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Charles Perrault

Charles Perrault Charles Perrault[2†]

Charles Perrault (January 12, 1628 - May 15/16, 1703) was a French author and member of the Académie Française[1†][2†]. He is best known for laying the foundations for a new literary genre, the fairy tale, with his works derived from earlier folk tales[1†][2†]. His most famous tales include “Little Red Riding Hood”, “Cinderella”, “Puss in Boots”, “Sleeping Beauty”, and "Bluebeard"[1†][2†].

Early Years and Education

Charles Perrault was born on January 12, 1628, in Paris, France[1†][3†][4†][5†][6†]. He was the seventh and youngest child of Pierre Perrault and Paquette Le Clerc[1†][3†][5†][6†]. The Perrault family was distinguished and wealthy, with his grandfather serving as an embroiderer for the royal family and his father working as a lawyer in the Paris Parliament[1†][5†][6†].

Perrault received his education at well-respected schools in Paris[1†][5†][6†]. He studied law, following in the footsteps of his father[1†][3†][6†]. He attended the ‘Lyçée Saint-Louis’ and ‘Collége de Beauvais’ in Paris[1†][3†]. After a philosophical discussion with one of his professors, Perrault and a classmate decided to self-study. They focused on classic authors, the history of the church, the history of France, and the Bible, translating the texts themselves[1†][3†].

Perrault’s elder brother, Claude Perrault, was a physician and an architect who designed the colonnade of the Louvre and the observatory of Paris[1†][3†]. He also published works on natural history and architecture[1†][3†].

After completing his law studies, Perrault was admitted to the bar in 1651[1†][3†]. He began his career working in the government and helped his brother become a designer of the Louvre’s new section[1†][6†].

Career Development and Achievements

Charles Perrault began his career as a lawyer after being admitted to the bar in 1651[3†]. He worked in the government and the court of King Louis XIV[3†]. He held influential positions in various councils, including the 'Académie Française’[3†]. He also worked as an official in charge of royal buildings[3†][1†][3†].

Perrault’s career as a writer flourished only after the end of his political career[3†]. He began to win a literary reputation around 1660 with some light verse and love poetry[3†][1†]. He spent the rest of his life promoting the study of literature and the arts[3†][1†].

In 1671, he was elected to the Académie Française[3†][1†]. The Académie soon became sharply divided by the dispute between the Ancients and the Moderns[3†][1†]. Perrault supported the Moderns, who believed that as civilization progresses, literature evolves with it[3†][1†]. Therefore, ancient literature is inevitably more coarse and barbarous than modern literature[3†][1†].

His poem ‘Le Siècle de Louis le Grand’ (1687; ‘The Age of Louis the Great’) set modern writers such as Molière and François de Malherbe above the Classical authors of Greece and Rome[3†][1†]. His chief opponent in this controversy was Nicolas Boileau[3†][1†]. Perrault’s stand was a landmark in the eventually successful revolt against the confines of the prevailing tradition[3†][1†].

Perrault is best remembered for his collection of fairy stories for children, ‘Contes de ma mère l’oye’ (1697; ‘Tales of Mother Goose’)[3†][1†]. These were written to amuse his children[3†][1†]. They include “Little Red Riding Hood”, “The Sleeping Beauty”, “Puss in Boots”, and "Bluebeard"[3†][1†]. These stories are modern versions of half-forgotten folk tales, which Perrault retold in a style that is simple and free from affectation[3†][1†].

While acting as Colbert’s secretary, Perrault helped his brother design a section of the world-famous Louvre[3†][7†]. He advised Louis XIV in the installation of 39 fountains in the labyrinth at the gardens of Versailles[3†][7†]. He created the Academy of Sciences and restored the Academy of Painting[3†][7†].

First Publication of His Main Works

Charles Perrault’s most significant contribution to literature was his collection of fairy tales titled ‘Contes de ma mère l’oye’ (1697; ‘Tales of Mother Goose’)[1†][2†]. This collection laid the foundations for a new literary genre, the fairy tale[1†][2†]. The stories were derived from earlier folk tales and were presented in a style that was simple and free from affectation[1†]. Here are some of his main works:

These stories have had a significant influence on the genre of fairy tales and have been adapted into various formats over the centuries[1†][2†]. They continue to be printed and have been adapted to most entertainment formats[1†][2†].

Analysis and Evaluation

Charles Perrault’s fairy tales have had a profound impact on the genre of fairy tales and children’s literature[8†]. His stories are characterized by their brevity, matter-of-fact reporting of events, and emphasis on action and dialogue, making them well suited for oral presentation[8†]. The action in his tales begins immediately, following the formulaic “once upon a time” in all the tales except "Puss in Boots"[8†].

Perrault utilized magic within the story’s plot to create extraordinary events from ordinary lives[8†][9†]. A fairy godmother, a magic wand, and granted wishes are all elements of an enchanted tale ending with happiness for a character with a kind heart and a gentle spirit[8†][9†].

While all the tales are widely read, not all have achieved equal popularity. In particular, readers have often found “Blue Beard” disturbing due to its dark themes[8†]. As the inclusion of morals suggests, the tales deal with ethical issues. Good is always rewarded, and evil is always punished[8†].

Modern readers, however, often miss the satire that is often present. For example, the good daughter in “The Fairies” shows kindness to a fairy and is rewarded with magically produced precious stones; a prince soon falls in love with her, but only after he notices her jewels[8†].

Perrault’s fairy tales have left a lasting legacy in the world of literature. His works have influenced countless authors and have been adapted into various formats over the centuries[8†].

Personal Life

Charles Perrault was born into a wealthy bourgeois family in Paris[2†][10†][5†]. He was the seventh child of Pierre Perrault and Paquette Le Clerc[2†][5†]. He had a twin brother who survived only a few months[2†][10†]. His brother, Claude Perrault, is remembered as the architect of the severe east range of the Louvre, built between 1665 and 1680[2†][10†].

At the age of 19, Charles Perrault married Marie Guichon in 1672[2†][11†]. However, details about his personal life beyond this point are not widely documented. It is known that he moved in with his brother Pierre, who had purchased the position of chief tax collector of the city of Paris[2†]. He took part in the creation of the Academy of Sciences as well as the restoration of the Academy of Painting[2†]. In 1654, he was appointed secretary of the Academy of Inscriptions and Belles-Lettres[2†].

Perrault’s personal life seems to have been closely intertwined with his professional life, with his family playing a significant role in his career. His personal experiences and relationships likely influenced his work, particularly his fairy tales, which often revolve around themes of family, transformation, and the triumph of virtue[2†][1†][2†].

Conclusion and Legacy

Charles Perrault’s legacy is profound and enduring. He is best remembered for his collection of fairy tales, known as “Contes de ma mère l’oye” or “Tales of Mother Goose”, which he published in 1697[1†][10†]. These tales, which include “Little Red Riding Hood”, “Sleeping Beauty”, “Puss in Boots”, “Cinderella”, and “Bluebeard”, were written to amuse his children[1†]. They were modern versions of half-forgotten folk tales that Perrault retold in a style that is simple and free from affectation[1†].

Perrault’s fairy tales have had a wide-ranging and long-lasting impact. His pioneering efforts in establishing the fairy tale as a new literary genre were later emulated by the Brothers Grimm and Hans Christian Andersen[1†][10†]. His tales continue to be celebrated in various forms of media and have significantly influenced the cultural fabric of societies around the world[1†][10†].

Beyond his contributions to literature, Perrault played a prominent part in a literary controversy known as the quarrel of the Ancients and Moderns[1†]. His support for the Moderns, who believed that literature evolves with civilization, marked a landmark in the eventually successful revolt against the confines of the prevailing tradition[1†].

In summary, Charles Perrault was a multifaceted individual whose impact on literature and culture extends far beyond his well-known fairy tales. His life and works represent a fascinating intersection of literature, culture, and history[1†][10†].

Key Information

References and Citations:

  1. Britannica - Charles Perrault: French author [website] - link
  2. Wikipedia (English) - Charles Perrault [website] - link
  3. The Famous People - Charles Perrault Biography [website] - link
  4. Britannica Kids - Charles Perrault [website] - link
  5. Pook Press - Charles Perrault [website] - link
  6. Softschools.com - Charles Perrault Facts [website] - link
  7. Books Tell You Why - Blog - Art, Science, and the Fairy Tales of Charles Perrault [website] - link
  8. eNotes - Perrault's Fairy Tales Analysis [website] - link
  9. Study.com - Charles Perrault's Cinderella: Analysis & Quotes [website] - link
  10. New World Encyclopedia - Charles Perrault [website] - link
  11. SunSigns - Charles Perrault Biography, Life, Interesting Facts [website] - link
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