December 24, 1759

This morning I was looking out my bedroom window, seeing some of my servants hard at work as usual. My gardeners, as tiny as ants from that height, were shoveling out paths in the fresh snow. The mountains and the valley looked extra good today. The sky was blue, bright blue, and I could see waves upon waves of snow-capped evergreen trees. Beyond that, I could see the church steeple from the little village off to the distance.

This is all supposed to be mine now. My 'principality' is what Cogsworth calls it. It means when I grow up, I'm supposed to rule it. But I'm ten years old, turning eleven in March. I don't know how to rule places. I just know that my Uncle Maximillien comes here sometimes to check on me, and that's all he does. He just tells me he's doing my job for me and then he leaves.

I cry a lot when my uncle leaves. He looks like Papa, that's why. When I cry like that, I get mad. I get so mad I break things and throw things against the wall. Cogsworth tries to scold me, but I tell him I'm the master of this castle, and I can do whatever I want! He and Mrs. Potts frown at me and try to tell me I'm not going to be a good prince if I act that way. I don't care! I threw a stoneware cup at Cogsworth's head once, and he stopped scolding me after that.

Mrs. Potts is the only person I let touch me. She gives me hugs sometimes, but it's only when I let her, after she's given me a tasty dessert or let me be alone for a while. I like to be alone in my room, looking out the window at the land that is going to be mine.

Friends? I don't have friends. I have servants and they give me what I want. Lumiere takes me on carriage rides, where I get to look over my kingdom and wave at people as we go by. They know I'm important because they cheer for me and bow their heads. I see children my age sometimes. Children who live in little cottages, who don't have servants and nice things like me. When I see them with their mamas and papas, I want to hit them. I hate them.

So I wanted to tell you what day this is. It's Christmas Eve.

Christmas is the holiday that all the servants won't stop babbling about. They talk about it for weeks, decorate the castle and talk on and on about special foods they're going to make for dinner that day. I don't see why they're excited. It's just food. They want to use it as an excuse to make what they want instead of what I like. But they also make more sweets on Christmas, so that's something I like.

Another thing I like about Christmas is the music. Lumiere sings special songs that he only sings in December, and after I hear him sing them, I go to the piano in the Great Hall and try to play the tunes. When I get older, I might be able to be a good piano player. Lumiere said I'm a 'natural.'

And another thing about it is that I get gifts. When I was littler, I wrote a list of things I wanted, and Pere Noel was supposed to bring them to me in the fireplace on Christmas morning. I always got plenty of toys and new clothes. But I know the story of Pere Noel is a lie. Last year, I wrote that I wanted Maman and Papa alive again and sitting by the fireplace on Christmas morning. Mrs. Potts said that couldn't happen. Instead, I got piles and piles of wooden trains, soldiers and horses, sleds, boxes of candy that I ate in one day, and an envelope that Cogsworth said was from King Louis himself. But it was just a piece of paper that was something to do with money. It was nothing I could use, just something stored away until I got older.

Later that Christmas Day, I took my new sled out and went down the big hill on the west side of the castle. I crashed into a tree and it hurt my leg so much. I had to stay in bed and couldn't walk for a week. When I got better, I vowed I would go down that hill without crashing and I finally did! That was a happy day for me. It was in February.

That week, the snow melted and that was the end of sledding for the year.

Now, here we are again with another Christmas Eve. I looked out my window for quite a long time, thinking about everything out there being mine. Mrs. Potts knocked on the door and told me to come down for a snack, so I went downstairs with her. Everything was all decorated and there were candles on the tables and pine boughs on the Grand Staircase. I walked through the hallway, and everyone who was there bowed to me, saying 'Joyeux Noel,' which I thought was silly because they should be saying it the next day, not today.

I walked into the smaller hall which led to my royal dining room. My dining room has one of the big fireplaces in it, so it and the West Wing parlor are the warmest rooms in the wintertime. I saw a rope hanging from the ceiling of smaller hall, and there were clothes drying on it! Servants' clothes - dresses and aprons and all kinds of white skirts and things the women wear under their dresses. Two girls were hanging them up with clothespins.

I got mad. I could boss these girls around easy because they were the younger maids. They were just a few years older than me.

"Get these clothes out of my sight! They're not supposed to be here!" I screamed.

"I'm sorry, Your Grace!" one of the girls apologized. "We will move them upstairs to our quarters! We just thought they'd dry faster where it's warm!" They quickly took the wet clothes down and put them into baskets.

"Hurry up!" I yelled. How dare they hang up their clothes right outside my private dining room! The girls scurried off with the baskets of clothes.

I started eating my snack, which was some dried fruit, cheese, brown bread, a Christmas cookie, and a glass of water. There was no butter or milk.

"Mrs. Potts!" I called out. "Where's my milk and the butter dish?"

She came back in. "Master Adam, love, there has been much snow lately, and Pierre has not been able to go to the farm and fetch milk. And since we are short of milk, we are out of butter and cream until the churning staff can make us more. I'm afraid we used it all making the Christmas biscuits and cookies you asked for. I'm sorry, dear," she said calmly.

"Tell Pierre I said go to the farm anyway!" I yelled back to her.

"But dear, he can be stranded if the wagon gets stuck in the snow on the way down to the village. The royal gardeners are clearing the trail with their shovels as fast as they can. Be patient, love."

"They better hurry! Or else...we should have our own cows here!" I spat out.

"If we had cows in the castle grounds, they would need grass to graze on in the warm months. And that means they could only graze and eat the grass in our lawn and gardens. I'm afraid you would not be happy with livestock in your front lawn, dear," Mrs. Potts said with a little bit of a smile. She thought she was being funny.

"Leave me alone!" I screamed. I was so frustrated. Nothing ever works out for me.

The whole day was nothing but one disappointment after another. I was getting madder and madder at everyone. Finally, after dark, Lumiere suggested that I be allowed to open one present. He and Cogsworth went to the fireplace, where there was an enormous pile of presents for me, and brought back a big gift wrapped with colorful paper and bows.

"This one is from me, Your Grace." said Lumiere. "You may appreciate it more when you're a little older, but it was something I had always liked when I was a boy."

I tore open the paper. It was a book! That was all?

"This is just a BOOK!" I growled. "I can't read well. Reading is hard! You got this for me because you and Cogsworth just want me to do boring schoolwork! I HATE IT!"

I tossed the big book of stories aside and slumped down in my chair. This was one of the worst Christmases ever! How dare they give me something that is no fun!

"Your Grace, it's a wonderful collection of stories about adventure! Kings and knights and warfare! Why, we will read it to you if you think it's difficult!" Cogsworth cried, trying to 'reason' with me.

"GO AWAY! I WANT TO BE ALONE – WAIT- Cogsworth, get me more of that pudding! THEN let me be alone!"

Cogsworth, Mrs. Potts, Lumiere, Madame de la Grande Bouche, and a few maids whose names I keep getting mixed up, bowed to me and left, all of them looking sad.

I sat in my chair by myself. I finally got the servants out of my hair for the evening. All I wanted was to eat my cookies and pudding in that chair, all warm and cozy by the fire, and go to bed soon. I hoped there would be good presents for me in the morning.

Suddenly there was a loud knock at the door. "Cogsworth! Get the door!" I called.

"I'm getting the pudding, Master! I will find someone else..." echoed the majordomo's voice from the kitchen area, far away.

The knocking went on and on until I finally got out of my chair. Wasn't anyone going to get the door?

I walked out of the parlor, down the enormous hallway that was dark and chilly. Above me, all the cherub angels carved in the walls looked down with their white faces, making my hair stand on end. Two more knocks sounded.

I clutched the handle and heaved the heavy door open with all my strength. Maybe it was my uncle visiting, I thought.

It was not my uncle. Just a stranger. An ugly, poor, old woman in a dirty, ripped-up shawl. The frigid air out in the darkness behind her stung my face.

Anger filled my brain and heart, so much anger I was about to explode. I wanted to strangle her! What did she want?

"Pardonnez-moi, young man, I need shelter for the night! I am cold and alone," she started pleading in a quavery old voice. "If you let me stay the night, I shall be so grateful. Please, child! I beg you! I give you this rose for your kindness." She held out a frost-covered red rose out to me.

"I don't want your rose and I don't want you here! OUT OF MY SIGHT!" I screamed at the top of my lungs. I clutched the door handle and started to slam it shut on this annoying, ugly pest.

Rays of brilliant white light blinded me; the flash making me squint and clap my hands over my eyes. When I pulled them away, there was a tall, pretty lady with long blonde hair, pale grey eyes, and a fine green dress. She was dressed like a queen. She looked at me like she knew my whole soul and everything bad I ever did. I was terrified. She had power. Strange power and beauty all at once.

I fell to my knees.

...

"Please, mademoiselle, I didn't mean it!" I cried. I saw something strange in her hand - a wooden stick.

"Young nobleman, you have refused shelter for a poor helpless soul who could have died," she said softly, her voice echoing eerily. "You have no love and compassion for your fellow man, mon enfant. You refuse to see the beauty within others - true beauty found within. So therefore, I proclaim a curse on you and your household of servants. Oui, I have been watching you and the others from time to time, and I see a dreadful, dreadful future for you!"

A curse? A magic curse? Was there really such a thing? "Who are you?" I squeaked through my tears, trembling.

"I am an enchantress. You will be given ten years, two months and a fortnight, until midnight strikes on the day you turn twenty-one. I am giving you the form of a beast, and your household will become but objects, objects with their souls and voices intact. You considered them objects rather than people, and they acted as such, bowing to your childish will."

"I don't understand..."

She put the frosted rose in my hand. It warmed to my touch, and soft, red glowing sparks seemed to flow from it, swirling around its petals.

"Take this enchanted rose. It will be your hourglass of time. Take this mirror as well. It will show you whomever you ask it to, wherever they are." She took an ornate mirror from her silvery-green cape and put it in my other hand.

"Think of someone, a living person, and ask the mirror to bring them into view."

I was still frightened, but now also fascinated. I looked in its glass, seeing my own face; my bright blue eyes, my red-gold hair - the features that everyone liked about me, and that I liked about me, too.

I thought of someone right away. "Show me Uncle Maximillien."

In an instant, the mirror became foggy and then cleared to reveal my uncle in his curled wig. He held a glass of wine in hand, speaking to a group of people, ladies and gentlemen with toasting glasses. They were smiling and laughing. I could hear music. He was at a party - all the way over in Versailles! Seeing him irritated me; he could have taken me there with him! I decided to look at someone else instead.

"Show me Lumiere!" I yelled at it. This was the most fun toy I'd ever been offered. It fogged up, my uncle disappeared, and Lumiere appeared instead. He was upstairs in the servants' sitting room, and he was also laughing, sitting on a sofa between Georgette and Angelique, his arm around each of them.

The Enchantress put a stop to my fun. "That is enough, now! It is not a game or a plaything. You may use it to see the outside world."

She looked down at me with a cold stare. Her eyes were so pale they looked like ice, and her long waves of golden hair whipped around her face from a strange gust of wind.

"I am afraid the time has come for me to place my curse upon you!"

She had an angry tone to her voice. She stretched her arm out and pointed the wooden stick - which I now knew was a magic wand- at me! She was going to hurt or kill me!

"Homme-Bête!" she exclaimed. Her voice echoed in the chilly night.

My body felt so strange. A warmth spread around me. My bones felt like they were turning to jelly, and then they started to stretch and grow! I started to grow. Soon I was as tall as the Enchantress...then taller. I looked at my hands, and in shock I dropped the rose and the mirror, which floated into her hands safely. My hands were covered with reddish-brown fur! I felt a tail growing at my backside. My face was growing; things were growing out of the top of my head, my mouth...what was happening to me?

The Enchantress held the magic mirror to me. A monster looked back.

"NO!" My voice had changed to a deep animal growl. The monster's horrible fanged mouth had just said the word as I said it. It was me.

The creature was me!

"Your beauty is now gone. You are on the outside what you have been on the inside. If you do not find someone to truly love, who will also fall into true love with you- the way you appear now- by the moment the last petal on this rose falls, you will remain...a beast forever."

I growled and screamed. How dare she! I reached my enormous claws out to her, wanting to attack her, to fight back. But with a sweep of her wand, I was thrown back against the door by what felt like a powerful wind.

I watched as this sorceress raised her wand high, pointing to the towers of my castle.

"To the members of this boy's household, I proclaim you all cursed into living objects of all kinds! Objecter!"

Glowing sparks, of all colors, sprayed out from her wand, rising up and wrapping around the entire castle. It was changing too. The walls looked darker.

I looked back for the Enchantress. She was gone.

I rose up on my giant fur-coated feet, kicking away the ripped scraps of the clothes I had worn when I was a boy. I wasn't a boy anymore.

Homme-Bête. Man-Beast.

I wasn't me anymore. I was a thing, a monster, and no one would ever want to come near me ever again.

I tore open the door and ran in, yelling and growling. I hated that enchantress. But now I hated me even more. I wanted to destroy things, and they had better stay away!

I heard people, some of my servants, sobbing and crying, sounding scared. Turning the corner into the parlor where I had been before, I saw a candleabrum on the floor, its candles flickering. When I came closer, I saw that the main candle had a face on it. A humanlike face. It scared me - it looked haunted! I screamed.

It screamed back...in Lumiere's voice.

It started running across the room. I turned around and ran back into the hallway. The great foyer had changed. There were scary creatures where the white angels had been. Everything looked strange and dark. Small objects ran across the carpet, and they were screaming in ladies' voices.

The warmth and comfort of Christmas were gone, and all that was left was a nightmare that I couldn't wake up from.