In this episode, group 5 discusses Charles Perrault’s take on “Puss in Boots.”
History of publishing and Oral History: By Mackenzie
The Master Cat, or Puss in Boots, is a fairytale by Charles Perrault and was published in 1697. Charles was a member of the Académie Française. Through his upcoming as an intellectual in this organization he was able to produce a piece called, Parallels between the Ancients. This piece helped with the age of Enlightenment in Europe and allowed Europe to be open to fairytales. Perrault published very well known pieces in a book titles Stories or Tales from Times Past, with Morals: Tales of Mother Goose. However, he published the book under his son’s name, Pierre 1. Even though the version of Puss in Boots that is most familiar today was written by Perrault, the orginal Puss in Boots story was a fable written by Giovanni Straparola 2.Perrault’s version is very similar to the original in a sense that he is still trying to help the youngest son. However, this version is the first version to feature the boots and an ogre. Also, Perrault’s version has the cat be a very sneaky and clever character which is then a common theme for many other stories such as, Jogeshwar’s Marriage3.
- Ashliman, D.L., “Charles Perrault’s Mother Goose Tales,” Pitt.edu, June 8, 2013. https://www.pitt.edu/~dash/perrault.html.
- Vocelle, LA, “Orgins of the Story Puss in Boots,” The Great Cat. September 27, 2013. http://www.thegreatcat.org/origins-story-puss-boots/
- “Puss in Boots,” Pook Press, 2017. http://www.pookpress.co.uk/project/puss-in-boots/
Archetypes in Puss and Boots: By Michael Tobin
Several of the classic archetypes discussed in Jack Heckel’s analysis “Fairytale’s Most Wanted: The Five Most Common Character Types” are present in Charles Perrault’s Puss in Boots. While Heckel’s article presents us with a few of the most common archetypes, Jane Garry’s book “Archetypes and Motifs in Folklore and Literature: A Handbook” gives us a thorough analysis of important archetypes that Heckel’s analysis doesn’t cover.
The main characters in the fairy tale, the miller’s son (The Marquis of Carabas), the cat, the king and the king’s daughter, all fit archetypes that are brought up in the texts.
The cat in Puss and Boots is a classic example of a trickster archetype. According to Garry, trickster characters often take the form of animals, with some classic examples being coyotes, hares, ravens and spiders1. In their paper “Expert witness and Jungian archetypes”, Juan Antonio LaLlave and Thomas Gordon Gutheil say that the trickster takes the form as a hero or savior, victim or perpetrator, or as joker or fool in folklore2. In Puss and Boots, it is clear that the cat takes the role of the savior for the Marquis. Through establishing a rapport with the king, the cat is able to build credibility and make the rest of his explanations seems legitimate. The cat isn’t known for just tricking the king; he also outsmarts the ogre when he asks him to prove that he can turn into a mouse and then eats him.
The cat’s owner, the so called Marquis of Carabas, is unknowingly the charming prince. Heckel describes the charming prince archetype as “inevitably dashing and handsome,” and that young women will want to marry them shortly after meeting them3. In Puss and Boots, this is exactly what happened. Perrault describes the prince as “very handsome and well proportioned.” Once, he is dressed in the king’s robes, Perrault writes that the king’s daughter took interest in him and fell in love with him quite quickly. At the end of the story, the Marquis ends up marrying the king’s daughter.
The princess is a classic example of who Heckel describes as the “beautiful damsel.” Heckel says that all princesses are described as beautiful in fairytales, but few stories hyperbolically exaggerate their beauty3. Some stories, such as Rapunzel and Sleeping Beauty choose to exaggerate the details. Puss in Boots gives the same description of the princess as those fairytales, as the king’s daughter is described as “the most beautiful princess in the world.”
The king is a great example of who Heckel calls the “guileless fool” archetype (OED:
guileless: devoid of guile. Guile: Insidious cunning, deceit, treachery4). Heckel says that this character is “marked by an uncommon lack of common sense, an honesty of spirit, and an almost preternatural luck.”3 The king is easily tricked into believing that the Marquis actually does own all of the land. Furthermore, it is expected that king’s should know what other rulers own land and that he would be able to see through the lies.
- Garry, Jane. Archetypes and Motifs in Folklore and Literature: A Handbook. Routledge, 2017. ProQuest Ebook Central, https://ebookcentral-proquest-com.libproxy.uoregon.edu/lib/uoregon/detail.action?docID=302402.
- Lallave, Juan Antonio, and Thomas Gordon Gutheil. “Expert Witness and Jungian Archetypes.” International Journal of Law and Psychiatry 35, no. 5-6 (2012): 456-63. doi:10.1016/j.ijlp.2012.09.012.
- Heckel, Jack. “Fairytale’s Most Wanted: The Five Most Well-Known Character Types.” Tor.com. March 24, 2015. Accessed April 20, 2018. https://www.tor.com/2014/08/22/fairytales-most-wanted-the-five-most-well-known-character-types/.
- “University of Oregon Libraries.” Login for Library Electronic Resources & Services – UO Libraries. Accessed April 20, 2018. http://www.oed.com.libproxy.uoregon.edu/view/Entry/82339?rskey=K8kWae&result=1#eid.
CULTURAL CONTEXT: By Julia
The story was written in 1600
In the story, the gifts the cat gives to the king were rabbits and partridges, taking presents in intervals for the king on behalf of his master. Animals like rabbits and birds were considered high class food at the time of the story
Throughout the story, the cat tricks the king into thinking Lord Marquis of Carabas had lots of land, something that was also of great importance during this time and showed nobility
The cat tricks the King into buying Lord the Marquis of Carabas new suits, this shows the importance that fine clothing had during the time of this story.
At the end of the story, there are two poems that seem to present two morals of the story, “Be the advantage never so great, of owning a superb estate,” . At the time of this story, owning land, dressing nice, and having good manners were what one needed to achieve nobility or be seen as wealthy.
Our society and culture today in a sense are similar. Rather than bringing someone rabbits or partridges, if you take someone out to a nice dinner, that could be a sign of wealth and is used today as a way to form relationships.
In terms of being nobility or being someone of importance, I would say that dressing nicely and owning land are still the primary ways people see wealthy people.
It is hard to find a “good” moral for this story as the protagonist lies, cheats, and tricks people into getting what he wants. Our primary use for fairy tales like Puss in Boots today is to convey morals to young children which is why the story has been adapted to have a clear “good” moral.
- “Puss in Boots.” Wikipedia. April 19, 2018. Accessed April 24, 2018. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Puss_in_Boots.
- Tolovaj Publishing House. “Puss in Boots: A Story With a Questionable Moral.” Owlcation. February 17, 2017. Accessed April 24, 2018. https://owlcation.com/humanities/puss_in_boots.
- Acheson, Katherine O. Writing Essays about Literature: A Brief Guide for University and College Students. Peterborough: Broadview, 2011
Historical Background: By Shannon
Puss in Boots was first published by Perrault in his Histoires ou Contes du temps passe in 1697. Puss in Boots was originally published as The Master Cat. A different version of the story appears in Straparola’s Piacevole notti in the sixteenth century. The story was titled Constantino Fortunato. Scholars believe that Straparola’s story was derived from oral foklore. However, there is no evidence to validate this theory. Another author, Giambattista Basile created a similar trickster cat story in the seventeenth century. This story was titled Gagliuso. This tale was translated into Caglioso. This fairytale and trickster cat archetype has been circulating parts of Europe. More specifically, it has been circulating across Siberia, onward to India, Indonesia and the Philippines. The further the stories travel from Europe, the more variations the story takes on.
Heiner, Heidi. “History of Puss in Boots.” SurLaLune Fairy Tales: History of Puss in Boots, 7 July 2007, www.surlalunefairytales.com/pussboots/history.html.
Do I like this story?
No I do not like this fairytale because at first the youngest son is given the worst inheritence from his father. The other two sons received things that will be able to help them thrive in the world and lead good lives while the young son describes his future as, “When I have eaten my cat and made a muff of his skin, I must die of hunger.” In the youngest son’s mind, the cat is good for nothing besides food but obviously one cat is not enough for the boy to stay full for forever. The cat decides to prove him wrong and through sneaky tricks is able to make the youngest son a prince. However, the cat does this without being asked and is never thanked. The only reward the cat receives is to eventually be a lord. I believe this story leads people to believe that great things can happen even if you do nothing for them. The cat did all of the work to make the son a prince and the son received all of the glory. I thought it was interesting that the son, who is now my Lord the Marquis of Carabas, did not question how he was somehow a Lord and that the peasents and reapers all say that they are upkeeping his property. He completely knows that this is not his property but without a blink of an eye he says, “As you say sire, for it is a meadow which yields an abundant crop every year.” Throughout the entire story the cat does everything while the son does nothing and I do not think that is a good message.
What words stood out to me?
A word that stood out to me was “Master.” Once custody of the cat was transferred to the son the cat automatically calls him master. Even though this story takes in a place that is not in your time or mine, I would not expect a normal cat to accept that someone is his master. Cats have a sense of entitlement and that they are above everyone else. However, in this story the cat will do anything for his master. As a dog person, I think this is something my dogs would be willing to do for me but never a cat. I think a cat would want to keep the animals it has captured for himself instead of bringing them to a king to help his master.
A phrase that stood out to me was “you shall all be cut into pieces as small as minced meat.” I believe this phrase is used because the people the cat is speaking to when this phrase is used against is people of a poor status. The first group that the cat says this to is peasents and the second group is reapers, which are people who harvest crops. I believe he uses the word meat because these people are worth nothing but they flesh and muscle their bodies have. Not only are they just meat, they are MINCED meat. I think the word minced was used to show that these people are too small to have any say in what is happening. The cat uses these words to belittle the peasents and reapers to make him do as his wants.
Also the number three stood out. This number is referenced three times. The first time is that there are three sons, the second time is when the cat brought animals to the king for two or three months, and the third time is when the son glances at the princess two or three times. Not only is three referenced it is referenced three times! In chinese culture it is believed that groups of 3 that contain the number three are extremely lucky! I believe this relates to the story because even though the cat is cleaver, lots of luck was required for him to pull everything off4.
What feelings does this fairytale give me?
I felt confused for most of the story. I do not understand why a king would want dead animals from a cat. As Michael described before, the king is a guileless fool. He lacks common sense and is willing to go with the flow. I can’t imagine a king would be so fond of a cat that brought him dead animals. He liked the cat so much that just because the cat said something he believed it to be true. This plays into the cats ability to trick him to believe the son is a Lord because he is able to sneak away to plan things so the son can look like he is a lord of great wealth. If the king had even a little common sense he would have most likely realized that something was strange.
I also felt upset because the cat has done so much for the son or, my lord Marquis of Carabas, and does not receive a thank you like I said earlier. Even though the cat probably only did these things so he would not be eaten, the cat went through a tremendous amount of work to make the son a prince. Thankfully, the son did provide the cat with supplies he needed in order to work his magic. However, I am rooting for the cat to accomplish everything he sets out to do. I think the cat is a very kind hearted character and just wants the best for his master, except when it comes to wanting to chop up people into minced meat, then he is not a very nice character but he is doing it out of the love for his master. The cat is even willing to go up to an ogre! The ogre scares him and for a second I thought the cat was going to be eaten when he turned into a lion. Thankfully, the cat was smart enough to play into the ogre’s ego and challenge him to turn into a mouse. The ogre accepted the challenge and the cat casually ate the mouse shaped ogre. Once the ogre was gone, the castle became his master’s. Even though the cat is not thanked, I am rooting for him throughout the whole story! I definitely would like him to be my cat.
Do I identify with any of the people represented?
I identify with the cat in a sense of wanting to help out others. I do like to help others even if I do not receive anything in return. I especially want to help those in their time of need. As an aspiring physical therapist, I want to help others and problem solve in order to think of a solution to help them in the best possible way. The cat is faced with multiple obstacles and with his sneaky personality is able to avoid the situation and continue on the path of making his master a prince. Even though I will help people more ethically than the cat, I do like that the cat is willing to put those he loves before himself. I may not do this all of the time but it is definitely something to strive for.
Is there anything about how it’s written that stands out?
I thought that it was interesting how clothes played such an important role in the story. Nothing of good fortune happened until the cat and his master were in desirable clothes.
What is the work about?
I think it is about putting others before yourself. Even though it is not betrayed in the best possible way because the cat does evil things to help his master.
What else is the work about?
According to the moral at the end of the story it is also about how you look. I do think that according to the story this moral is true but I do not agree with it.
- “Lucky Number Three, Meaning of the Number 3 in Chinese Culture,” Travel China Guide, 2018. https://www.travelchinaguide.com/intro/lucky-number3.htm.
Do I like this story?
I hate to disagree too much with Mackenzie, but I did enjoy this story. I thought that it was about making the most of the circumstances you had and it’s saying that “I didn’t get the same thing as my siblings got, but I ended up in a better situation at the end.” I thought the character development in the story was pretty good too because the cat is acting as the character who brings game to the king to build up credibility with him and he’s able to make something out of it. Doing something like that may be unethical by today’s standards, but I think it is an interesting story because it talks about how impressing people and appearing credible makes people believe anything. That’s pretty evident by the king.
Words that stood out to me:
The word that stood out to me was “poor.” We see it referenced in the beginning when the miller’s son, the Lord of Marquis, is referred to as a “poor fellow.” We could interpret this in a number of ways, such as material wealth or being in an unfavorable situation. Those terms collide and overlap. Like we were talking about in class, fairytales were for the working class and this may be a story about a poor person which just makes it more relatable to the origin of fairtyales.
What feelings does the story give me?
The story gives me the feeling of “fake it till you make it,” because that’s ultimately what the cat did. He was able to lie and lead the king on for the entire story and as a result the Marquis married into royalty and the cat became a lord. Like I said, it’s all dependent on the fact that the king was an idiot, but it still happened. The story gives me a sense that “confidence is key” because the cat was able to do this because the king was an idiot and manipulatable.
Do I identify with any of the people in this story?
I don’t identify with any of the characters in the story. I don’t lie to people to get ahead, like the cat did, and I also don’t think I am a bumbling idiot. I’m not like the king, the cat, the prince charming, and ertainly I’m not like the princess. Maybe I’m like the peasants who were mowing the lawns?
What is this work about?
I think this story is about using your wits and circumstances to outsmart people who are in power. As we see in this story, just because having a position of authority doesn’t inherently make someone smart. That idea is proven in this story because the king doesn’t even know that an ogre owns the land around him. A very contemporary example of that is just because you may be in the highest office of the land, does not make you an inherently smart person. This story is also using your wits to outsmart people. The cat is able to establish credibility with the king in order to say “If you believe me now you can believe me in the most absurd of circumstances” and that’s establishing credibility.
After reading Puss in Boots, I believe there isn’t a positive moral, rather that the story argues in favor of lying and deceit in order to get what you want. The cat tricks the King and Princess into believing his master is a Lord, tricks peasants into lying to the King, tricks the Ogre in order to eat him, and in the end has no repercussions for his actions. The cat carries out all these actions for which in the end he is not reprimanded for, instead he “became a great lord, and never again ran after mice, except for his amusement”.
Do I like the reading?
I enjoyed reading the story and thought it had all the makings of the stereotypical fairytale. There was a princess, magic, an animal helper that acts “fairy godmother”, and a protagonist.
I don’t think there is a clear positive moral present which is my only issue with the story, it seems to be a more negative message that promotes lying.
What words stand out?
The story was written in the 1600 so the language and the way it was written it has an old english style to it and uses phrases that aren’t common today. Phrases like “muff”, “with a sedate and serious air”, and “little versed in the wiles of the world” were the phrases that stuck out most to me. ‘Muff’ is what we would call gloves today. After the cat overhears his masters discontent with getting stuck with just a cat, the cat tries to ease his masters worries and speaks with a ‘sedate and serious air’, perhaps to try and act confident and as if he has something to prove to his master. And when describing how the cat was waiting for a rabbit, Perrault says ‘little versed in the wiles of the world,’ a fancy way of saying innocent.
What feelings does it give me?
This story gave me a sense of familiarity after I read it, the idea of a character getting a “bad” gift and then it actually turns out to be the best gift of them all. If the story had been released in today’s society, the ending would have been different and I think the cat and his master would have gotten in trouble for all the lying and deception they conducted. I was mad that this wasn’t the original outcome because I believe in hard work in order to get what you want and the master didn’t do anything and yet he still got the princess and all the things of a noble.
Do I identify with any of the people represented?
In a way, I feel like I most identify with the cat. Not in a lying and cheating life sort of way, but one could argue that the cat is just trying to prove himself worthy for his master and is trying to find a way to a better life than his current one. In that sense, the need to prove myself and aspiring to put myself in a better position I relate. The cat goes to so many lengths to lie and trick people in order to prove himself as a “good” gift. I feel like i’m trying to do well in school and succeed academically to prove something to my friends and family.
What is the work about?
After reading this story, there are multiple things I think this story could be about. It could be about someone, in this instance a cat, wanting to prove themself to the world, or it could be about the lengths people will go to for the people they love, or maybe just their master. The cat is willing to lie, trick, and even eat people in order to make his master happy. This could either be a good thing, showing how loyalty is an important thing, or it could mock loyalty and show that someone can be loyal to a fault.
As we all know, Puss in Boots can be simplified as the story of a cat who uses trickery in order to gain power and wealth. Therefore, Puss in Boots can easily be tied to the classic “rags to riches” archetype. Another similar archetype is the “underdog” archetype. This archetype has always been popular in the United States. If anything, that’s the archetype that the us and our society really gravitate towards. Which is why the united states has its fair share of puss in boots adaptations. For instance, the adaptations of puss in boots that are present in shred 2 and shrek the third are most similar to the “underdog” archetype.
Returning to the “rags to riches” archetype, this archetype stood out while analyzing specific passages within Puss in Boots. It becomes evident that power and wealth are mentioned all throughout the fairytale. More specifically, I wanted to point out one quote in particular. The quote goes, “I have been told,” said the cat, “that you have the power of changing yourself into all kinds of animals; that you could, for instance, transform yourself into a lion or an elephant.” Looking more closely at the types of animals they chose to mention, the lion and the elephant demonstrates the riches aspect of rags to riches. For instance, the lion as an animal symbolizes strength, courage and leadership, while an elephant also symbolizes strength, in addition to power. These two animals demonstrate the type of person character’s within these archetypes strive to become.
Credits for sound effects and music:
All music and sounds were from freesound.org