With all this to his credit, Perrault could not have predicted that his reputation for future generations would rest almost entirely on a slender volume he published in 1697 with the unassuming title: Stories or Tales from Times Past, with Morals. Inside was another title: Tales of Mother Goose. This book contained eight simple stories: Bluebeard, Sleeping Beauty, Cinderella, Puss-in-Boots, Diamonds and Toads, Rickey with the Tuft, Little Red Riding Hood, and Hop-o-my Thumb.
When Perrault began writing his stories in the 1690's, the fairy tale was already much in vogue, especially at the court of Louis XIV. It was a popular practice in court circles to spend a pleasant afternoon telling fairy tales. Perrault drew upon this oral tradition, utilizing the motifs, plot configurations, characters, and themes, to create his fairy tales, but making inspired changes and additions to the traditional versions. In Cinderella, for instance, Perrault added the enchanted midnight curfew, the glass slipper, and the magical creation of the carriage, horses, and footmen out of a pumpkin and various local rodents. The stories were innovative and compelling, filled with charm and wit, edifying but with didacticism subtle enough not to discourage the reader.
In the past three hundred years, the stories have been through thousands of translations, adaptations, and, inevitably, amusing corruptions. Because of their repeated telling and by virtue of the multiple layers of possible meaning and interpretation, they have become deeply embedded in the fabric of our culture. Variations of these eight stories continue to pour forth every year from presses around the world, offspring of that little masterpiece penned in 1697 whose success earned Perrault the honor of being called the father of the modern fairy tale.
Copyright 2006© Rita Smith
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Thursday, 05-Jan-2006 09:12:45 EST