Charles Perrault (1628-1703)

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Folktales in this packet

Charles Perrault (1628-1703) 2

Little Red Riding Hood 3

Cinderella, or The Little Glass Slipper 4

Jacob Grimm & Wilhelm Grimm (1785-1863 & 1786-1859) 8

Little Red-Cap 9

Aschenputtel (Cinderella) 10

The Indian Cinderella 14

retold by Cyrus Macmillan 14

Hans Christian Andersen (1805-1875) 16

The Little Mermaid 17

(1836) 17

The Swineherd 28

(1842) 28

The Story of the Three Little Pigs 42

Joseph Jacobs 1890 42

Charles Perrault (1628-1703)

It is odd that Charles Perrault should be remembered for dispraising ancient authors as well as for his collection of fairy tales, whose authors are, ultimately, among the most ancient. Perrault was born in Paris. His father was a lawyer, and he became one, too, before taking the position of Controller of Royal Buildings. Later he became a member of the French Academy. In 1687 he published a long poem attacking classical writers in comparison to moderns. This piece angered several of Perrault’s contemporaries, who engaged him in a furious and extended literary debate. In the year that this debate ended, 1694, Perrault published three verse tales, which were well received. In 1696 Perrault published eight more tales, this time in prose, in a French periodical and again in a separate volume entitled Stories from Times Past, with MoralsTales of My Mother Goose. They were first translated into English about thirty years later and grew steadily in popularity. Perrault appended rhymed “morals,” which have been customarily omitted in later editions.

Tradition has it that Perrault intended to write the tales in verse (in the fashion of La Fontaine) but that, having told the stories to his son, who wrote them down, he became entranced with the innocent, bluff, hearty style of his son’s prose renditions and decided to use his son’s versions. It seems more probable, though, that Perrault himself wrote the tales.

It is often said that the Perrault versions of these tales have become the standard versions in the mind of the general populace, but many Anglo-American readers may be surprised at the “continuation” of “Sleeping Beauty” and the unsoftened ending to “Little Red Riding-hood.” To compare Perrault’s versions of the tales, furthermore, to the versions of the Grimms, Joseph Jacobs, or other writers helps to identify the distinctive traits of Perrault’s view. Certainly the world of the Perrault tales appears a trifle elevated or urbanized beyond the peasant folk milieu found in the tales of the Brothers Grimm or of Jacobs. In Perrault we find considerable attention paid to furnishings and fabrics, rooms with inlaid floors, full-length looking-glasses, ruffles and red velvet, gold cases for table settings, and mirrored halls, as if we were to look at the tales from a securely middle-class perspective. But the solidity of settings only makes more eerie the paradoxical world in which fairy godmothers appear like wishes, a “good old woman” lives in a castle fifteen years without human contact, a queen betrays cannibal longings, animals talk and mingle with humans, and a key takes on a mysterious stain. It is as if the bright and comfortable space of our ordinary domestic existence opens out toward a darker, ghostly penumbra. In the same vein, Perrault gives us, on the one hand, repetitions of the rags-to-riches formula in “Cinderella” and “Puss in Boots,” but, on the other hand, he casually destroys our anticipation of success in “Red Riding-hood.” And even when some stories nominally end well, we remember best the moments of horror, as when the cannibal night-prowling Queen would eat Dawn and Day, or when Blue Beard’s wife, facing instant death, hears not of rescue but only of nature’s disinterested cycles of decay and growth: “the sun, which makes a dust, and the grass, which looks green.”

If it be asked what the tales mean, beyond their indisputable value as sheer entertainment, the answers are as varied as the many approaches to literature. Obviously the tales can be interpreted as addressing a huge number of moral, social, and psychological issues; and books, both helpful and muddled, are still pouring from the presses purporting to tell “the meaning and importance” of the fairy stories. This is not the place to assess the relative merits of interpretive theories; suffice it to say that children of all ages have found the tales fascinating, not only because they have artistic merit but also because they make vivid our crises of existence—the regulation of appetite, our relations to animals and the rest of nature, the dangers of curiosity, the imminence of death, our drive for affection and acceptance, our responses to injustice, generational conflicts, the loss of innocence, the saving powers of hope and humor—all the concerns that beckon maturing beings deeper into life. Perrault’s avoidance of condescension and his variegated tones of Gallic delight in the tales ensure that they will be read and listened to happily ever after.

Source: Griffith, John W. and Frey, Charles H. Classics of Children’s Literature, Sixth Edition. Upper Saddle River, New Jersey: Pearson 2005

Little Red Riding Hood

Once upon a time there lived in a certain village a little country girl, the prettiest creature who was ever seen. Her mother was excessively fond of her; and her grandmother doted on her still more. This good woman had a little red riding hood made for her. It suited the girl so extremely well that everybody called her Little Red Riding Hood.

One day her mother, having made some cakes, said to her, “Go, my dear, and see how your grandmother is doing, for I hear she has been very ill. Take her a cake, and this little pot of butter.”

Little Red Riding Hood set out immediately to go to her grandmother, who lived in another village.

As she was going through the wood, she met with a wolf, who had a very great mind to eat her up, but he dared not, because of some woodcutters working nearby in the forest. He asked her where she was going. The poor child, who did not know that it was dangerous to stay and talk to a wolf, said to him, “I am going to see my grandmother and carry her a cake and a little pot of butter from my mother.”

“Does she live far off?” said the wolf

“Oh I say,” answered Little Red Riding Hood; “it is beyond that mill you see there, at the first house in the village.”

“Well,” said the wolf, “and I’ll go and see her too. I’ll go this way and go you that, and we shall see who will be there first.”

The wolf ran as fast as he could, taking the shortest path, and the little girl took a roundabout way, entertaining herself by gathering nuts, running after butterflies, and gathering bouquets of little flowers. It was not long before the wolf arrived at the old woman’s house. He knocked at the door: tap, tap.

“Who’s there?”

“Your grandchild, Little Red Riding Hood,” replied the wolf, counterfeiting her voice; “who has brought you a cake and a little pot of butter sent you by mother.”

The good grandmother, who was in bed, because she was somewhat ill, cried out, “Pull the bobbin, and the latch will go up.”

The wolf pulled the bobbin, and the door opened, and then he immediately fell upon the good woman and ate her up in a moment, for it been more than three days since he had eaten. He then shut the door and got into the grandmother’s bed, expecting Little Red Riding Hood, who came some time afterwards and knocked at the door: tap, tap.

“Who’s there?”

Little Red Riding Hood, hearing the big voice of the wolf, was at first afraid; but believing her grandmother had a cold and was hoarse, answered, “It is your grandchild Little Red Riding Hood, who has brought you a cake and a little pot of butter mother sends you.”

The wolf cried out to her, softening his voice as much as he could, “Pull the bobbin, and the latch will go up.”

Little Red Riding Hood pulled the bobbin, and the door opened.

The wolf, seeing her come in, said to her, hiding himself under the bedclothes, “Put the cake and the little pot of butter upon the stool, and come get into bed with me.”

Little Red Riding Hood took off her clothes and got into bed. She was greatly amazed to see how her grandmother looked in her nightclothes, and said to her, “Grandmother, what big arms you have!”

“All the better to hug you with, my dear.”

“Grandmother, what big legs you have!”

“All the better to run with, my child.”

“Grandmother, what big ears you have!”

“All the better to hear with, my child.”

“Grandmother, what big eyes you have!”

“All the better to see with, my child.”

“Grandmother, what big teeth you have got!”

“All the better to eat you up with.”

And, saying these words, this wicked wolf fell upon Little Red Riding Hood, and ate her all up.

Moral: Children, especially attractive, well bred young ladies, should never talk to strangers, for if they should do so, they may well provide dinner for a wolf. I say “wolf,” but there are various kinds of wolves. There are also those who are charming, quiet, polite, unassuming, complacent, and sweet, who pursue young women at home and in the streets. And unfortunately, it is these gentle wolves who are the most dangerous ones of all.

Source: Andrew Lang, The Blue Fairy Book (London, ca. 1889), pp. 51-53. Lang’s source: Charles Perrault, Histoires ou contes du temps passé, avec des moralités: Contes de ma mère l’Oye (Paris, 1697).

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