Until a few centuries ago, the children’s stories we know from books and movies were passed through the generations only by word of mouth. The recording of the tales of Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, and Puss-in-Boots in printed form occurred almost by accident. It was the good fortune of the tales and future generations of children alike that the transformation was achieved by an author who had skill and good taste.
Charles Perrault was a son in a Parisian family that had several well-respected members. One brother was a writer, another was a theologian, and a third was a medical doctor who also helped design the Louve museum. It remained for Charles, born in 1628, to find his own niche in life. He studied law and passed the bar exam, but found that he did not care to be a lawyer. He was offered a post in the court of King Louis XIV to oversee the care and construction of royal buildings. While working in that capacity, he began writing poetry. The poems were good enough to justify the offer of an additional job: editor of a magazine of poetry flattering the king, for the personal reading pleasure of His Royal Highness.
Charles Perrault’s literary reputation grew, and he was admitted to the leading society of learned men in Paris. Charles was an amiable man, but he managed to ruffle the feathers of fellow intellectuals who took themselves rather seriously. Eventually Monsieur Perrault was thrown out of the Académie Française due to spite, but he did not hold a grudge. Controversy and the demands of his work for King Louis XIV led the aging writer to retire and move to an estate with his young children. He gathered stories told by a governess and related them in print. His book of Mother Goose fables was published in 1697 and has been popular ever since.

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