|REEL FACE:||REAL FACE:|
Born: October 10, 1982
Croydon, Surrey, England, UK
Birthplace: Tenerife, Canary Islands, Spain
Death: abt. 1618, Capodimonte, Italy
Born: April 15, 1990
Death: 1623, Capodimonte, Italy
No. The real Beauty and the Beast story didn't involve a magical spell placed on a prince for his arrogance. Unfortunately, that also means no talking clock, teacup, candelabra, etc., as you might have guessed. The real "Beast" was a man named Petrus Gonsalvus, who suffered from a genetic condition known as hypertrichosis (also known as Ambras syndrome), which is defined by an abnormal amount of hair growth on any part of the body in excess of the regular amount present in people of the same race, age and gender. In Gonsalvus' case, it affected his entire body. It has also been referred to informally as werewolf syndrome because the appearance is akin to the mythical werewolf. Excessive hair growth is the only known effect of the condition. No, it did not cause Gonsalvus to have an oversized body with huge muscles like the Beast in the Disney movies.
No, but he does have connections to French royalty. Petrus Gonsalvus was born in 1537 on the Canary Island of Tenerife, the largest of Spain's seven Canary Islands off the coast of West Africa. At a young age, Gonsalvus was treated as an uncivilized curiosity. The hairy "wild man" was captured and put into an iron cage. For food, he was given raw meat and animal feed. He was shipped to King Henry II of France as a gift for the king's coronation in 1547.
Fortunately, King Henry II did not see Gonsalvus as a freak that should be kept in a cage. The king recognized Gonsalvus' calm demeanor and decided to try an experiment. He would attempt to educate and transform him into a gentleman. The king allowed him to keep his birth name, Pedro González, but only if he used its Latin form, Petrus Gonsalvus. The boy was given clothes and cooked meals. He was taught to speak, read, and write in not just one, but three languages, receiving the education of a nobleman. The royal court was impressed and his social status rose. Yet, most still viewed him as less than human.
The real Beauty and the Beast met after Gonsalvus' mentor and protector, King Henry II, was killed in a jousting match on July 10, 1559. Gonsalvus became the property of the king's widow, Catherine de Medici, who became ruler and decided to conduct her own experiment with Gonsalvus. She wondered what would happen if her "beast" married a beautiful woman. Would they conceive little beasts? She found a wife for Gonsalvus, a young maiden also named Catherine, who was the daughter of a royal court servant.
Petrus Gonsalvus met his wife Catherine for the first time on their wedding day. The pair had seven children, with four of the seven suffering from their father's condition, hypertrichosis. This delighted the king's widow, who had succeeded in creating a "wild family."
The real Beauty and the Beast and their children toured European countries and cities, eventually settling in Parma, Italy where they were employed (owned) by Duke Ranuccio Farnese. The duke commissioned several paintings of the family, but none featured the three unaffected children, as they were not considered curiosities. Unfortunately, the four of their seven children afflicted with their father's condition were exploited by the duke and sent away as gifts, becoming pets of the upper class (to own such an "oddity" was a sign of one's noble status).
In researching the Beauty and the Beast true story, we learned that only about fifty people in the world are currently known to have the genetic condition. Though hypertrichosis is commonly called Ambras Syndrome, the two are indeed separate conditions. As stated earlier, hypertrichosis can visibly affect people in two ways. General hypertrichosis means excessive hair grows all over the body, while localized hypertrichosis means only certain parts of the body are affected by abnormal hair growth. Watch a short video segment about a modern-day family afflicted with hypertrichosis.
Dig deeper into the Beauty and the Beast true story by watching a short documentary segment on hypertrichosis, the genetic condition that affected the real "Beast," Petrus Gonsalvus. Then watch a video that presents a comparison of Beauty and the Beast to the original story.