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The Best 8 Books by Charles Perrault [PDF]

Today we present to you a compilation of the best 8 books by Charles Perrault. But first, we tell you a little about the life of this renowned French writer.

Charles Perrault was born on January 12, 1628 in Paris, France. He was born into a wealthy bourgeois family, being the seventh child of Pierre Perrault and Paquette Le Clerc. He attended very good schools and studied law before embarking on a career in government service, following in the footsteps of his father and elder brother Jean. 

He was a French poet, prose writer and storyteller, a leading member of the Académie Française, who played a leading role in the controversy known as the quarrel of the Ancients and the Moderns.

He participated in the creation of the Academy of Sciences and the restoration of the Academy of Painting. In 1654, he moved with his brother Pierre, who had acquired the position of chief tax collector of the city of Paris. When the Academy of Inscriptions and Belles-Lettres was founded in 1663, Perrault was appointed its secretary and served under Jean Baptiste Colbert, minister of finance to King Louis XIV. Jean Chapelain, Amable de Bourzeys and Jacques Cassagne (librarian to the king) were also appointed.

Charles Perrault first worked as a civil servant in charge of the royal buildings. He began to gain literary reputation around 1660 with some light verse and love poetry and spent the rest of his life promoting the study of literature and the arts.

In 1671 he was elected a member of the French Academy, which soon found itself sharply divided by the dispute between the ancients and the moderns. Perrault supported the moderns, who believed that, as civilization advances, literature evolves with it and that, therefore, ancient literature is inevitably coarser and more barbaric than modern literature.

His poem Le Siècle de Louis le Grand (1687; “The Century of Louis the Great”) placed modern writers such as Molière and François de Malherbe above the classical authors of Greece and Rome. His main opponent in this polemic was Nicolas Boileau. Perrault’s position marked a milestone in the ultimately successful rebellion against the limits of the prevailing tradition.

Perrault’s fairy tales in «Mother Goose» were written to amuse his children. They include «Little Red Riding Hood», «The Sleeping Beauty», «Puss in Boots» and «Bluebeard», modern versions of half-forgotten folk tales, which Perrault retold in a simple style. 

Perrault died on May 16, 1703 in Paris, France.

1) Puss In Boots

Puss in Boots is an Italian and later European literary fairy tale about an anthropomorphic cat who uses tricks to gain power, wealth, and the hand of a princess in marriage for his poor and helpless master.

The earliest tale is by the Italian author Giovanni Francesco Straparola, who included it in The Facetious Nights of Straparola (c. 1550-1553) in the 14th and 15th centuries. Another version was published in 1634 by Giambattista Basile under the title Cagliuso, and Charles Perrault (1628-1703), a retired civil servant and member of the French Academy, wrote a tale in French in the late 17th century.

The tale appeared in an illustrated manuscript two years before its publication in 1697 by Barbin in a collection of eight fairy tales by Perrault called Histoires ou contes du temps passé. The book was an immediate success and remains popular.

2) Beauty and the Beast

Let's keep in mind that many of Charles Perrault's tales are retellings of other stories, one of which is Beauty and the Beast, which although it has been adapted many times over the years, Perrault's version remains one of the most influential.

Beauty is a beautiful young girl who is also polite and charming, so she is much courted by the gentlemen of the town. One day her beloved father gets lost in the forest and stumbles upon a mysterious castle where a Beast lives, so Beauty decides to give her life, in exchange for her father's, with the intention of saving him. But something unthinkable happens...

The moral of this fairy tale is that we should value the inner qualities of people, such as kindness and goodness, above superficial characteristics such as appearance.

3) Cinderella or the Little Glass

Cinderella is one of the French writer's most popular and well-known fairy tales.

Once upon a time there was a beautiful and kind-hearted young girl named Cinderella, who was forced by her cruel stepmother and her two stepsisters to perform the hardest jobs in the palace, as if she were the last of the maids.

On the day of the ball called by the prince, Cinderella's fairy godmother appeared to help her attend the event. With her beauty she made the prince fall in love, but her appearance and her beautiful dress, granted by the fairy, would only last until midnight. Cinderella flees from the prince's side to prevent him from seeing her real appearance. But the prince does not rest until he finds her and makes her his wife.

4) Blue Beard

Blue Beard is a French folk tale, the most famous remaining version of which was written by Charles Perrault and first published by Barbin in Paris in 1697 in Histoires ou contes du temps passé.

The tale tells the story of a rich man with a habit of murdering his wives and the attempts of one of them to avoid the fate of her predecessors.

«The White Dove», «The Robber Bridegroom» and «Fitcher's Bird» (also called «Fowler's Fowl») are tales similar to «Bluebeard». The notoriety of the tale is such that Merriam-Webster gives the word «Bluebeard» the definition of «a man who marries and kills one wife after another», and the verb «bluebearding» has even appeared as a way of describing the crime for killing a series of women, or for seducing and abandoning a series of women.

5) Riquet with the Tuft

In Charles Perrault's version, a fairy gives an ugly prince named Riquet (or Ricky) the gift of conferring wit to the person he loves most.

Prince Riquet with the Tuft arrives in a kingdom with two princesses. The older one is beautiful but not very smart and the younger one is smart but ugly. The older princess is saddened that her ugly but intelligent sister gets more attention than she does, but all that will change and so will the lives of everyone in the kingdom.

6) The Ridiculous Wishes

The Ridiculous Wishes is a fairy tale published in 1697 in a volume entitled «Mother Goose Tales».

A woodcutter complained about his bad luck. Jupiter (or, failing that, a tree spirit) granted him three wishes. The woodcutter returned home and his wife persuaded him to postpone the wish until the next day, after he had thought about it, but while sitting by the fire, he wished for sausages. His wife taxed him for his folly and, in anger, he wished for sausages on her nose. Finally, they agreed to use the last wish to remove the sausages off her nose, leaving them no better than before.

In some types of versions of this tale, black pudding is used instead of sausages.

7) The Sleeping Beauty in the Wood

The Sleeping Beauty in the Wood tells the story of the daughter of a king and a queen who on the day of her baptizing was given a great ceremony attended by her 7 fairy godmothers but, unexpectedly, a 50 year old fairy showed up who had not been invited because she was believed to be dead or since she never left the tower where she lived.

Although they prepared a place for her, she did not receive the same cutlery of gold and jewels as the other fairies because they did not expect her to attend, so she had the feeling that everyone despised her.

The fairy godmothers endowed the girl with beauty, sharp mind, kindness, dancing skills, singing talent and musical talent. Then, when it was the older fairy's turn, she said the girl would be stung with a spindle and die. To which the younger fairy said she would not die, but would sleep for a hundred years and be awakened by a prince.

8) Diamonds and Toads

In Diamonds and Toads a bitter old woman had two daughters; Fanny, her favorite, was rude and behaved like her mother; her youngest daughter, Rose, was sweet and polite but suffered ill-treatment from her mother and sister.

One day, being at a well, an old woman asked Rose for a drink of water and after giving it to her kindly she discovered that the woman was a fairy, as Rose was so kind, the fairy blessed her with a jewel, a precious metal or a pretty flower that fell from her mouth every time she spoke.

Explaining what had happened to her mother, the woman sent her eldest daughter to the well with the instruction to act kindly towards an old beggar woman so that she would also receive the gift, but this time the fairy presented herself as a beautiful princess. When she asked Fanny for water, Fanny spoke rudely to her, so the fairy decreed that, as punishment, a toad or a snake would fall from her mouth every time she spoke.