January 12 – Happy Birthday, Charles Perrault

Posted on January 12, 2015

He's listed as the guy who wrote “Little Red Riding Hood.”

And the guy who sorta kinda invented modern fairy tales!

Charles Perrault, born in Paris, France, on this date in 1628, studied law and had a career in governmental service. He was the secretary of the Academy of Inscriptions and Belles Lettres—and I gather that this was sort of like being a department head, not a lowly post.

He worked under King Louis XIV, who is the Louis called “the Great” and the king who made the lavish Palace of Versailles the seat of royal power. One of the things Perrault suggested was including 39 fountains in the gardens of Versailles, with each fountain representing one of the fables of Aesop.

When Perrault lost his post as secretary at age 67, he decided to dedicate himself to writing. At the time, “fairy stories” were all the rage among the aristocrats of France. (And we're talking about adults here.) Perrault wrote Stories or Fairy Tales from Past Times with Morals, or Mother Goose Tales. Apparently, scholars

are not sure about the origins of the stories; they may have been based on oral traditions and ancient stories, or they may have been mostly original to Perrault. One thing is sure: many of the fairy tales we are most familiar with are based on Perrault's telling.

We're talking “The Sleeping Beauty,” “Little Red Riding Hood,” “Bluebeard,” “Puss in Boots,” “Cinderella,” “Diamonds and Toads.”

Here's an interesting fact: The stories were claimed to be the work of author Pierre Perrault Darmancour, Perrault's son, who was 19 years old at the time of publication. However, scholars say that there is no evidence that the son wrote the stories or even collaborated on them; it seems clear that only the elder Perrault wrote the tales and then used them to introduce his son to society.

Later, when the Grimm brothers were collecting what they called “traditional German” stories to be published as fairy tales, they included Perrault's stories as well...

Anniversary of establishment of first public museum in U.S.

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