At a friend's house, Beth saw the video tape of Disney's Beauty and the Beast. She liked the movie so much, that she got the book from the school library to read.
That evening, after dinner, Beth read the story. It puzzled her that it was so different from the film. She went to ask her mother why that was.
"In the movie, the father gets caught by the Beast because he is trespassing and Beauty trades places with him because he is old," said Beth to her mother. "But in the story, the Beast catches the father picking a rose and makes him promise to bring back the first thing he sees when he gets home. It's really pretty different, but they say it's the same story. Why is that?"
"Stories often change when people retell them," said Beth's mother. "That is why in our house we rely on the Bible. In the Bible we can find the original, unchanging stories as they were meant to be told."
"Is the story of Beauty and the Beast in the Bible, Mother,?" Beth asked.
"The story that became Beauty and the Beast is there," she answered. "Here, let me tell it to you."
And this is the story she told:
One day Jephthah promised God that, in return for help in killing a lot of people, he would set on fire whatever came to greet him when he got home. when Jephthah got to his house in Mizpeh, the only person to come out and greet him was his daughter. She was dancing and banging a tambourine, but that didn't make Jephthah happy -- she was his only daughter and he was going to have to set her on fire.
Jephthah was so upset that he tore his clothes and said, "Oh no daughter! You made me feel down, you caused me big problems. See, I opened my big mouth and can't take my promise back."
Jephthah's daughter said, "That's okay, Dad. If you made a promise to God then you'd better keep it. God kept his part of the bargain, so you should keep yours.
"But before you set me on fire," she continued, "let me walk around the mountains with some friends for a couple months and cry because I'm going to die without anyone having put a penis in me."
"Okay," said Jephthah, and he sent her on her way.
Two months later, Jephthah's daughter came back and he set her on fire. That is why in Israel it is a tradition to this day for girls to spend four days being depressed that Jephthah's daughter had to be set on fire without having a penis put in her first.
Beth thought about this for a moment. "That isn't a very happy ending," said Beth, depressed at the thought of the little girl being set on fire by her father.
"The truth is often unhappy, Dear One," said Beth's mother.
Beth couldn't quite work up a smile, but she dutifully hugged her mother. All her questions had been answered.
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