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Charles Perrault

[pA rO'] "creator of Mother Goose"

Charles Perrault

Charles Perrault was born in Paris, France, on January 12, 1628, the son of a barrister. He received his secondary education at the Collège de Beauvais in Paris, but continual wrangling with his masters eventually led him to leave the school and study on his own. In 1651, he went to Orleans, where he was able to secure a diploma for nothing more than an exchange of cash. Admitted to the bar that same year, he quickly tired of the law and never actually practiced. In 1654 he took position as clerk under his brother, the Receiver-General (tax collector) of Paris, in which capacity he spent almost ten years.

In 1657, Perrault directed the construction of a house for his brother. His skills and ability in this task led, in 1663, to his becoming Controller-General of the Department of Public Works. In this position he was able to save the Tuileries gardens for the benefit of the people of Paris, instead of them being set aside for the exclusive use of the royal family. In 1671 he was admitted to the Académie Française (French Academy). He retired from public service in 1683, following a change in the French government, and devoted the rest of his life to literary and philosophical pursuits.

Known for his progressive, evolutionary view of history, Perrault helped start a literary battle known as "The Quarrel of the Ancients and the Moderns." In The Century of Louis the Great (1687) and Parallels Between the Ancients and the Moderns (4 volumes, 1688-1697), he argued that the culture of his own time was superior to the culture of classical Greece and Rome. He believed that the "Moderns" would win the battle through science, the rational philosophy of René Descartes, and progress in knowledge, culture, and literature.

The work for which Perrault is best known, however, is a collection of fairy tales. The collection, published under his son's name in 1697, was titled Stories of Tales from Times Past, with Morals, with an added title in the frontispiece, Tales of Mother Goose. Although he did not actually create any of the tales in the book, Perrault did take what had been a disparate collection of traditional children's stories and put them into a readable format that any educated child could enjoy. Some of the most well-known children's stories included in the book are listed below.

The Sleeping Beauty in the Wood (La belle au bois dormant)
Little Red Riding Hood (Le petit chaperon rouge)
Blue Beard (La Barbe bleüe)
The Master Cat; or, Puss in Boots (Le Maistre Chat, ou le Chat Botté)
The Fairies (Les Fées)
Cinderella; or, The Little Glass Slipper (Cendrillon, ou la petite pantoufle de verre)
Ricky of the Tuft (Riquet à la Houpee)
Little Thumb (Le petit Pouçet)

Charles Perrault died in Paris, on May 16, 1703.

See Also

Mother Goose

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This page was last updated on 01/12/2019.