Encyclopedia of Fantasy (1997)
Perrault, Charles

(1628-1703) French lawyer and civil servant who became the father of the Fairytale. Enchanted by the Fables of Jean de La Fontaine (1621-1695), CP penned some of his own in verse, though none were fantastic other than through their anthropomorphic use of animals. His first fantastic work was in the poem "Les souhaits ridicules" ["The Ridiculous Wishes"] (1693 Le Mercure Galant), which utilized the traditional Three-Wishes story. This, with another poem, "Peau d'âne" ["Donkey-Skin"] (1693 Le Mercure Galant), was later published alongside an earlier nonfantastic poem as Griseldis, Nouvelle, Avec le conte de Peau d'âne et celui des souhaits ridicules (coll 1694). CP now switched from verse to prose narrative. His Histoires ou Contes du temps passé, avec des Moralitez (coll 1697; trans Guy Miège as Histories, or Tales of Past Times 1729 UK), which contained eight stories, had earlier existed as a five-story presentation manuscript dedicated to Princess Élizabeth-Charlotte, Louis XIV's niece, in 1695. The dedication was inscribed as by P Darmancour, the name adopted by CP's son, Pierre Perrault (1678-1700), which gave rise to the belief that the son had contributed to and possibly even written the stories, a suspicion that has never totally been laid to rest. Of the stories in the published book, seven have since become standards, with CP's text serving as the primary source. The stories were "La Belle au Bois Dormant" ["The Beauty Sleeping in the Wood"] (earlier published in Le Mercure Galant February 1696) (see Sleeping Beauty), "Le Petit Chaperon Rouge" ["Little Red Riding-Hood"], "La Barbe Bleue" ["Bluebeard"], "Le Maître Chat ou le Chat Botte" (see Puss-In-Boots), "Les Fées" ["The Fairies"; trans vt "Diamonds and Toads"], "Cendrillon ou la Petite Pantoufle de Verre" (see Cinderella), "Riquet à la Houppe" ["Ricky with the Tuft"] and "Le Petit Poucet" (see Tom Thumb). All were drawn from oral tradition, and some had been evident in earlier collections of tales, though "Little Red Riding-Hood" may be original to CP; he probably derived it from a children's game. CP added further touches that were his own, most notably the glass slipper in "Cinderella", so that, although other folklorists collected this story from their own oral tradition – as in "Aschenputtel" by the Brothers Grimm – it is CP's version that remains the definitive text. (It is frequently stated that CP did not introduce the notion of the glass slipper, but this was born through a mistranslation into English of a French word meaning "fur"; we have been unable to establish the accuracy of this account.) Because he also added short verses at the end of each story highlighting the moral of the tale, they rapidly became instructive as well as entertaining for children, so it can be said that CP first developed the fairytale as a children's literature, whereas his contemporary, Madame d'Aulnoy, used the medium as a vehicle for Satire and thus more adult entertainment.

CP indirectly gave rise to another popular character. The frontispiece to the French edition of his fairytales depicted an old lady telling stories to a group of children; behind them, a plaque on the wall stated: "Contes de ma mère l'Oye." This was translated in the first English-language edition as "Mother Goose's Tales". Certainly by 1768 the title Mother Goose's Tales (coll 1768) had supplanted CP's original, so giving rise to a new character in nursery rhymes (see Mother Goose). [MA]

other works and editions: Recueil de divers ouvrages en prose et en vers ["Collection of Diverse Works in Prose and in Verse"] (coll 1675) which includes his earliest fables. Of the many editions of CP's fairytales, some have been beautifully illustrated; e.g., Fairy Tales by Charles Perrault (trans coll 1913 UK) illus Charles Robinson; Old Time Stories told by Master Charles Perrault (coll 1921 UK) trans A E Johnson, illus W Heath Robinson (vt, but with illus by Gustave Doré from Perrault's Fairy Tales [trans coll 1912 UK] Perrault's Fairy Tales [trans coll 1969 US] ed E F Bleiler); The Fairy Tales of Charles Perrault (trans coll 1922 UK) illus Harry Clarke (1889-1931); Tales of Passed Times (trans coll 1922 UK) illus John Austen (1886-1948). Perrault's Popular Tales (coll 1888 UK) ed Andrew Lang but a critical edition of the original French. Other revised translations of note include: The Fairy Tales of Master Perrault (coll 1897) trans Walter Ripman; The Fairy Tales of Charles Perrault (coll 1950 UK) trans Norman Denny; The Fairy Tales of Charles Perrault (coll 1957 UK) trans Geoffrey Brereton; Perrault's Fairy Tales (coll 1972 US) trans Sasha Moorsom; The Fairy Tales of Charles Perrault (coll 1977 UK) trans Angela Carter. Jack Zipes included all the tales in a new translation in his Beauties, Beasts and Enchantment (anth 1989 US).

further reading: Mémoires de ma vie (cut 1759; first full edition 1909; most recent trans Memoirs of My Life ed Jeanne Morgan Zarucchi 1989 US, with extensive introduction and notes) by CP; Charles Perrault (1981 US) by Jacques Barchilon and Peter Flinders; Perrault's Morals for Moderns (1985 US) by Jeanne Morgan.

Charles Perrault


This entry is taken from the Encyclopedia of Fantasy (1997) edited by John Clute and John Grant. It is provided as a reference and resource for users of the SF Encyclopedia, but apart from possible small corrections has not been updated.