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Disney fans have tried for years to link the company’s animated films together into one big multiverse, and some of them are now discovering (or rediscovering) a possible link between two of its biggest movies.
In the beginning of Beauty in the Beast, we meet Belle, a bookworm who doesn’t quite fit in with the rest of her small village in France. She dreams big, wanting more than the provincial life that everyone else has settled into. Her nose is always stuck in a book, and the townsfolk take her mannerisms for weirdness. It’s this last character trait we see firsthand when Belle heads to the local bookshop to return the latest book she’s finished (believed to be Jack and the Beanstalk, based on her description to the baker).
With nothing new to read, Belle selects an old favorite, a book the bookshop owner notes she’s already read twice—and one that he eventually just gives to her.
“Well, it’s my favorite!” Belle replied. “Far-off places, daring swordfights, magic spells, a prince in disguise!”
Later on, as Belle sits by the fountain, she reveals her favorite part of the story to a group of sheep more interested in taking a bite out of the book.
“Isn’t this amazing?
It’s my favorite part
Because you’ll see
Here’s where she meets
But she won’t discover that it’s him
Till chapter three”
Belle never names her favorite book, but the fan theory, which recently resurfaced on Tumblr, posits that she’s talking about the story of Aladdin. That movie was released on Nov. 25, 1992—a year after Beauty and the Beast—but it could easily have been an early example of the Easter eggs for which Pixar is famous.
Aladdin takes place in Agrabah and features a climactic swordfight, a genie who can perform magic by granting wishes, and Aladdin himself as the prince in disguise. And per Belle’s later revelation, Princess Jasmine doesn’t learn that Prince Ali is Aladdin until later in the story.
The Tumblr post that first posited this theory appeared online in 2012, and Entertainment Weekly and Moviepilot covered it in 2013 and 2014, respectively, before it once again started to spread across the Internet. The more people read it, the more people become convinced that Belle is reading Aladdin.
Or is she?
The biggest hint as to what Belle is reading comes during that second scene with those sheep. Sure, Belle sings about Prince Charming, but we also catch a glimpse of the book itself. On the left page, there is an illustration of a woman with brown hair and a blue outfit crouching down, a blond-haired prince apparently on all fours near her, and a white castle in the background. The caption reads “Le Prince Charmant,” which is French for “The Charming Prince.”
That’s definitely not Agrabah. And contrary to what we see on that page, Aladdin pretends to be a prince in disguise with Jasmine after the genie turns him into one, but first he was a street rat.
Fans (and fellow bookworms) have been trying to figure out Belle’s favorite book for years now, and even within the Disney universe there isn’t a movie that perfectly fits the bill. But there are a few, like Aladdin, that come close.
Although it’s believed that Sleeping Beauty also takes place in France, it’s a matter of perspective for Belle. She’s from a small village and appears to have never left it before going to the Beast’s castle; thus, we can assume that a place like Paris would seem like a faraway land to her.
Aurora doesn’t know Prince Phillip’s identity, it features magic from the fairies and Maleficent, and hosts a daring sword fight when Phillip fights the dragon. The characters in Belle’s book have different hair colors than Aurora and Phillip, but you could easily explain that with some magic from the fairies. Multiple interactions with different Belles at Disney parks (and the Enchanted Tales with Belle theme-park attraction) seem to indicate this.
Belle’s book could simply be foreshadowing of her story to come. She meets a prince in disguise (Adam as the Beast), she encounters the curse on him and his servants, and his castle is further away from home than she’s ever been (especially once she takes her father’s place as the Beast’s prisoner). There isn’t a sword fight, but Gaston does use a dagger to stab the Beast at one point.
If we move beyond Disney films, The Princess Bride fits the bill—albeit with the need for some wiggle room. That book came out well after the time period of Beauty and the Beast, but Wesley is in disguise for part of the book (although he’s not a prince), the story takes place in a far-off place, and it features a sword fight—between Rugen and Inigo Montoya—and magic from Miracle Max.
Of course, if you ask Belle at a Disney theme park, she’ll probably give you a different answer.
But we do know of at least one other story that Belle loves. In “Human Again,” a song cut from the original film but added for the re-release, Belle is shown reading the end of Romeo and Juliet to the Beast. After she finishes it, he asks her to read it to him again. Now that we think about it, that could fit the bill for Belle’s book, too.
Whatever it is, Belle’s favorite book is clearly a universal story—and just like we did in 1991, we want to read it.
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Michelle Jaworski is a staff writer and the resident Game of Thrones expert at the Daily Dot. She covers entertainment, geek culture, and pop culture and has brought her knowledge to conventions like Con of Thrones. She is based in New Jersey.