Charles Perrault

Charles Perrault (1628-1703) was a poet, a writer, and a thinker from the 17th century, from times of Louis XIV, the so-called Sun King. He excelled at many professions and he was one of the most respected men of his times but history will probably remember him mostly by only one of his numerous works: book of fairy tales now famous only by its subtitle: Tales of mother Goose.


This book had only eight fairy tales, but among them are some which became classics and are still popular among kids and other fairy tale lovers all over the world.


None of his fairy tales is original, they were very likely rewritings of then less known, but to Perrault definitely very familiar stories from Pentamerone.


Yet they possessed something that became a standard for this literary genre - an explicitly written moral of the story, in Perrault's case, made in verse (tales were written in prose).


In fact, it what this book, which made a fairy tale a literary genre with its specific characteristics. While Perrault didn't aim with them at children (just like brothers Grimm several decades later), he probably made the most important step to cultivate them just right to become suitable for kids.


Did you expect from me to add some more facts from Perrault’s life?


Portrait of Charles Perrault by Philippe Lallemand


Of course, you did and here they are:


  • Although he was an extremely smart man, he owes his achievements to positions gained with family money (his older brother bought the position of tax collector in Paris and Charles worked with him) and connections (when Jean Baptiste Colbert, the most powerful man in France for many years, died, Perrault lost all of his privileges in a very short time).
  • One of the less known facts from Perrault’s life is his cooperation at building Labyrinth of Versailles, where he advised to include scenes from 39 fables of Aesop’s famous collection in the maze to educate Louis XIV, son. He was also the man who convinced the king to open his luxurious gardens to the public (to show his royal generosity).
  • Perrault wrote his book of fairy tales when he was already 67 (!) years old, a widower and father of four kids. The book titled Tales and Stories of the Past with Morals included eight fairy tales from the folk tradition and subtitled Tales of Mother Goose. There were only eight fairy tales, but most of them are now considered as classics: Cinderella, Puss in Boots, Little Red Riding Hood, and Sleeping Beauty were written down by Perrault for the first time in such format and despite (or because of) the fact he remixed Basile's stories with elements of folk tales and change their messages, they are known to almost every child in the world. After that collection, he published three more fairy tales with Donkeyskin (or Donkey Skin) being the most (and still not very) known of all.


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