Festival Of Late Bloomers, Day 2: Faerie Tale Tuesday
“If you want your children to be intelligent, read them fairy tales. If you want them to be more intelligent, read them more fairy tales.” ~Albert Einstein
It’s true. Everything you need to know in life you could learn from faerie tales. Like, for instance, that thing with the large teeth is probably not your granny.
The best-known adaptations come from Disney, but scholars have traced “Red Riding Hood” to 14th century France. Hundreds of versions exist.
Just last Friday, NBC updated the tale with their premiere of Grimm, a detective series set in Portland. But the Brothers Grimm wrote more than a hundred years after Charles Perrault (above), the late bloomer NBC can thank for all that advertising revenue.
Today, in honor of Perrault, I’m giving away Faerie Tale Theatre: Tales from the Brothers Grimm. The winner is Karen, my seventeenth reader, whom I notified this morning. Congrats, Karen!
To my RSS readers: I’ve opened up Later Bloomers: 35 Folks Over Age 35 Who Found Their Passion And Purpose to everyone here, since I haven’t figured how to feed it to you. (Sounds a bit Red Riding Hoodish, doesn’t it?)
Now to Charles Perrault’s story.
Charles Perrault: Cinderella’s Secretary
“Once upon a time there was a gentleman who married, for his second wife, the proudest and most haughty woman that ever was seen. She had two daughters of her own, who were, indeed, exactly like her in all things. The gentleman had also a young daughter, of rare goodness and sweetness of temper…”
You grew up with them all — Cinderella, the Fairy Godmother, the Prince, the Stepmother, the Secretary.
Then again, you might not know about the secretary. Charles Perrault (1628-1703), the man who transcribed Cinderella’s life, was the youngest son of an accomplished family. His father was a lawyer and his brother designed a wing of the Louvre.
The Attorney Who Told Tales
But Charles couldn’t settle on a living. To make his dad happy, he studied law and sat for the bar, but never practiced law. He worked under his brother for a while. He became a civil servant in the court of King Louis XIV, the Sun King.
He also served as secretary of the Académie des Inscriptions et Belles-Lettres (the Department of Noble Inscriptions), which created Latin phrases for the king’s monuments. In that position, he did something amazing for an upper-class paper pusher — he stood against making the Tuileries Gardens a royal preserve and campaigned to keep them open to the public.
Perrault married at age 44, but his wife died in childbirth six years later. The couple had three sons and a daughter, whose schooling Perrault oversaw when he could.
The Flower Seller, Tuileries by Henry Lesur
In 1695, he lost his position as Académie secretary (perhaps for taking the wrong side, from his employer’s viewpoint, one too many times). He decided to devote himself to writing and completing his children’s education.
In 1697, at age 69, Perrault published Tales From Mother Goose. They made him an instant sensation and established a new literary genre, the fairy tale.
Touchingly, he used his youngest son’s name as a nom de plume.
Not All Child’s Play
Perrault’s tales were adapted from oral tradition, stories told by the common people. We’re not sure why he decided to write them down. Such tales became popular entertainment at the Sun King’s court, where the teller always embellished them and added a moral twist that favored the aristocracy.
Maybe Perrault observed such a performance and decided to give the folklore back to the folk (as he did with the Tuileries Gardens). His versions contained slightly subversive elements. When you think about it — dirt poor Cinderella outshines all those aristocratic hussies at the ball and marries her royal husband.
In moving from the Sun King’s secretary to Cinderella’s secretary, Perrault captured the most beloved fairy tales of all time. He died five years after their publication, at age 74.
If you haven’t read them lately, Project Gutenberg’s Tales From Mother Goose is a 1901 translation of:
Cinderella, or the Little Glass Slipper
The Sleeping Beauty in the Wood
The Master Cat, or Puss in Boots
Riquet of the Tuft
Little Red Riding-hood
And the Imaginary Museum has a fascinating Short History of Fairy Tales.
Did I fail to mention Disney?
That was intentional.
What Later Bloomers Can Learn from Charles Perrault:
- Perrault isn’t the only Later Bloomer to establish a new literary genre. So did Bram Stoker. Don’t underestimate the power of life experience amplified by imagination.
- The world is filled with amazing stories, including yours. We need to hear them.
What do you think? Please let me know