Charles Perrault (12 January 1628 – 16 May 1703) was a French author and member of the Académie Française and he laid the foundations for a new literary genre, the fairy tale.
Portrait (detail)of Charles Perrault by Philippe Lallemand, 1672
In 1695, when he was 67, Perrault lost his position as secretary and decided to dedicate himself to his children. In 1697 he published Tales and Stories of the Past with Morals, subtitled Tales of Mother Goose . This “Mother Goose” has never been identified as a person, but used to refer to popular and rural storytelling traditions in proverbial phrases of the time. These tales, based on French popular tradition, were very popular in sophisticated court circles. Its publication made him suddenly very widely known and he is often credited as the founder of the modern fairy tale genre.
Frontispiece of the only known copy of the first English edition, 1729 (Houghton Library)
Some of his popular stories, particularly Cinderella and The Sleeping Beauty, are still commonly told similar to the way Perrault had written them, while others have been revised over the years. For example, some versions of Sleeping Beauty published today are based partially on a Brothers Grimm tale, Little Briar Rose, a modified version of the Perrault story, but the Disney version is quite true to the original Perrault tale.
Old, Old Fairy Tales: "Cinderella". She lost her slipper as she ran from the castle...
Sleeping Beauty is shown a spindle by the old woman.
Little Red Riding Hood
Perrault had written Little Red Riding Hood as a warning to readers about men preying on young girls walking through the forest. He concludes his fairy tale with a moral, cautioning women and young girls about the dangers of trusting men. He states, “Watch out if you haven’t learned that tame wolves/ Are the most dangerous of all”. Perrault warns the readers about the manipulation and false appearances some men portray: “I say Wolf, for all wolves are not of the same sort; there is one kind with an amenable disposition – neither noisy, nor hateful, nor angry, but tame, obliging and gentle, following the young maids in the streets, even into their homes. Alas! Who does not know that these gentle wolves are of all such creatures the most dangerous!” Indeed, the girl gets into bed with the wolf and is devoured. There is no happy ending as in most current versions of the story.
Little Red Riding Hood is one of the central characters in the Broadway musical Into the Woods (1987) with music and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim and book by James Lapine. The musical intertwines the plots of several Brothers Grimm and Charles Perrault fairy tales, exploring the consequences of the characters’ wishes and quests. The main characters are taken from “Little Red Riding Hood”, “Jack and the Beanstalk”, “Rapunzel”, and “Cinderella”, as well as several others. The musical is tied together by a story involving a childless baker and his wife and their quest to begin a family (the original beginning of The Grimm Brothers’ “Rapunzel”), their interaction with a witch who has placed a curse on them, and their interaction with other storybook characters during their journey.
In 1967, Nabokov commented: “The pleasures and rewards of literary inspiration are nothing beside the rapture of discovering a new organ under the microscope or an undescribed species on a mountainside in Iran or Peru. It is not improbable that had there been no revolution in Russia, I would have devoted myself entirely to lepidopterology and never written any novels at all.
” From the age of seven, everything I felt a connection with a rectangle of framed sunlight was dominated by a single passion. If my first glance of the morning was for the sun, my first thought was for the butterflies it would engender.
[…] I have hunted butterflies in various climes and disguises: as a pretty boy in knickerbockers and sailor cap; as a lanky cosmopolitan expatriate in flannel bags and beret; as a fat hatless old man in shorts”.
Vladimir Nabokov, Speak, Memory
Nabokov as a boy with a butterfly book, 1907 – Nabokov Museum
It all began over a hundred years ago in the estate of Vyra outside St. Petersburg, where the six-year old Volodya Nabokov caught his first butterfly. He remembered that day just as well as another, eight years later, when he wrote his first poem.
For a St. Petersburg boy who spent every summer in the countryside, butterfly-hunting was nothing out of the ordinary, but for Vladimir this pastime rapidly developed into an absorbing interest. At the age of eight he began reading serious books on entomology from the family library and at nine he already attempted to make his first scientific discovery, writing about it to the leading Russian lepidopterist, Nikolay Kuznetsov. Kuznetsov’s reply disappointed the young naturalist: it turned out that the insect in question had already been described. But the passionate desire to make his mark in science remained with Nabokov throughout his life, and was finally satisfied in America in 1941, when he at last managed to describe an unknown subspecies.
The drawings of butterflies done by Vladimir Nabokov were intended for “family use.” He made these on title pages of various editions of his works as a gift to his wife and son and sometimes to other relatives. In Brian Boyd’s words, “in these highly personal and affectionately playful drawings the scientific accuracy Nabokov needed in thousands of illustrations of the specimens he studied under the microscope was no longer relevant, and his imagination could take flight. In the butterflies Nabokov devised and labeled for Vera he mingles fact and fancy even more sportively than in his fiction.”
None of these drawings portray real butterflies, both the images and the names he assigns to them are his invention. The names often have some connection to the book that the butterflies adorn and, in most cases, play on words in English and Russian is used: “Paradisia radugaleta”, “Verinia verae”, to name just a few.
No one reads Kerouac better than Kerouac.. “ The only people for me are the mad ones, the ones who are mad to live, mad to talk, mad to be saved, desirous of everything at the same time, the ones who never yawn or say a commonplace thing, but burn, burn, burn like fabulous yellow roman candles exploding like spiders across the stars.” ~Jack Kerouac, On the Road