I came to the conclusion ultimately that based on the avalanche of evidence that points so powerfully toward the truth of Christianity, it would have taken more faith for me to maintain my atheism than to become a Christian. -Lee Strobel, Behind the Scenes of The Case for Christ
Questioning the Story:
How did Lee Strobel get his start as a journalist?
In exploring The Case for Christ true story, we learned that years before Lee Strobel began working at the Chicago Tribune and the Daily Herald, the Arlington Heights, Illinois native edited and published his own four-page newspaper, the Arlington Bulletin, when he was just 13. The paper was delivered to 73 customers in the Stonegate subdivision where his family lived. It covered topics like bicycle news, state politics, local sports and weekly police reports. After high school, Strobel graduated from the University of Missouri with a journalism degree and then from Yale Law School with a Master of Studies in Law degree. -DailyHerald.com
Actor Mike Vogel and the real Lee Strobel on the set of The Case for Christ in 2016.
Did Lee Strobel really have an explosive encounter with his father on the eve of his high school graduation?
Yes. Like in the movie, Walter Strobel told his rebellious son, “I don’t have enough love for you to fill my little finger.” The real Lee Strobel and his wife Leslie were on The Case for Christ movie set the day the scene was shot. Robert Forster, who portrays Lee’s father in the movie, came over after and put his hand on Lee’s shoulder. “I’m sorry,” he said, understanding how tough it must have been for Lee to see that moment reenacted. -DailyHerald.com
When did Lee meet Leslie and when were they married?
In fact-checking The Case for Christ movie, we learned that Lee and Leslie met when they were 14 and married in 1972, after Lee’s sophomore year in college. -The Case for Christ Facebook Page
Left: Leslie and Lee Strobel on their wedding day in 1972. Right: Their onscreen counterparts, played by actors Erika Christensen and Mike Vogel, share a smile together in the movie.
Did Lee Strobel really have an alcohol problem before he became a Christian?
Yes, he drank in excess regularly. In a Lee Strobel interview, he says that as an atheist, he had concluded that the best way to live his life was as a hedonist. “Just pursue pleasure, this is all you get in this world. So, that was my number one goal in life,” says Strobel, “to bring maximum pleasure into my life. And so I lived a very immoral, and drunken, and profane, and narcissistic, really self-destructive kind of a life. That was my life.”
Is the Strobels’ neighbor in the movie, Alfie, based on a real person?
Yes. However, The Case for Christ true story reveals that the neighbor’s name was Linda, not Alfie. Lee’s wife Leslie met Linda after they moved into a condo outside of Chicago. Leslie and Linda became best friends and it was very natural for Linda to talk to Leslie about Jesus, since He was such a big part of Linda’s life.
Actress L. Scott Caldwell (left) plays the neighbor, Alfie, in the movie. In real life, the Strobel’s neighbor’s name was Linda.
What made Lee Strobel want to disprove Christ?
Lee Strobel had always been a self-proclaimed atheist. “The mere concept of an all-knowing, all-powerful, all-loving creator was absurd on the surface of it,” Lee said. At one point, a neighbor named Linda (renamed Alfie in the movie) kept inviting Lee’s wife Leslie to go to her church with her. In order to get the neighbor off her back, Leslie agreed to go. After attending Willow Creek Church, which then met at a movie theater, Leslie felt the experience had left an impression on her and she wanted to go back. “That experience with drama and contemporary music, when you were used to organ music, was so vastly different from anything I had experienced,” she recalled. “It really marked me and made me want to go back.”
Lee was having a hard time fathoming his wife’s new interest. “I didn’t want to be married to a Christian,” he said. “I didn’t sign up for this.” He knew what he had to do. He’d go to church with her and make her see the reality of the “cult” that was sucking her in. On the mend from a hangover, Lee tagged along with his wife one Sunday morning. Following the sermon on “Basic Christianity,” Lee felt inspired to use his journalistic skills to disprove it. That journey would take a year and nine months, with Lee eventually writing down the pros and cons of Christianity on a yellow legal pad. Like in the movie, it was during that time that his marriage to Leslie teetered on divorce. -DailyHerald.com
Left: Leslie and Lee Strobel in 1972, the year they were married. Right: Actors Erika Christensen and Mike Vogel share an embrace as the couple in the movie.
Did Lee really have a violent temper before he found God?
Yes. At times he did. In the movie, we see Lee (Mike Vogel) drinking and break a vase during an argument with his wife Leslie (Erika Christensen). The real Lee Strobel also once kicked a hole in the living room wall during an argument with his wife, a moment that his young daughter Alison witnessed. In a Lee Strobel interview, he says the ugliest detail about him is that he came home drunk and angry so often that his daughter would immediately gather her toys and go to her room when he walked in the door after work.
He said that he harbored a lot of anger and rage, but didn’t know why. He later figured out that it was because he was always after maximum pleasure but nothing lived up to the hype, and he always felt let down.
The real Lee Strobel (left) in the years prior to the movie’s release and actor Mike Vogel (right) depicting Strobel in the early 1980s in the movie.
How did Lee Strobel go about disproving Christianity?
Similar to what is seen in The Case for Christ movie, the true story reveals that Strobel interviewed 13 well-respected authorities for historical evidence on the existence of Jesus. He explored questions like, can evidence for Jesus be found outside the Bible? Are there any grounds to believe the resurrection actually took place? How much trust should we put in what is stated in the New Testament? -The Case for Christ book
What did Lee Strobel discover in his attempt to debunk Christianity?
“I became personally convinced that based on the historical evidence of the Resurrection, that this is actually true,” Strobel said. -DailyHerald.com
Did he really leave journalism to go and work for the church?
Yes. After becoming an award-winning investigative journalist who was promoted to legal editor at the Chicago Tribune, Lee left journalism in 1987, taking a 60 percent pay cut to work as a teaching pastor at Willow Creek Community Church in South Barrington, Illinois. He eventually became the host of the PAX TV program Faith Under Fire, in addition to writing numerous faith-based books and appearing as an inspirational speaker. His most notable book is his bestselling autobiography The Case for Christ, which chronicles his transformation from an atheist into a believer and provides the basis for the movie. -DailyHerald.com
Top: The Chicago Tribune newsroom in 1980. Bottom: The newsroom is recreated for The Case for Christ movie.
Did Lee Strobel ever make amends with his father in real life?
No. However, he did attempt to make peace at his father’s funeral. He stood over his dad’s casket after he requested that the parlor be cleared. “I managed to whisper the words I desperately wished I had spoken so many years earlier: I’m sorry, Dad.” Lee apologized for the ways he had disrespected his father, lied to him, and rebelled against him through the years. He expressed sorrow for being ungrateful and for the bitterness he had let possess his heart. There was no way his father could reply, but years later, after finding Christ, he believes that his father heard his words. -DailyHerald.com
Does Lee Strobel think the movie is accurate?
“I’d say 80, 85 percent of the film comes right out of our lives,” says Lee. “In fact, there are some scenes that we get emotional about because this is ripped from our lives. This is like a transcript.” He cites the scene where his character freaks out when his wife tells him that she became a Christian and also the scene in the car when he tells her he can’t remain married to a believer. Lee does acknowledge that the film had to be condensed in certain areas since the real investigation took a year and nine months. He also says that certain characters were composites. –Pure Talk Lee and Leslie Strobel Interview
Actress Erika Christensen and her real-life counterpart Leslie Strobel stand next to her husband Lee Strobel and his onscreen counterpart Mike Vogel.
Does the real Lee Strobel appear in the movie?
Yes. In fact-checking The Case for Christ movie, we discovered that Lee Strobel appears as an extra in a scene in the newsroom of the paper.
Lee Strobel Interviews & Related Videos
Learn more about The Case for Christ true story by watching a Lee Strobel speech where he retells his story. Then watch a Lee and Leslie Strobel interview and a behind-the-scenes look at the movie.
Source: Movies – The Case for Christ: History vs. Hollywood
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I can’t breathe. I feel like I’m drowning in a gray sea, like they’re flooding the whole city, washing away our past and people, dashing everything from the face of the earth. -Antonina Zabinski, The Zookeeper’s Wife: A War Story
Questioning the Story:
What were Jan and Antonina Zabinski’s exact roles at the Warsaw Zoo?
Prior to and during WWII, Antonina’s husband Jan was the director and organizer of the Warsaw Zoo, one of the largest zoos in Europe at the time. He was a zoologist and zootechnician by trade, in addition to being a scientist and an author of books about biology and animal psychology. During the occupation of Poland he also held the title of superintendent of the city’s public parks from 1939-1945. His job with the parks gave him the opportunity to enter the Warsaw Ghetto to inspect the flora there, while at the same time connecting with prewar Jewish friends and colleagues to help them escape.
The Zookeeper’s Wife true story reveals that Antonina Zabinski was a teacher and respected author who published children’s books about animals. She also had an affinity for the piano and painting. She assisted with the day-to-day operations at the zoo, including caring for the animals. During the occupation, she and their young son Ryszard fed and cared for the fleeing Jews who they had given shelter to at the zoo. Author Diane Ackerman drew in part from Antonina’s diary for her book on which the movie is based.
The real Antonina Zabinski (left) and husband Jan Zabinski (right) displaying their love for animals.
Can I read Antonina Zabinski’s diary?
Author Diane Ackerman based her book largely on Antonina Zabinski’s diary (memoir), which Ackerman discovered during her initial research. Antonina’s memoir was published in 1968 under the title Ludzie i zwierzęta (People and Animals). At times, it’s hard to tell which quotes in The Zookeeper’s Wife book are copied verbatim from the diary and which are conversations that Ackerman has re-imagined. Should an English version of Antonina’s diary become available, we’ll place a link to it here.
Were Antonina and Jan Zabinski atheists?
Jan was but his wife was not. The real Zookeeper’s Wife, Antonina (born Antonina Erdman), was a Russian-born Pole who lost her parents in the early days of the Russian Revolution at the hands of the Bolsheviks. She was raised a strict Catholic and both of her children (Ryszard and Teresa) were baptized. She always wore a religious medallion around her neck and it is believed that she prayed.
Her husband Jan was a bit of an anomaly, a Polish Catholic raised in a working-class Jewish neighborhood with a devoutly Catholic mother and a father who brought him up as a firm atheist. Taking after his father, Jan frowned upon religion. Together, Antonina and Jan leaned more toward a Bohemian lifestyle, often surrounding themselves with artists and intellectuals. -WashingtonPost.com
Was Antonina and Jan’s home filled with animals?
Yes. A rotating variety of animals could often be found in the Zabinski home, including a wolf cub, a chimpanzee, a lion kitten, a kissing rabbit named Wicek, and a muskrat. Of course, they also had more conventional animals too, including their “sluttish” cat Balbina. -WashingtonPost.com
The real Zookeeper’s Wife, Antonina Zabinski (top), cuddles two large cats. Actress Jessica Chastain (bottom) imitates Zabinski’s love for animals in the movie.
Was the damage to the Warsaw Zoo as bad as what’s seen in the movie?
Yes. In researching The Zookeeper’s Wife true story, we learned that the Nazis’ September 1939 invasion of Poland and bombing of Warsaw left much of the zoo destroyed. In her book, Diane Ackerman describes the damage to the zoo in grave detail, stating, “The sky broke open and whistling fire hurtled down, cages exploded, moats rained upward, iron bars squealed. . . . Wounded zebras ran, ribboned with blood, terrified howler monkeys and orangutans dashed caterwauling into the trees and bushes, snakes slithered loose, and crocodiles pushed onto their toes and trotted at speed.” She goes on to describe the shocking sight of two giraffes laying dead on the ground with their legs twisted, and the sound of birds and monkeys screeching in a chorus of madness. Surviving animals fled from burning cages and some were burned to death. One reason that the zoo was targeted was due to a Polish anti-aircraft battery being located nearby.
Was Jan Zabinski really a member of the Polish resistance?
Yes, Jan was a member of the resistance from the beginning. He acted as a biology teacher at an underground university. He used the zoo as a weapons depot and smuggled food into the Warsaw Ghetto and people out. After the war, Antonina learned that her husband Jan, a lieutenant in the resistance, was more deeply involved than she had realized, finding out that he was also sabotaging trains, building bombs, and poisoning the pork that was being sent to the German soldiers. For another engaging look at resistance fighters in WWII, check out our research into the movie Anthropoid. -WashingtonPost.com
The real Jan Zabinski (left) was a member of the Polish resistance. Johan Heldenbergh (right) portrays Zabinski in The Zookeeper’s Wife movie.
Is Daniel Brühl’s character, Lutz Heck, based on a real person?
Yes. The real Lutz Heck was the renowned director of the Berlin Zoo and a prewar colleague of Jan Zabinski. Supported by leading Nazi member Hermann Göring, Heck set out to eliminate animals the Nazis deemed racially degenerate, much like the Nazis’ plan for humans. His ultimate goal was to use selective breeding to resurrect extinct purebred animals. Through this “breeding back,” Heck created breeds of horse and cattle, which were later termed “Heck horse” and “Heck cattle.” Though Heck believed these horse and cattle were nearly identical in phenotype to certain extinct species, today they are not seen as a successful resurrection. -WashingtonPost.com
Did they really hide their “guests” in the zoo’s animal cages?
Yes. The Nazi bombing of Warsaw in September 1939 left the zoo severely damaged and many of its cages emptied of animals. The Zookeeper’s Wife true story confirms that the Zabinskis used the cages to hide fleeing Jews and partisans. They also hid them in the underground pathways connecting the animal cages. Jan and Antonina even welcomed close to a dozen Jews into their two-story home on the zoo’s grounds, hiding them in rooms and closets. Regardless of the ever-present danger they were placing themselves in, Antonina was insistent on keeping a festive, music-filled atmosphere throughout their Bauhaus-style villa. It was a much needed distraction from the ongoing threat of the Nazis learning their secret, which would invariably lead to torture and death, not just for them but for their young son Ryszard as well. -WashingtonPost.com
Top: The real Villa that the Zabinskis called home on the grounds of the Warsaw Zoo. Bottom: The villa as depicted in The Zookeeper’s Wife movie.
Did German Lutz Heck really have a crush on Antonina?
Yes. In The Zookeeper’s Wife movie, Nazi Lutz Heck (Daniel Brühl) protects the couple in part because he has a crush on Antonina (Jessica Chastain). In real life, Heck, a fellow zoologist, had been a former colleague of Antonina’s husband Jan. They had regularly seen Heck at annual meetings of the International Association of Zoo Directors. In The Zookeeper’s Wife book, Diane Ackerman writes that the men at the meetings were impressed by Antonina’s “smarts and willowy looks,” including Heck who was “sweet on Antonina.” She goes on to say that Antonina wondered if Heck wanted to help them so that she would see him as her medieval knight coming to protect her, a romantic gesture to “win her heart and prove his nobility.” Antonina had heard from a mutual friend that she had reminded Heck of the first woman he truly loved.
Did Nazi Lutz Heck and his SS friends really kill animals at the Warsaw Zoo for fun?
Yes. According to Diane Ackerman’s book, Lutz Heck first promised the Zabinskis he would protect what little remained of the Warsaw Zoo. However, in a moment of drunken revelry on New Year’s Eve, he and his SS buddies murdered some of the animals for sport. In fathoming how Heck, a zookeeper himself, could kill these animals, it is believed that he did so in order to impress and win favor with the higher ranking Nazis. In her diary, Antonina commented, “How many humans will die like this in the coming months?” Other animals, including one of the Warsaw Zoo’s main attractions, Tuzinka the elephant, were taken to German zoos, with the best and rarest animals taken for breeding purposes, including for Heck’s plan to “resurrect” extinct purebred species. -WashingtonPost.com
Like in the movie, the real Lutz Heck (left) shot animals at the zoo in order to impress his SS friends. Daniel Brühl (right) portrays Heck in the film.
Did Antonina’s husband turn the zoo into a pig farm in order to keep it running and maintain it as an integral part of the resistance?
Yes. With many of the Warsaw Zoo’s animals gone, either having been killed, moved to German zoos, or escaped during the Nazi bombing of Warsaw, Jan decided to turn the zoo into a pig farm to keep it running and maintain it as a valuable part of the resistance. He smuggled pig meat into the Warsaw Ghetto, something the Jews had allowed themselves to eat due to the Nazi starvation policy of 187 calories per day. -The Zookeeper’s Wife book
How many people did Antonina and Jan Zabinski help?
They managed to help approximately 300 men, women and children, both partisans and Jews. Most were seeking refuge as they attempted to flee Nazi-occupied Warsaw and the German-Soviet occupation of Poland. Like in The Zookeeper’s Wife movie, Jan personally smuggled some of them out of the Warsaw Ghetto himself and over to the Aryan side. He would provide them with papers, find accommodations for them, and if necessary, hide them on the grounds of the zoo or in his own personal villa with his family. To smuggle them into the zoo, he would hide them in barrels and cover them in garbage intended for the pigs.
His wife Antonina would help to protect them. In one instance, she attempted to dye a family’s hair blond in order to hide their black hair that could reveal they were Jewish. However, their hair turned out brassy red, which led the family, the Kenigsweins, to be given the code name “Squirrels.” -JTA.com
Did Antonina really communicate with her Jewish guests at the zoo using music?
Yes. Antonina used musical code to communicate with her Jewish guests. She played “Go, Go to Crete!” to indicate that danger was close and to remain quiet, and another tune to let them know that the danger was gone. -JTA.org
The real Antonina Zabinski (left) used music to convey to her guests that danger was near.
Did Antonina assign animal code names to her “guests” at the zoo?
Yes, in order to hide their Jewish names, Antonina gave her guests animal names. For example, the Zabinskis’ friend and sculptor Magdalena Gross was given the name “Starling” because according to Diane Ackerman’s book, Antonina “pictured her ‘flying from nest to nest’ to avoid capture.” Ironically, she in turn gave many of the animals she brought into her residence people names. -NYTimes.com
Did a German soldier trick Antonina into believing he was taking her son behind the house to execute him?
Yes. The real Zookeeper’s Wife, Antonina Zabinski, wrote about this moment in her diary. A German soldier barked an order at a 15-year-old assistant at the zoo and disappeared with him behind the house. A shot was heard and the soldier re-emerged and yelled at Antonina’s son Ryszard, “You’re next!” As he took Ryszard behind the house, Antonina began to tremble with fear. Another shot rang out and the soldier returned with the two boys and a dead chicken. “We played a nice trick on you,” the soldier said laughing.
For how long did they use the zoo as a hiding place for fleeing Jews?
They sheltered escaping Jews and partisans for roughly three years, offering help to approximately 300 people. They saved them from starvation in the Warsaw Ghetto and eventual deportation to Nazi death camps.
Was Antonina’s husband Jan really taken prisoner by the Nazis?
Yes. In August and September 1944, Jan Zabinski fought alongside fellow members of the Polish underground as part of the Home Army (Armia Krajowa) in the Warsaw Polish Uprising. During its suppression, Zabinski was captured and taken to Germany as a prisoner. His wife Antonina and son Ryszard (whose name means lynx in Polish) continued the efforts to give shelter to and care for the hidden Jews. Like in The Zookeeper’s Wife movie, Jan survived the Nazi prison camp and eventually reunited with his family. In 1968, the state of Israel honored both Antonina and Jan as “Righteous Amongst the Nations.” -TheBlaze.com
The real Ryszard Zabinski (right, circa 2009) helped his mother continue to care for the Jews at the zoo after his father was taken prisoner by the Germans following the Polish Uprising. Child actor Val Maloku portrays Ryszard as a boy in the movie.
Did all of the people who sought safe haven at the Warsaw Zoo survive?
Amazingly, the true story reveals that all but two of the approximately 300 people who found refuge at the zoo survived the war.
Why did the Zabinskis risk their lives to help others?
Jan was a natural risk-taker who was raised around Jews and knew many. He was courageous and able to keep his cool. Regarding his motives, he wrote, “I do not belong to any party, and no party program was my guide during the occupation… My deeds were and are a consequence of a certain psychological composition, a result of a progressive-humanistic upbringing, which I received at home as well as in Kreczmar High School. Many times I wished to analyze the causes for dislike for Jews and I could not find any, besides artificially formed ones.” -YadVashem.org
His wife Antonina, portrayed by Jessica Chastain in the movie, was very much the opposite. She was high strung and often fearful, in part because her parents had been killed by the Bolsheviks and she knew the realities of political violence all too well. In The Zookeeper’s Wife book, author Diane Ackerman reasons that Antonina’s love for animals and her ability to see all life as precious led to her wanting to do whatever she could to help save lives. Despite her fears, she could not turn her back on suffering. This is emphasized later when she recalled the evening when the Kenigswein family showed up at the zoo looking for help. “I looked at them with despair; their appearance and the way they spoke left no illusions. … I felt an overwhelming sense of shame for my own helplessness and fear.” -Polscy Sprawiedliwi
Left: Antonina and Jan Zabinski in the years after World War II. Right: Johan Heldenbergh and Jessica Chastain portray the couple in the movie.
When did the zoo reopen?
The Warsaw Zoo officially reopened in 1949 with some of its old animals that survived the war. But with Stalinism casting a shadow over the grounds, it had lost its prewar luster. Antonina’s husband Jan resigned as director two years later. The zoo would not shine again until after the fall of Communism in Poland in 1989, nearly two decades after Antonina’s death in 1971. -NYTimes.com
The Zookeeper’s Wife: Related Documentaries & Videos
Learn more about The Zookeeper’s Wife true story by watching the documentaries below. The videos are filled with footage and images chronicling the German invasion of Poland, the creation of the Warsaw Ghetto, the role the Warsaw Zoo played, and the ghetto uprising.
Source: Movies – The Zookeeper’s Wife: History vs. Hollywood
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I think it’s very difficult for people who look different to be accepted within a society which bases so much on what people look like. -Dr. Julie Anderson, School of History, University of Kent
Questioning the Story:
Did the true story involve a curse?
No. The real Beauty and the Beast story didn’t involve a magical spell placed on a prince for his arrogance. Unfortunately, that also means no talking clock, teacup, candelabra, etc., as you might have guessed. The real “Beast” was a man named Petrus Gonsalvus, who suffered from a genetic condition known as hypertrichosis (also known as Ambras syndrome), which is defined by an abnormal amount of hair growth on any part of the body in excess of the regular amount present in people of the same race, age and gender. In Gonsalvus’ case, it affected his entire body. It has also been referred to informally as werewolf syndrome because the appearance is akin to the mythical werewolf. Excessive hair growth is the only known effect of the condition. No, it did not cause Gonsalvus to have an oversized body with huge muscles like the Beast in the Disney movies.
The real Beauty and the Beast, Catherine and Petrus Gonsalvus, painted by Flemish painter Joris Hoefnagel, found in his album titled Rational Animals and Insects. National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.
Did the true story behind Beauty and the Beast happen in the same time period as the Disney movies?
No. Petrus Gonsalvus and his wife Catherine met in 1500s France. Their widely-known story is thought to have inspired Gabrielle-Suzanne Barbot de Villeneuve’s 1740 French fairy tale Beauty and the Beast. The best known version of Villeneuve’s story and the basis for the films was written 16 years later by Jeanne-Marie Le Prince de Beaumont and was geared more toward young ladies than adults. The fashions in the Disney movies indicate that the time period is the mid to late 1700s, which is reflective of the time period of the fairy tale, not of the true story that inspired it.
Was the real “Beast” a prince?
No, but he does have connections to French royalty. Petrus Gonsalvus was born in 1537 on the Canary Island of Tenerife, the largest of Spain’s seven Canary Islands off the coast of West Africa. At a young age, Gonsalvus was treated as an uncivilized curiosity. The hairy “wild man” was captured and put into an iron cage. For food, he was given raw meat and animal feed. He was shipped to King Henry II of France as a gift for the king’s coronation in 1547.
Fortunately, King Henry II did not see Gonsalvus as a freak that should be kept in a cage. The king recognized Gonsalvus’ calm demeanor and decided to try an experiment. He would attempt to educate and transform him into a gentleman. The king allowed him to keep his birth name, Pedro González, but only if he used its Latin form, Petrus Gonsalvus. The boy was given clothes and cooked meals. He was taught to speak, read, and write in not just one, but three languages, receiving the education of a nobleman. The royal court was impressed and his social status rose. Yet, most still viewed him as less than human.
The real Beast, Petrus Gonsalvus (left), was seen as an animal, much like how the Beast is viewed in the movie.
How did Petrus Gonsalvus meet his “Belle”?
The real Beauty and the Beast met after Gonsalvus’ mentor and protector, King Henry II, was killed in a jousting match on July 10, 1559. Gonsalvus became the property of the king’s widow, Catherine de Medici, who became ruler and decided to conduct her own experiment with Gonsalvus. She wondered what would happen if her “beast” married a beautiful woman. Would they conceive little beasts? She found a wife for Gonsalvus, a young maiden also named Catherine, who was the daughter of a royal court servant.
Petrus Gonsalvus met his wife Catherine for the first time on their wedding day. The pair had seven children, with four of the seven suffering from their father’s condition, hypertrichosis. This delighted the king’s widow, who had succeeded in creating a “wild family.”
On the left is Catherine (the real Belle), who was selected by King Henry II’s widow to marry the “Beast,” Petrus Gonsalvus. Emma Watson (right) as Belle in Disney’s live-action Beauty and the Beast movie.
What happened to Petrus Gonsalvus and his family?
The real Beauty and the Beast and their children toured European countries and cities, eventually settling in Parma, Italy where they were employed (owned) by Duke Ranuccio Farnese. The duke commissioned several paintings of the family, but none featured the three unaffected children, as they were not considered curiosities. Unfortunately, the four of their seven children afflicted with their father’s condition were exploited by the duke and sent away as gifts, becoming pets of the upper class (to own such an “oddity” was a sign of one’s noble status).
Petrus and Catherine were married for more than 40 years, with Catherine passing in 1623 and Petrus several years prior. There is no record of his death, possibly because he was not considered a human being worthy of a Christian burial, and therefore his death was not recorded. Petrus was last mentioned in the year 1617 at the christening of his grandson, and he is believed to have passed away sometime around 1618. The family’s story spread throughout the region, eventually becoming the inspiration for one of the most popular love stories in literature, and subsequently, modern cinema.
Of Petrus and Catherine’s seven children, the four with werewolf syndrome were taken from them and given away by the duke as pets to various members of the upper class.
How many people in the world suffer from hypertrichosis, the condition that affected the real “Beast,” Petrus Gonsalvus?
In researching the Beauty and the Beast true story, we learned that only about fifty people in the world are currently known to have the genetic condition. Though hypertrichosis is commonly called Ambras Syndrome, the two are indeed separate conditions. As stated earlier, hypertrichosis can visibly affect people in two ways. General hypertrichosis means excessive hair grows all over the body, while localized hypertrichosis means only certain parts of the body are affected by abnormal hair growth. Watch a short video segment about a modern-day family afflicted with hypertrichosis.
The genetic condition known as hypertrichosis is defined by excessive hair growth on the body in excess of what is normal for one’s race, age and gender.
How do Disney’s Beauty and the Beast movies differ from the original fairy tale?
To start, Jeanne-Marie Le Prince de Beaumont’s French fairy tale has far less magical elements than the Disney movies. For example, memorable characters like Cogsworth and Lumière are not in the fairy tale. In fact, the whole concept of the servants being transformed into magical furniture by the curse is absent. Instead, the Beast lives by himself and has a much lonelier existence. Therefore, more parallels can be drawn between the fairy tale and the real-life story of Petrus Gonsalvus than between the Disney movies and Gonsalvus’ story.
Another notable character who is absent in Beaumont’s fairy tale is Gaston, the sexist villain who attempts to charm Belle with his brawn in the Disney movies. In the original fairy tale, Belle has two older sisters who treat her horribly (à la Cinderella). When the Beast allows Belle to go visit her family, the sisters trick her into staying longer than the week that the Beast allowed her to be gone, hoping the Beast would devour her for not returning in time. Belle has a nightmare of the Beast dying and realizes that she loves him despite his appearance. She returns to find that he has starved himself for each day she did not return to him. She confesses her love and the spell is broken, with the Beast alive in his human form.
Jeanne-Marie Le Prince de Beaumont’s 1756 version of the story is in many ways different from the Disney Beauty and the Beast movies it inspired.
Werewolf Syndrome Documentary & Related Videos
Dig deeper into the Beauty and the Beast true story by watching a short documentary segment on hypertrichosis, the genetic condition that affected the real “Beast,” Petrus Gonsalvus. Then watch a video that presents a comparison of Beauty and the Beast to the original story.
Source: Movies – Beauty and the Beast: History vs. Hollywood
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Kate Mara stars as Megan Leavey, a US Marine corporal who served two deployments along with her bomb-sniffing attack dog Rex. It was during the second deployment in Ramadi in 2006 that Megan and Rex were injured by an IED explosion. For their bravery, they received the Purple Heart Medal. The movie trailer highlights their story, including Megan’s struggle to be reunited with Rex after the explosion.