. The flaws in this WMG are that granting furniture mobility seems to be a standard trick of magic users in the Disney Animated Canon. The good fairies in Sleeping Beauty as well as the sorcerer (and his apprentice) in the Sorcerer's Apprentice segment of Fantasia show ability in this sort of spell.
- On a related note, the castle is his TARDIS. Notice how it changes dramatically after his transformation, up to and including the weather? This is also how Belle appears in Hunchback- she becomes his companion and gets her 'adventure in the great wide somewhere' after all.
Belle calls the town "poor", yet it's not that badly off as it has a market for fine hats and a books (admittedly, only one quite small shop devoted to each). There are not one, but several people who are not only on the same economic level as Belle but better dressed. Thus, we may assume that her mother was a noble member of V.F.D. in all senses of the word, and encouraged a reputation of harmless eccentricity by marrying an inventor instead of someone on her class level, which also allowed her to teach Belle to read. Thus, Belle was used to a higher standard of living and a more intellectual lifestyle. Due to her parent's marriage, she was also taught that money isn't everything, which easily translates to "looks aren't everything".
Let's assume that Belle's mother died when Belle was young, before she could receive higher-level training, the tattoo on her ankle, or actually knowing her mother (and/or father) was a member of V.F.D. As she is grown and apparently well adjusted, this may explain why she never speaks about her mother.
Maurice may or may not have been an associate himself. His wife's death is the reason they had to move. He may have been provided for by an in-law before falling on really hard times, shortly before the beginning of the film. He may have been told that the area was dangerous and fled from town to town, under the excuse that his inventions weren't catching on and they could no longer afford their old place. He may have simply moved around following the fairs. And if Maurice had been planning to go to Valencia's Fair Day...
As for Maurice never telling Belle about V.F.D. should he be a member of it, he may have wanted his daughter to live a safe, normal life—or he was just hopelessly busy making machines for V.F.D. and couldn't find the time to recruit Belle. His remark on Gaston may have been a test to see if she had her priorities straight and could tell noble people from ignoble people.
Belle was also taught to be a flaneur (or, flaneuse?), as she is very good at observing people. At the beginning of the movie, everyone still acts as if it Belle is the new girl—they know her name, yet aren't completely used to her oddness. But Belle herself is incredibly bored, knowing off the top of her head the entire current inventory of a bookstore which is small but full. The way she walks through town, avoiding a splash of dirty water, skipping through children's jumprope games, and using a wagon to her advantage, is not simple coincidence or luck. She settled into her own routine so quickly that she knows, and has gotten used to, everyone else's schedules as well.
This exchange cements Belle as a precise speaker, as V.F.D. members are known to be:
- Gaston: A rustic hunting lodge, my latest kill roasting on the fire, and my little wife, massaging my feet, while the little ones play with the dogs. We'll have six or seven.
But she also uses more precise language than the bookshop owner himself. He states that she has "read" the book he gives her twice. It may be true that Belle has read it twice... but it doesn't mean that she has only read the book twice. From their dialogue, the book at the beginning of the film was not a book which she had read before, and she had borrowed it from him yesterday. This means that she, like many avid readers, can read a good-sized book in one sitting if particularly absorbed with nothing else to do. From her knowledge of his inventory, it is also implied that the book she returned was the last book she hadn't read in the shop. And from that we may assume that a new shipment of books came shortly after she worked her way through the old inventory (some more than once), which took place within a few months at most. Thus, she asked him if he'd gotten anything new yesterday, because she was about to run out of things to read... again.
Belle never confirms or denies the number of times she has actually read a book. All she says is that she has come to return the book she had "borrowed", not that she has come to return the book she had "read". She may very well borrow a book once or twice, but read it multiple times because she has nothing else to do, and she never corrects the owner because she is too polite and wants to remain on good terms. Also, due to her upbringing, Belle appears to have gotten lonely, but doesn't know how to connect with people who don't read as much as she does—if they even read at all. So in an attempt to look a little more normal, she glosses over her exact level of intelligence to put everyone at ease. So, the only thing we know for sure is that Belle has read the book at least twice.
Note: Belle's idea of downplaying her intelligence is "letting people assume that she only reads a book once when she borrows it". She still reads while she walks, talks about books and borrows them regularly, and helps her father with his inventions. However, this is likely because she acted the way she usually did on her first day in town. By the time Belle realized everyone was freaked out about her constant reading instead of staring at her because she was pretty, it was too late for her to pretend she didn't know how to read at all.
Back to V.F.D.: The bookshop owner may be the only member in town. Judging from his imprecise language and the dearth of V.F.D. members (since the shop is completely empty), he is a bit rusty. He gave Belle that book so quickly, not only because it is an old book which no one except her seems interested in, but because it has a coded message, which is one or both of the following:
- 1) It recruits Belle into V.F.D. As she is obviously smart, having memorized his current inventory, as well as reading the book at least twice, the owner trusted that she would notice anything odd this time around.
2) It informs her of her mother's real occupation. A member of V.F.D. who knew her family paid for it, put in the message, then told the owner to give it to Belle before going back into hiding (or being killed).
Belle never finished the book this time around, because the film happened and she got a library full of other books, which she likely began to read at once due to them being entirely new to her and she assumed there was nothing new about the book the owner gave her. Thus, she never found the message.
Lastly, her name is Belle. If her mother was a noblewoman, she would likely have been exposed to other languages and the common name has a double meaning. "Beautiful" in French, which has a homophone in English for "an object which makes a ringing sound". There is also a bell on the door of the bookshop. And which code taught to members of the V.F.D. uses a bell?
- Going with this, am I the only one who noticed how the bookseller looks like Count Olaf? Hm, hm, hm
Now we move to the Disproportionate Retribution of the enchantress. The cruelty of cursing an entire castle for the rudeness and lack of hospitality of an 11-year-old prince feels almost contrived. Perhaps it was. But by whom? Well, we know that it's set in France in a time when royalty was a thing. If the timeline fits, one is tempted to suspect Merlin. After all, crippling the government of a neighboring country is a good way to ensure that your young king (Arthur) gets to grow into a responsible leader without the country going to hell by being invaded. But doing it himself would most certainly open the door to war anyway, so he would need an accomplice. Because of the Madame Mim fiasco, we know that sorcerous entities in this universe associate with one another. It's possible that he requested the help of a magic user with experience with curses and something to gain. Enter Maleficent, who has a castle of her own, so it stands to reason that she's interested in territory and rulership. She could be the enchantress. But there is a third suspect. The Queen from Snow White. She, like the Beast, has a magic mirror. A magic mirror that lends her the ability to see her competition when it comes to beauty. It's possible that she saw the girl NAMED "Beauty" and decided that she needed in on this plan, if only to exterminate her. Merlin and Maleficent would surely enter her into the pact, what with her mirror's omniscience.
Their plan would have gone off perfectly... if not for one thing. Gaston. Now, in Snow White, we see that the Queen's mirror doesn't like her much. It could be the case that, much like the wizards, the mirrors have a secret society of their own, complete with plans and counterplans. It could be that Beast's mirror and the Queen's mirror arranged for a third mirror to get into the hands of Gaston who, due to the precognitive abilities of the magic mirror, formulated a plan concerning the Beast and Belle. This is supported a bit by his predilection for reflective surfaces, and how comfortably he wields Belle's magic mirror. Now, if he presented himself as any kind of threat to the conspiracy, his ability to subvert it would be negated. So he pretends in front of everyone that he's all brawn and no brains, while simultaneously behaving in a self-centered and off-putting way towards Belle. He knows that if she and the Beast profess their love for one another in time, his country will be restored, and Belle saved from certain magical doom. In that context, everything he does makes much more sense. Angrily stating that Belle has feelings for the Beast? Planting the notion in her mind. Sending the mob? Getting Belle back to the castle before the rose wilts. Stabbing Beast in the back? A Heroic Sacrifice, since Belle wouldn't have professed her love in time unless she thought it was the last thing she'd have to say to the Beast.
Gaston turns out to be the good guy all along, shaping his whole life around a vision granted him by the mirrors. All his villainy, under this theory, is attributed to an omniscience-guided plan that required it. Especially since everything did, indeed, turn out for the best.
- This ... this may be the single greatest fan theory ever. Thank you, whoever wrote this.
- That goes for me too.
- That's great indeed; at the very least the part about him acting stupid still makes sense while standing on its own.
- Disney does own Marvel now. So why not?
- "No-one jumps realities like Gaston!"
The sisters would not have known about the swap. All they would have known is:
- Their heavily pregnant mother went off to give birth and died soon after,
- Their father brings home the child their mother bore,
- (Several years later) Beauty has next to no family resemblance to them.
The obvious conclusion they would come to would be that their mother had been unfaithful and Beauty was their half-sister, fathered by their mothers lover. Hence their disdain for her. Especially annoying to them would be that Beauty was clearly their fathers favourite.
They may not have even come to this conclusion on their own. When the merchant had wealth, he had servants. Servants 1) see everything, 2) gossip. The eldest daughter, since the merchant didnt remarry, would have been in the position of lady of the house. The servants would answer to her (through the hierarchy), allowing her to hear the gossip through the grapevine.