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If he could learn to love another, and earn her love in return by the time the last petal fell, then the spell would be broken. If not, he would be doomed to remain a beast for all time. As the years passed, he fell into despair and lost all hope. For who could ever learn to love a beast?
~ Opening narration of the Beast.
So, you've come to stare at the Beast, have you?!
~ Beast's rage prior to capturing Maurice.
At least I got to see you... one last time...
~ The Beast after his redemption.
Prince Adam, better known as the The Beast, is one of the main protagonists (alongside Belle) of Disney's 30th full-length animated feature film Beauty and the Beast (which is based on the 1756 French fairytale of the same name by the late Jeanne-Marie Leprince de Beaumont), as well as its direct-to-video sequel and midquel Beauty and the Beast: The Enchanted Christmas and Beauty and the Beast: Belle's Magical World and various comic series. He also appeared in the 2017 live action remake film and theatrical adaptations of the story.
In the story, he is a selfish prince who was known for ruling his kingdom with an iron fist until he was cursed by an enchantress for his behavior, serving as a villainous protagonist until he learned the error of his ways before his heartfelt redemption.
He also appeared in works such as House of Mouse, Mickey's Magical Christmas: Snowed in at the House of Mouse and Mickey's House of Villains as a hero, the Kingdom Hearts franchise as an on and off protagonist/antagonist and in Mickey Mouse (2016) as a minor antagonist.
When the Beast first appeared, he appeared to be very irrational, short-tempered, stubborn and hostile, especially to his own servants. He also found himself in conflict with his hideous exterior, making him an insecure person in nature as he felt ashamed of his actions against the Enchantress and that no one would love him for who he is on the inside, even despising his abusive father for raising him to become an arrogant ruler.
Despite his hostile nature, the Beast appears to have a kind and imaginative side, as he was willing to care for others, especially for Belle and the servants. He is also capable of remorse, as he felt guilty in scaring Belle out of the West Wing and letting her father Maurice go without letting her say goodbye to him. He is also empathetic, as he sympathized with Belle over her treatment as a village outcast and the loss of her mother (who died succumbing to a plague), similar to how his own mother died succumbing to an illness. He is also shown to be courageous, as he brutally fought against a pack of wolves to rescue Belle, even stopping Maestro Forte from crumbling the castle down with his music by destroying his keyboard and defeating Gaston LeGume in combat following Belle's return.
After rescuing Belle from the wolves, he changes himself for the better, becoming a more civilized and calm person in nature. He even let Belle go free so that she can save Maurice from freezing to death, even though he feared he may never see her again and remain a beast forever. Once the curse is finally broken following Gaston's death, the Beast (turned back into the handsome Prince he was) retains his peaceful nature, even reuniting with several of his servants (who too have turned back to normal) with a hug.
Powers and Abilities
Being transformed into his namesake, the Beast was known to have special abilities:
Superhuman Strength: Being capable of superhuman strength, the Beast is able to pick up and carry full-grown men like Maurice and Gaston, even more capable of fighting against a wolf pack in spite of being outnumbered. He is also capable of ramming down or lifting up hard objects with ease, as he managed to destroy the dungeon door and Forte's keyboard to stop Forte from destroying the castle.
Enhanced Speed and Agility: The Beast is able to move faster than ordinary humans as he is capable of climbing and jumping from greater distances. This was shown when he jumped from one floor to the next while confronting Belle for her refusal to come over to dinner and the time when he was able to climb to the balcony following his fight against Gaston.
Enhanced Durability: The Beast is shown to be durable as he is able to withstand attacks such as the wolf attacks, Forte's magic and Gaston's arrows, despite feeling great pain at these times.
Enhanced Healing: The Beast is able to heal faster from minor to moderate injuries as he was able to recuperate from his fight with the wolves within a few days and withstand Forte's magical energy. However, he succumbed to his fatal injuries inflicted by Gaston before the latter died, though the Beast would later be revived after the spell was broken thanks to Belle expressing her love for him.
Enhanced Senses: Due to his senses being enhanced, the Beast was capable of tracking down Belle in the woods when she was in danger by scent and listening in on conversations from several feet away from other people.
Claws and Fangs: The Beast possessed razor-sharp claws and fangs that enabled him to either rip, smash or bite through soft objects (such as thick rugs, curtains, portraits and books).
Stealth: The Beast was shown to be adept at stealth as he was capable of keeping himself hidden without anyone spotting him. This was shown when he witnessed both Belle and Maurice entering his castle without catching their attention, even at the time when he spotted Belle going into the West Wing against his orders, as well as surprising the wolves when coming to rescue Belle, and posing as a gargoyle in order to successfully sneak on Gaston.
Despite being a beloved protagonist, the story is very clear that Beast was the original "villain" of the first half of the tale, with Gaston later taking on that role after Beast's original cruelty, insecurity and desperation to lift the curse gave way to genuine love for Belle and an ability to finally allow her feelings to come before his own. Prior to this change, the Beast was on the path of becoming a monster both inside and out (while Gaston would later prove to be far more monstrous).
As a matter of fact, the Beast served as a literal foil to Gaston as they both are egotistical men who want Belle for selfish reasons (the Beast wants Belle to help him break his curse while Gaston wants her as his trophy wife). However, the Beast proves himself to be capable of change, compassion and courage as he is willing to ensure Belle's happiness and safety (such as saving her from a wolf pack, giving her a library and letting her go to help her father), which allowed him to earn her love to break his curse. Gaston, on the other hand, refuses to change his ways out of his own arrogance and prefers to use dirty tricks to get what he wants, making him worse than the Beast. In fact, Gaston can be seen as representing the sort of person that the Beast would've almost ended up becoming if he had never met the Enchantress and Belle.
In the original tale, the Beast was portrayed with a more compassionate personality, but the filmmakers decided to add in some gruff behavior in order to provide a foil to Gaston (who would seem charming at first, but is actually rotten as the story goes on due to his egotism).
In a deleted scene, it's implied that Beast hunted and ate like a predator after his transformation, as evident by the fact that there's a skeleton of a dead animal seen in the west wing.
The Beast made a cameo as one of the Sultan's toys in Aladdin, which was released a year after Beauty and the Beast.
Laurence Fishburne, Val Kilmer, Mandy Patinkin, and Regis Philbin were all considered for the role of Beast during production of the original film, though the role was finally given to Robby Benson.