Beauty and the Beast is a timeless story. It’s a classic example of how we should never judge a book by its cover. This fairytale also has its roots in real-life.
Petrus Gonsalvus was born in the Canary Islands in 1537. He entered the world with a condition called hypertrichosis. Also known as werewolf syndrome, hypertrichosis is extremely rare. Petrus was the first recorded case in history. Since then, fewer than 100 people have been born with the condition, which is identified by an excess of facial and body hair.
In Petrus’s time, difference was not celebrated. It was scorned and treated as something to gawk at. At the age of ten, he was confined to a cage and shipped off to France as a gift to King Henry II.
Petrus was treated like a freak and condemned to live in a dungeon. People came to marvel at him and regarded him as a beast. Doctors studying Petrus thought otherwise. They explained to King Henry he was actually a real boy with real feelings.
The King took pity on Petrus and decided to grant him an education. Even so, the King was skeptical it would work.
Petrus took great delight in proving the King wrong. He became fluent in various languages, including Latin. He also became well-versed in the manners and conduct of the high-born.
His charisma and learned ways found favor with the royal court. Although they treated him as a novelty, he earned their respect. Petrus began to live the good life.
When Henry II died, his wife Catherine stepped into his shoes. She made it her personal mission to find Petrus a wife. Catherine was rumored to be a cruel Queen. Some say she thought the idea of Petrus finding a wife was hilarious. She was also curious to see what the offspring of such a union would be.
A maiden, also called Catherine, was finally selected for the role. The marriage was expected to be a sham. It wasn’t. Petrus and his wife enjoyed 40 happy years together. They also had seven children.
Even in death, Petrus’s physical differences continued to be a burden. Some of his children also suffered from hypertrichosis and were treated poorly by society. He was also denied last rites because the church considered him a beast and not a man.
It’s safe to say the hands of time have revealed who the real monsters are.
Thanks to the Beauty and the Beast fairytale Petrus’s legacy is a lasting one. It’s a story which millions of children continue to learn and love worldwide. Its message is simple yet powerful. If you judge people by their appearance alone, it makes you the ugly one.