I wrote an authors note at the end of How Beauty Loved the Beast regarding my own confused debate on how to end Hauk and Jolie’s story. Several people have commented on it, so I thought readers might like to see an expanded version of my thought process. Before I start, though, I want to stress that I’m not here to tell people how they should feel about the ending. That’s each reader’s prerogative, and I’m not writing a defense. What I’m hoping to do is give anyone interested some “behind the scenes” intel on one of the hardest things I’ve ever written and the struggle I had to get it on paper.
But first, here is your LAST CHANCE to back out before we get into hugely major spoilers. Like HUGE. END OF STORY SURPRISES HUGE.
If you haven’t read the third book, BACK OUT NOW (go read it, of course! And then come back).
No, seriously. Don’t read this if you haven’t read the book.
You have been warned! (Multiple times.)
One of the personal issues I’ve always had with Beauty and the Beast is that I’m so enamored with the “beast” at the end of the tale that I don’t like the prince he turns into. But then I get an image in my head of Beauty naked in bed with the fuzzy-fanged-animal-thing and suddenly I’m totally okay with him being a person because…ew. (Am I the only one who does that? You also gotta wonder if his body looks like a lion, if his man-parts…uh…I’ll stop there.) This is one of the initial reasons why I wrote a Beauty and the Beast story with a scarred instead of fuzzy hero. I can hop in bed with scars. A mane? Not so much.
When I first started writing this series, I had it in my head that I would buck the fairy tale on the final plot point and Hauk would keep his scars, as would happen in real life. I struggled with this a little because I actually tried to stick with the major story points as I saw them:
- Nice girl comes from a wealth obsessed family
- Due to the actions of her father, she meets the beast and is drawn into his world
- Though at first fearful of the beast, she integrates herself into his magical reality and gains respect and affection for him
- She tries to rejoin her old life, but when the beast is threatened and nearly dies, she realizes she loves him
- When she agrees to be his bride, he is returned to his original form for the grand HEA
The fact that Beast goes back to his old self as a reward for finding and giving love has always struck me as sort of invalidating the moral of “looks don’t matter.” But the more I mulled over the story through writing, the more I realized I don’t think that’s actually the point. Looks will always matter–to everyone else. Unjust as it is, in beast form the hero will always be punished by the world at large for the way he looks. Children will fear him. Taverns will refuse to serve him. Many people will assume the worst without meeting him. Beauty and the Beast teaches the moral that will will be rewarded for looking beyond another’s facade to the heart within. The story in no way claims, though, that the world at large will ever learn this lesson. That is why in the fairy tale Beast is given his old form back. Not because he or Beauty need it by the end of the tale, but because everybody else still does.
Another thing I realized as I wrote is that making peace with something and ceasing to care about it are not the same thing. Recently I’ve had this reaffirmed in a major way. As I write these words, my husband and I are preparing to pack our children to return to their biological mother as soon as the school year ends. The situation is completely different, but I have found myself in a similar emotional space. I will eventually make peace with this and one day be happy again. But for the rest of my life if asked the question, “Would you take the girls back?” I would say yes without hesitation. I will always want them back. I can make peace with the situation and simultaneously wish that I could have my family. I cannot imagine anyone in Hauk’s place not feeling the same sense of resigned peace. You are never happy with traumatic injury or loss. You are happy in spite of it. Strange as it may sound, part of me felt like I was cheating Hauk if I changed the ending on him.
As I said in the author’s note, this isn’t an option for real soldiers coming home from war, and I have so much respect for these survivors. And so, despite the things I said above I still debated. And then…a very writerly thing happened: I came up with the ring. As I was writing these stories, I knew I wanted to expand on the Underlight with more tales and more leading ladies and gentlemen. I have more Underlight in my brain. And a magical ring that…doesn’t do exactly what Hauk and Jolie think it does…is a very useful thing.
And so in the end what made the decision for me is that ring, which has not made its final appearance. And for those who miss Hauk with his scars and effusive tats, don’t worry too much about it. While I don’t plan to “take back” the ending, there’s a good chance we’ll see him again anyway…