Charles Perrault

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Perrault, Charles

Perrault, Charles (shärl pĕrōˈ), 1628–1703, French poet. His collections of eight fairy tales, Histoires ou contes du temps passé [stories or tales of olden times] (1697) gave classic form to the traditional stories of Bluebeard, Sleeping Beauty, Cinderella, Puss in Boots, Little Red Ridinghood, and Hop-o'-My-Thumb. In the frontispiece of the collection appears the expression “Contes de ma mère Loye” [tales of Mother Goose]. Perrault also published three tales in verse (1694). He is also famous for the stormy literary quarrel that he aroused with a poem (1687) comparing ancient authors unfavorably with modern writers. Boileau, the chief defender of the ancients, bandied insults with Perrault until 1694. This “quarrel of the ancients and the moderns” is considered a harbinger of the 18th-century Enlightenment.
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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Perrault, Charles


Born Jan. 12, 1628, in Paris; died there May 16, 1703. French poet and critic. Member of the Académie Française from 1671.

The son of a bourgeois official, Perrault was a lawyer. His first work was a verse parody, The Walls of Troy, or the Origin of Burlesque (1653). He wrote allegorical narrative poems, odes, and epistles in the style of chivalric court poetry. The initiator of the literary Quarrel of the Ancients and Moderns, he affirmed the superiority of contemporary writers over the ancient ones. Polemicizing with N. Boileau, Perrault rejected classical aesthetics in the narrative poem The Age of Louis the Great (Le Siècle de Louis le Grand, 1687) and the dialogues Parallel Between the Ancients and the Moderns (Parallèle des Anciens et des Modernes, vols. 1-4, 1688-97).

Perrault gained fame with his collection Stories and Fairy Tales of Bygone Days, With Morals: Tales of Mother Goose (Histoires et contes du temps passé, avec des moralités: Contes de ma mère l’oie, 1697). He opposed the classical tradition with such folk fairy tales as Little Red Riding Hood and Hop o’ My Thumb, introducing these works into the system of literary genres. The Tales helped democratize literature and influenced the development of the fairy-tale tradition as seen in the works of the brothers W. Grimm and J. Grimm and of J. Tieck and H. C. Andersen.

The first Russian translation of Perrault’s fairy tales, Tales About Enchantresses, With Morals, dates from 1768. The fairy tale Puss in Boots was translated by V. A. Zhukovskii in 1845. Perrault’s fairy-tale subjects inspired the operas Cinderella by G. Rossini and B. Bartók’s Duke Bluebeard’s Castle and the ballets The Sleeping Beauty by P. I. Tchaikovsky and S. S. Prokofiev’s Cinderella.


Contes. [Definitive texts, with introduction by G. Rouger.] Paris [1967]. (Contains bibliography.)
In Russian translation:
Skazki. Introductory article by N. P. Andreev. [Moscow-Leningrad] 1936.


Istoriia frantsuzskoi literatury, vol. 1. Moscow-Leningrad, 1946.
Soriano, M. Les contes de Perrault… [Paris, 1968.] (Contains bibliography.)


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.