Of the fairy tales that filled up my childhood, Beauty and the Beast was the one I enjoyed the most. In part, it was because it somehow reminded me of the Hunchback of Notre-Dame. In part, it was because, unlike the other stories where the princess waited passively to be rescued by some prince charming, Belle was the one who rescued the Beast. She rescued him from a miserable life of loneliness and despair, and brought out the most beautiful aspect of his spirit.
While it was difficult—for a child in the developing world—to picture a princess's life, I could easily see Belle in the micro-entrepreneur who is up at dawn every morning to fight another war for survival for herself and her children. I could see her in the peasant who has to walk 3 miles to the village springs to fetch water for her household. I could see her in the engineer who has to manage the impossible task of balancing work and family. I could see her in every woman who, without knowing it, is the pillar of strength that supports the dreams and aspirations that are constantly threatened by a present filled with uncertainty.
Beauty and the Beast spoke to me the most of what a woman should be: beautiful, compassionate, strong, and intelligent. Qualities that all women—regardless of their race, color, background—have in common.