Charles Perrault (12 January 1628 16 May 1703) was a 17th century Frenchman who wrote fairy tales with remarkable sticking power. If it didn't come from Andersen or the Grimms, chances are good that Perrault wrote it.
Perrault was already a renowned writer when he turned his hand to fairy tales, and, in 1697, published Histoires ou Contes du Temps passé ("Tales and Stories of the Past with Morals"), but the book subsequently became better known under its subtitle Les Contes de ma Mère lOye, a.k.a. Tales of Mother Goose. Note that this is technically the same Mother Goose who is the personification of Nursery Rhyme, but at that time she was still connected to fairy tales. The book was initially published under the name of his son, presumably because he feared criticism for writing in a "childish" genre. In the 19th century Gustave Doré illustrated the tales in the most iconic and influential imagery possible.
Perrault's fairy tales with pages of their own on this site include:
- The Fairy/Diamonds and Toads
- Little Red Riding Hood
- The Ludicrous Wishes
- Puss in Boots
- Sleeping Beauty
The Tales of Mother Goose (1696) contains the best known versions (pre-Disney, anyway) of most of those tales. Perrault's version of Little Red Riding Hood ended in the girl's death, and was superseded by the Grimms' more optimistic version. Likewise, although he wrote Sleeping Beauty, the Grimm version is better known. Perrault's Cinderella is in turn much more known than the Grimms' version.
Many of his stories were based on pre-existing fairy tales, but he was among the first to tell them on paper, especially with a distinctive and elegant style. Others who wrote their own fairy tales in the same period (primarily women) have not had the lasting popularity that Perrault has, with the possible exception of Madame de Villeneuve and Madame LePrince de Beaumont, who between them were responsible for Beauty and the Beast.
Perrault's works are in the public domain and can be read in the Project Gutenberg website.
Examples of tropes in Perrault's Tales of Mother Goose:
- An Aesop: He was fond of appending these to his stories, in rhyme, although sometimes they don't seem to quite match up with the story (the moral for Bluebeard? Ladies, don't be too curious. Because living with a serial killer is apparently fine, so long as you don't find out).
- Artifact Title: There's actually only one fairy in the tale "The fairies".
- Beauty Equals Goodness
- Be Careful What You Wish For
- Damsel in Distress
- Evil Matriarch:
- "Sleeping Beauty": It's tough when your mother-in-law is literally an ogress.
- In "Diamonds and Toads", the evil mother favors the daughter who's like her, and hates the one who's like her father. Originally explained that the younger daughter was mistreated because she was the stepdaughter. Perrault changed it to have an evil mother to make the story less similar to "Cinderella".
- Fairy Tale
- Family-Unfriendly Violence: Mostly in Bluebeard, but there may be something of this in the death of the Queen in "Sleeping Beauty".
- Family-Unfriendly Death: Bluebeard is mercilessly skewered by his brothers-in-law.
- Happily Ever After
- Karmic Jackpot
- Love at First Sight
- Rags to Royalty: A male version, in Puss in Boots.
- Rule of Three
- Serial Killer: Bluebeard
- True Beauty Is on the Inside: In one of his lesser known tales "Tufty Riquet," the titular character, Riquet is the ugly Prince of the Gnomes, but his unmatched wit and charm make him very popular, and his compassionate nature allows him to render a beautiful, but dull, princess intelligent as well. In turn, a year later, she is able to bring his inner beauty forward by picturing all of his good qualities, rendering Riquet with handsome features.
- Youngest Child Wins