Stephanie Hallett
Updated March 21, 2017

It’s a question we’ve been asking since we were first introduced to this story in the 1990s, but we’ve finally learned how Belle’s mom died in Beauty and the Beast, and boy is this tale a doozy.

Disney stuck relatively close to the original story in the new live-action version of the animated classic, but the film studio did make sure to answer the big question that’s been looming over the fairy tale for decades. Warning: *SPOILERS AHEAD*

In the new film, we’re introduced to a map book — left at the Beast’s castle by the Enchantress, who stripped him of his humanity — that can transport its reader anywhere in the world, at any time. The only catch? You’re transported in your mind only.

At one point, the Beast uses the atlas to transport Belle and himself to Belle’s childhood home in Paris, where the pair come upon a beaked doctor’s mask — one used in the 17th century to treat patients suffering from bubonic plague. In that moment, we learn that Belle’s mother died from the Black Death, and also that she begged her husband, Maurice, to run away with Belle before they too could be infected. That’s how Belle and her father began their “provincial life” together in the French countryside.

*Pause here for uncontrollable sobbing*

Though this backstory is undeniably painful, it’s a relief to know a little more about Belle’s childhood, and also to have a better sense of her mother, who has always been an important — but exceptionally mysterious — part of this classic story. So if you haven’t yet seen the new Beauty, be sure to bring a hanky because tears are pretty much guaranteed.