Puss In Boots–the Original

Way to go, Champions! As you so swiftly met the first goal of 20 reviews, the first Puss in Boots extra is unlocked! You can get it here: Unlikely Heroes, or you’ll find it on the top post–which I’ll continue to update.

Puss in Boots has been out for a few days now, so, as is our custom, I want to take a look at the original fairy tale. Like most of the other fairy tales I’ve adapted, Puss in Boots is an older fairy tale that was passed around orally before writers picked it up. Giovanni Straparola, an Italian author, is credited with the oldest version of Puss In Boots. He included it in a book, Facetious Nights of Straparola, which was published in approximately 1550. The version we are most familiar with, however, is the French tale told by Charles Perrault who published it in 1697. Puss in Boots is the English title of the story, but other versions were titled ou le Chat Botte, Cagliuso, and Master Cat. (Fun fact, in my book some Arcainian villagers call Puss “the Master Cat!“)

Perrault’s story starts with the three sons of a miller who divide up their father’s inheritance. The oldest son receives the mill, the second son receives the donkey, and the third receives the family cat. The third son does very little to ingratiate himself to the reader, for upon receiving the cat he sits down and cries, bemoaning how pitiful his inheritance is. He verbally resolves to eat his cat and make a muff of its skin before dying.

The cat heard all of this and said, being that he was apparently much smarter than the yokel who inherited him, that if the third son would give him a bag and have shoes made for him, he would hunt and make sure the third son didn’t starve. Instead of being shocked by a talking cat, the third son gives the cat some shoes, even though he doesn’t believe the cat will catch anything of worth.

The cat sets off with his shoes, catches a rabbit, and delivers it to the king’s palace. He speaks directly to the king and tells him that his master, the Master of Carabas–a name he made up at that very moment–sends the rabbit as a gift for his table. The king is delighted and sends the cat on his way with his thanks.

Being that talking cat has great ambition and far-seeing plans, he continues to give gifts of game to the King for about two or three months. It is then that the cat hears the king and his daughter–the most beautiful princess in the land–are going to take a drive. The cat asks his sniveling master to bathe in a pond that is near the path the king and his daughter will drive past. The third son does as he is instructed–and let me assure you that the story takes great pains to point out that the son didn’t question the cat at all–and the cat hides his clothes.

When the king drives past, the cat shouts “Help! Help! My Lord Marquis of Carabas is going to be drowned.” The king looks outside and recognizes the cat, so he stops the coach. The cat explains that while his master was bathing, rogues stole his clothes even though the cat tried to stop them. The king sends a servant to fetch some of his clothes for the third son, which the son puts on. Lo and behold, when dressed as finely as the king, the third son looks incredibly striking! (I find it refreshing that the only real positive character trait Perrault gave the third son–besides being biddable, I suppose–is that he was handsome. For once the female character isn’t the only pretty but stupid dunce!) The third son looks so handsome that the princess falls in love with him. (Note: I did say she wasn’t the only pretty but stupid dunce.) The king asks the third son/the suddenly titled Marquis of Carabas to join him and his daughter on their drive. The third son agrees.

At this time the cat runs ahead of the coach and instructs various farmers to tell the king the lands belong to the Marquis of Carabas. If they will not say those words, the cat promises to chop them up like mincemeat. (Bonus! Puss threatens to chop up the children of Kinzig into mincemeat in homage to this famous line.) Either the cat is much more frightening than he sounds, or the peasants are shocked by a cat who has an eloquent grasp of French, so they tell the king exactly as the cat instructed. The third son has enough brains to agree with whatever they say, and he boasts about the productivity of the land.

The cat and coach run along, until they reach a stately castle. The cat, still running ahead, reaches it first. An incredibly rich ogre lives at the castle, and he owns all the lands the cat claimed for his master. The story doesn’t tell us if the ogre is good or evil, it only says that the cat had taken pains before all of this started to learn about the land, the ogre, and the ogre’s unusual ability to shape shift. The cat has a conversation much like the one Gabrielle has with her ogre, and asks the ogre to turn into a lion. The ogre does so, and badly scares the cat. When the ogre returns to his normal shape, the cat challenges him to turn into a tiny animal–like a rat or a mouse. The ogre turns into a mouse, and the cat pounces on him and eats him.

No sooner did the cat finish off the ogre than the king and the handsome-but-still-stupid third son arrive. The king decides to play the part of Goldilocks, and waltzes into the castle without knowing who lives there. The cat runs to greet them and welcomes them to the Marquis of Carabas’s castle. They throw a party, and the king gets toasted. As he continues to drink he notes the size of the Marquis of Carabas’s estates, and observes how smitten his daughter is. He tells the third son “It will be your own fault if you don’t become my son-in-law.” The third son happily agrees, and marries the princess that day. The cat becomes a lord and never again chased after mice, except for his own entertainment.

That’s the original story! In the next post we’ll be taking a look at the various themes presented in this story. It will be a fascinating topic as Puss in Boots is unlike any other story I’ve adapted because the main character–the third son–doesn’t deserve everything he is given. Thank you for reading, Champions, I hope you enjoy the extra!

2 comments on “Puss In Boots–the Original

  1. I loved your version of Puss In Boots. It was a favourite when I was a kid, Iliked the bit when the cat turned the ogre into a mouse, as I thought how could anyone be that silly and not see what was coming? It was such a silly story. Yours is heaps better, but then I think that is just the romantic in me lol.

    • Thank you! I also loved Puss in Boots as a child. There was a book on tape/casset kit from my local library. I listened to that thing so many times, I’m sure my entire family could recite it with me today. In that version, though, the miller’s son didn’t threaten to eat the cat.

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