Posted in fairy tales, general and welcome

Happy Birthday, Charles Perrault!

Anyone who’s visited Google’s page today will have seen that they have dedicated their Doodle to Charles Perrault, the oft-cited father of the modern fairy tale. Had he been a character in his own fairy tale, he might be celebrating his 388th birthday. However, he was a real person and subject to nature’s laws so we have to make do with remembering his life instead.

https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/d/d4/ChPerrault.jpg

Charles Perrault

While many people may have heard of Charles Perrault, his name is not necessarily the first that springs to mind when you talk about fairy tales. Instead, that honour goes to the Brothers Grimm, who came around 200 years later and who used Perrault’s texts, including popular tales as Little Red Riding Hood, Cinderella, Puss in Boots, Blue Beard and Sleeping Beauty as a basis for their own. Perrault wasn’t the author of those tales – they were circulating orally before his time – but he did set them down on paper for readers to enjoy.

Be warned, though: his version of these classic tales are not the sanitised stories we read today. Fairy tales came into existence to entertain and also to instruct – the gruesome fates that often befell the main protagonists were warnings for the unwary. Alongside their parents, children would have listened to tales that probably would be rated 18+ at the cinema nowadays. The wolf in Red Riding Hood, for example, is a man who targets little girls wandering alone in the woods against their mothers’ permission, while unknowing Sleeping Beauty shares her bed with a series of men who take advantage of her sleeping sickness.

Despite (or perhaps because of) the sordid nature of the tales, they were fantastically popular and were translated into English for our ancestors’ enjoyment. Still, I can’t imagine reading his versions to any of the young children I work with now without being fired from my job!

If you can track down the originals, it’s well worth it to see how a fairy tale can change with the passage of time, particularly when critics say that nowadays children are becoming desensitised to violence. The fact that Perrault’s brutal retellings of popular tales can shock us in 2016 shows that perhaps we’re made of more sensitive stuff than our ancestors.

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Author:

Childtastic Books started out as a collaborative blog, written by me and my young daughter Holly. Now she's nearly a teen, she's off doing exciting and new things but I am still here, reading, writing and reviewing books for children and young adults of all ages. I miss her input but I hope she will pop in from time to time to do some guest posts! A little about me - I have just finished an MA in Children's Literature from the University of Roehampton (result pending, eeek) and am a part-time primary school librarian. The other part of my time is spent writing and editing, my own work and others, and I am waiting for my first non-fiction book to be published - a teacher resources pack for Handa's Surprise. I welcome comments and love to hear from visitors to this blog. Please note though that, because of time constraints, it is rare that I can read and review books from self-published authors. I receive so many requests and feel badly about not being able to keep up with them all. Thanks for visiting! Sam

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