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Charles Perrault’s Fairy Tales and their On-screen Adaptations . Dr. Montoneri-May 6, 2009. Outline. Introduction Part I. Charles Perrault and his Work Part II. Le Petit Chaperon Rouge (Little Red Riding Hood) Part III. Le Chat botté (Puss in Boots)

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Charles Perrault’s Fairy Tales and their On-screen Adaptations

Dr. Montoneri-May 6, 2009



Part I. Charles Perrault and his Work

Part II. Le Petit Chaperon Rouge (Little Red Riding Hood)

Part III. Le Chat botté (Puss in Boots)

Part IV. Cendrillon (Cinderella)

Part V. Barbe Bleue (Blue Beard)




Charles Perrault’s fairy tales were written at the end of the 17th century under the reign of Louis XIV.

After 1688, France entered a major crisis due to costly wars to annex more land and to the heavy taxation that followed. A terrible weather made things worse for all classes form the peasants to the aristocrats.

Tales were regarded as a way to indirectly criticize the king and to hope for a better world. All the fairy tale writers of the 1690s were in trouble with the authorities, Perrault included.

He opposed the official cultural policy of Louis from 1683 to 1701.

Perrault wrote 3 verse tales: Griselidis (1691), The Foolish Wishes (1693), and Donkey Skin (1694).

Then he transformed and adapted several popular folk tales and published in 1697 Histoires ou contes du temps passé containing Sleeping Beauty, Little Red, Blue Beard, Riquet with the Tuft, Little Thunbling, Puss in Boots, and The Fairies.

These tales have been successful ever since and were adapted into operas, theater plays, musicals, movies and TV series numerous times.

Part I. Charles Perrault and his Work

Charles Perrault (1628-1703) was a French writer during the reign of Louis XIV (1643-1715).

He became a member of the Académie française in 1671. He took part in the French Quarrel of the Ancients and the Moderns; Perrault was on the side of the Moderns and wrote The Century of Louis the Great (1687).

A collection of tales from 1697 made him suddenly widely-known beyond his own circles and marked the beginnings of a new literary genre, the fairy tale.

Perrault's tales were mostly adapted from earlier folk tales in the milieu of stylish literary salons in the 1690s. Perrault's most famous stories are still in print today and have been made into operas, plays, films and animated motion pictures.

Histoires et contes du temps passé, avec des moralités. Contes de ma mère l'Oye (Tales and Stories of the Past with Morals. Tales of Mother Goose), were published in 1697 by Charles Perrault.

Part I. Charles Perrault and his Work

The name Mother Goose can be traced to Queen Goosefoot, Charlemagne’s mother, who was a patron of children.

This collection contains the following tales: Le Petit Chaperon Rouge (Little Red Riding Hood), La Belle au Bois Dormant (The Sleeping Beauty), Le Chat botté (Puss in Boots), Cendrillon (Cinderella), Barbe Bleue (Bluebeard), Le Petit Poucet (Hop o’ My Thumb), Les Fées (Diamonds and Toads), and Ricquet à la houppe (Ricky of the Tuft), all written in prose with a moral at the end.

The 3 other tales were published separately and were all written in verse: La Marquise de Salusses ou la patience de Grisélidis (1691). In Le Mercure galant: Les souhaits ridicules (un “conte en vers”, 1693) and Peau d’âne (Donkey Skin; 1694).

Almost all of those tales have their origins in traditional folklore, but they have been modified by Perrault to fit the audience he was aiming at: the aristocracy.

Perrault became close to the most power minister in Louis XIV’s government, Colbert. When he died in 183, Perrault was dismissed from government service. He began composing tales in the 1690’s. The stories were recited in literary salons. Perrault notably frequented the salon of Mme d’Aulnoy, writer of The Blue Bird. When she termed her works “contes de fée” (fairy tales), she originated the term that is now used for the genre.

Le Petit Chaperon Rouge(Little Red Riding Hood)

Little Red was told by French peasants in the 14th century; in La finta nonna (The False Grandmother), an early Italian version, the young girl uses her own cunning to beat the wolf in the end.

The earliest known printed version was known as Le Petit Chaperon Rouge; in 1697, by Charles Perrault.

In 1812, the Brothers Grimm published a collection of authentic German fairy tales they had gathered in a volume titled as Children's and Household Tales. They published a second volume in 1814, as well as many further editions during their lifetimes.

Along with the original German works, many originally French tales entered their collection.

They rewrote the stories to suit what was considered appropriate for the time, especially when the folk tales often could be quite sexually explicit.

Le Petit Chaperon Rouge(Little Red Riding Hood)

A village girl deceived into giving a wolf she encountered the information he needed to successfully find her grandmother's house.

He eats the old woman while at the same time avoiding being noticed by woodcutters working in the nearby forest

Then he lays a trap for the girl. She ends up eaten by the wolf and there the story ends. The wolf emerges the victor and there is no happy ending

In the German story, a woodcutter comes to the rescue and cuts the wolf open.

Little Red Riding Hood and her grandmother emerge unharmed.

Le Petit Chaperon Rouge(Little Red Riding Hood)

Little Red is considered to be a fairy tale because it appeared in the Grimm collection (Little Red Cap; 1812).

The story is about the experiences of female family members, from the ordinary world of French villages and their surrounding woods.

It is supposed to be a children's story, but it contains themes of sexual intercourse and a lot of violence.

The French version contains an obvious erotic content. The little girl is in red, the color of blood.

The story is addressed to young ladies of society who are supposed to be virgin before their wedding. The story makes an obvious contrast between the safe world of the village and the dangers of the wood.

In brief, young ladies should stay home or be in a convent. They should especially be careful and distrust men.

Charles Perrault says in his moral at the end of the tale that “from this story one learns that children, especially young lasses, pretty, courteous and well-bred, do very wrong to listen to strangers.”

Perrault warns girls to stay away from dangerous suitors who look nice and pretty, but who have bad intentions.

Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm were obviously influenced by the French tale. But they were also inspired by Jeanette Hassenpflug (1791–1860) and about Ludwig Tieck (1773-1853; German Romantic poet), the author of Life and Death of Little Red Riding Hood: a tragedy; 1800. Tieck wrote about a girl and her grandmother saved by a huntsman who was after the wolf's skin. The two brothers also retold the story written by Marie Hassenpflug (1788–1856). It is a sequel of Little Red that features the girl and her grandmother killing another wolf because of their bad experience with the previous one. The young girl has learned a lesson and lives happily ever after.

The Little Red Riding Hood fairytale has often been adapted into a wide variety of media.

In the film Shrek the Third, she is portrayed as one of the villains; she is seen pick pocketing in one scene. Interestingly enough, the Big Bad Wolf is considered one of the good guys.

Probably the most famous use of Little Red Riding Hood in television advertising is the Chanel No. 5 commercial directed by Luc Besson with music by Danny Elfman and starring Estella Warren. In this advertisement, Warren plays a modern-day Red Riding Hood getting ready to enjoy the Paris nightlife, much to the lamentation of her household wolf.

Filmmaker Neil Jordan's 1984 horror/fantasy film The Company of Wolves, based on the short story by Angela Carter, told an interweaving series of folkloric tales loosely based on Red Riding Hood that fully exploited its subtexts of lycanthropy, violence and sexual awakening.


Computer-animated family comedy released in 2005 with the voices of Anne Hathaway, Glenn Close, Jim Belushi.

A sequel to the film, titled Hoodwinked 2: Hood vs. Evil is currently in the making and is expected to be released in 2010.

Le Petit Chaperon Rouge(Little Red Riding Hood)

The wolf is not a lucky animal because he is almost always depicted as nasty and dangerous.

In truth, wolves are not a threat to humans. Mankind has almost decimated the wolf as a species.

For example, a few years ago, in Sweden, only 60 wolves were still alive. Sweden used to be home to more than 100,000 wolves.

In France and in Germany, wolves almost disappeared. For many years, there were no wolves left in France.

Wolves suffered heavily because of hunting and deforestation.

Le Chat botté (Puss in Boots)

Perrault took Puss in Boots from a French edition of Straparola's Pleasant Nights (1551) that included Costantino Fortunato.

The main differences with the French story are that the cat is a fairy in disguise and that Costantino’s brothers are particularly nasty.

There is another Italian fairy tale written by Giambattista Basile called Gagliuso (1634). In this story, the cat makes his master believe he is dead.

Instead of showing him respect, Gagliuso proposes to throw him in the garbage heap. The cat is so angry that he curses the young man.

Perrault’s tale: a cunning cat brings great fortune to its master, a poor young man. Through a series of deceptions managed by the cat, the young man becomes a lord and marries the king's daughter.

Puss in Boots

This story is very similar to Cinderella: a poor and pretty girl who makes the prince believe she is rich and noble with the help of fairies. She too, in the end, succeeds through marriage. Puss in Boots is quite a disturbing story: a cat is ready to do anything to help his master: to cheat, lie, kill other animals, threaten people, kill the owner of a castle, and steal his property.

Le Chat botté (Puss in Boots)

The cat has often been depicted as bad in Western literature. Except in Egypt, the cat was viewed at best as nasty, at worst as evil. Even before Christianity, at the time of Aesop, the cat was not considered as a benevolent and kind creature. Later on, he was associated with witches and had a very bad reputation.

Extract of Puss in Boots:

"I have been, moreover, informed," said the Cat, "but I know not how to believe it, that you have also the power to take on you the shape of the smallest animals; for example, to change yourself into a rat or a mouse; but I must own to you I take this to be impossible.“

"Impossible!" cried the ogre; "you shall see that presently.“

And at the same time he changed himself into a mouse, and began to run about the floor. Puss no sooner perceived this but he fell upon him and ate him up.

Le Chat botté (Puss in Boots)

Among the on-screen adaptations of the tale:

La véritable histoire du Chat Botté (The True Story of Puss'N Boots; 2009).

Puss in Boots (1988) (fairy tale "Le chat botté").

The oldest versions are Le chat botté (1903) and Le chat botté (1908).

Hayao Miyazaki wrote and drew a comic version first serialized in Cyuunichi Newspaper Sunday Version to promote the film. Its main character, the cat Pero, was very popular and eventually became Toei's mascot.

A film called Puss in Boots: The Story of an Ogre Killer is scheduled to be released in 2010.

Puss in Boots appears as a character in the films Shrek 2 and Shrek The Third (voiced by Antonio Banderas). The character is originally recruited as a professional ogre killer but later becomes a sidekick to the ogre, Shrek.

An Ass, a cat, and an ogre

The cat is famous for being an ogre killer. However, in Shrek, he becomes his friend and ally.

The cat is considered the obvious choice for assassinating Shrek, who is an ogre, because Puss has killed a notorious ogre before. He is Spanish instead of French—El Gato con Botas instead of Le Chat Botté. This is meant to strike a parallel with Zorro.

An Ass, a cat, and an ogre

Cendrillon (Cinderella)

Thousands of variants of this story are known throughout the world. The Cinderella theme may have well originated in classical antiquity with the tale of the Greco-Egyptian girl Rhodopis, which is considered the oldest known version of the story.

The earliest European tale is La Gatta Cenerentola or The Hearth Cat written by the Italian fairy-tale collector Giambattista Basile in 1635. This version formed the basis of later versions published by the French author Charles Perrault and the German Brothers Grimm.

One of the most popular versions of Cinderella was written by Charles Perrault in 1697. The popularity of his tale was due to his additions to the story including the pumpkin, the fairy-godmother and the introduction of glass slippers.

Another well-known version was recorded by the Brothers Grimm in the 19th century. The tale is called Aschenputtel and the help comes not from a fairy-godmother but from the wishing tree that grows on her mother's grave.

Cendrillon (Cinderella)

Cinderella comes from the fact that she is forced by her stepmother to do all the housework. When the girl had done her work, she sat in the cinders.

One day the Prince invited all the young ladies in the land to a ball so he could choose a wife. The two Stepsisters were invited, but not Cinderella.

Thanks to her godmother, she can go to the ball as the fairy turned a pumpkin into a coach, mice into horses, a rat into a coachman, and lizards into footmen.

The prince falls in love with her. She almost forgets to leave before midnight and must run away, leaving one of her glass slippers. The prince takes the shoe.

He woes to marry the girl the girl to whom it belonged. The shoe is tried by all the young women in the land.

Of course, Cinderella will try the slipper and even produce the other one. She forgives her two stepsisters for their cruelties and marries the prince.

In many later versions, the stepsisters are punished.

Cendrillon (Cinderella)

The story of Cinderella is the most adapted tale. A huge number of TV series, movies, cartoons, books, operas, musicals, theater plays were adapted from Cinderella.

The two most famous opera were composed by Rossini and Massanet.

La Cenerentola (1817) by Gioachino Rossini

Cendrillon (1894-5) by Jules Massenet, libretto by Henri Cain

The first Cinderella film version was produced in France by Georges Méliès in 1899.

Cinderella (1950 film) is an animated feature released in 1950, now considered one of Disney's classics. This film is the most popular version of the Cinderella story.

Ever After starring Drew Barrymore was released in 1998.

Cinderella by Rodgers and Hammerstein was produced for television three times, the latest in 1997 staring Brandy and Whitney Houston.

A Cinderella Story

Teen romantic comedy with Hilary Duff and Chad Michael Murray released in 2004.

The father of Sam Montgomery dies after opening a Diner. Then she is forced to work there for her stepmother and her two cruel stepsisters Brianna and Gabriella. She meets Austin Ames, the quarterback of the football team and the most popular student at school.

Leonardo and Danielle (Drew Barrymore)-Ever After (1998)

Barbe Bleue (Bluebeard)

Bluebeard was a very wealthy aristocrat, feared because of his "frightfully ugly" blue beard. He had been married several times, but no one knew what had become of his wives.

When Bluebeard visited one of his neighbors and asked to marry one of her two daughters, the girls were terrified, and each tried to pass him on to the other. Eventually he persuaded the younger daughter to marry him, and after the ceremony she went to live with him in his château.

Bluebeard announced that he had to leave the country for a while; he gave over all the keys of the chateau to his new wife, including the key to one small room that she was forbidden to enter.

she was overcome with the desire to see what the forbidden room held and discovered the room's horrible secret: Its floor was awash with blood, and the dead bodies of her husband's former wives hung from hooks on the walls.

Barbe Bleue (Bluebeard)

Bluebeard returned unexpectedly and immediately knew what his wife had done.

He tries to kill her too. At the last moment, as Bluebeard was about to deliver the fatal blow, the brothers broke into the castle, and as he attempted to flee, they killed him.

He left no heirs but his wife, who inherited all his great fortune. She used part of it for a dowry to marry her sister to the one that loved her, another part for her brothers' captains commissions, and the rest to marry a worthy gentleman who made her forget her ill treatment by Bluebeard.

Although best known as a fairy tale, the character of Bluebeard appears to derive from legends related to historical individuals in Brittany.

One source is believed to have been the 15th-century Breton nobleman and later self-confessed serial killer, Gilles de Rais.

Barbe Bleue (Bluebeard)

It's been suggested that the story is a warning about curiosity. It is probably a reference to Genesis: the Serpent enticing Eve's curiosity pushing her to eat the apple in the Garden of Eden.

The story has been adapted many times: Barbe Bleue (1866), an Opéra-bouffe composed by Jacques Offenbach.

More than 20 movies were produced about Blue Beard.

The oldest on was made in 1901 by Georges Méliès.

Jean Painlevé directed Blue Beard in 1936.

La barbe bleue (2009) (Blue Beard)

In Charlotte Brontë's Victorian novel Jane Eyre, Jane comments in Chapter 11 that the third floor of Thornfield is "looking, with its two rows of small black doors all shut, like a corridor in some Bluebeard's castle."

The key as the symbol of curiosity is enchanted: it will reveal to Blue Beard that his wife enter the secret and forbidden chamber: blood had come onto the key which would not wash off.

Barbe Bleue (Bluebeard)

It is possible that Charles Perrault was influenced by what he knew about the king of England Henry VIII (1491-1547).

Henry had 6 wives and most of them had a violent ending : some died, other divorced

Catherine d'Aragon: Henry VIII's attempt to have their 24-year marriage annulled set in motion a chain of events that led to England's break with the Roman Catholic Church.

Anne Boleyn: second wife, executed in 1536.

Jane Seymour: third wife, died of postnatal complications (1537)

Anne de Clèves: fourth wife, marriage was annulled in 1540, on the grounds of non-consummation.

Catherine Howard: fifth wife, beheaded for adultery in 1542.

Catherine Parr: sixth wife. She was the most-married English Queen, with four husbands. Died in 1548 at age 36. Died of postnatal complications like Jane Seymour.

The Other Boleyn Girl

Directed by Justin Chadwick. With Natalie Portman (Anne), Scarlett Johansson (Mary), Eric Bana (Henry). Two sisters contend for the affection of King Henry VIII.


A number of Modern, nonconformist men frequented the leading women’s salons, contributing fairy tales of their own as part of the conversational games.

Perrault turned the blunt language and earthy imagery of peasant folk stories into tales that were urbane, aristocratic, stylish and highly refined, disguising his more subversive ideas behind a façade of light, dry humor.

His stories fit the fashion of the time, yet contain a few marked difference from those of the female salonnières. In particular, the princesses in Perrault’s tales tend to be passive, helpless creatures, praised for their beauty, modesty, and quiet obedience.

His princes stride off to seek their fortunes, outwitting ogres and hacking through briars, while the princesses sleep or sit in the ashes, virtuously awaiting rescue.

Things have changed and in modern adaptations, women have a more active role: already in Beauty and the Beast, the Beast is waiting for Beauty to rescue him from his curse.


Charles Perrault, The Tales of Mother Goose, As First Collectedby Charles Perrault in 1696, With annotations by M.V. O'Shea, translated by Charles Welsh, :

Charles Perrault, Histoires ou Contes du temps passé (1697), Illustrations d’Antoine Clouzier, Édition Claude Barbin, wikisource, 2008, website:

The Annotated Cinderella(fromLang, Andrew, ed. “Beauty and the Beast.” The Blue Fairy Book. New York: Dover, 1965. Original published 1889), in SurLaLune Fairy Tales by Heidi Anne Heiner:

Charles Perrault's Mother Goose Tales, compiled by D. L. Ashliman:

Straparola, Giovanni Francesco. The Facetious Nights by Straparola. W. G. Waters, translator:

Zipes, Jack David (translated and with an introduction by), Beauty and the Beast and other Classic French Fairy Tales, New York, Signet Classic, 1997.

Montoneri, Bernard, Huang, Shio-Ling, “Study of Three Animals in some European Fairy Tales”, 弘光學報 Volume 48, pp.191-204, 2006/05.

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