January 12, 2016
Charles Perrault’s 388th Birthday
What's that story, with the glass slipper and the pumpkin that turns into a carriage? How about the one where a princess falls into a deep sleep when she pricks her hand on a spindle? We owe the Cinderella and Sleeping Beauty narratives we've known since childhood to Charles Perrault, the 17th-century French author and academician. Perrault was born in Paris 388 years ago today, and spent most of his life in the court of Louis XIV. He began writing his famous stories only in his late sixties, after having retired.
For today's Doodle, artist Sophie Diao created tableaux for Perrault's "Mother Goose" stories (Les Contes de ma Mère l'Oye, 1697): Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, and Puss in Boots.
Perrault's stories set the standard for the modern fairy tale. Perrault borrowed basic plots and the familiar opening "once upon a time" (il était une fois) from traditional stories told aloud, while modernizing them with both fashionable embellishments and the very act of putting them into writing. (The publication of the tales coincides with the rise of the modern novel: they came after Don Quixote and La Princesse de Clèves, but before Robinson Crusoe and Tom Jones). The backbone of these fairy tales persist within contemporary novels and movies, making our reading or cinema-going a fundamentally optimistic venture: when we hear "once upon a time," we've come to expect—and anxiously await—a "happily ever after."
Remember the "seven-league boots" from Sleeping Beauty? How about the shape-shifting ogre in Puss in Boots? Remind yourself with an English translation of Perrault's stories, or check out an illustrated 18th-century edition with text in both English and French.
Sketches for the doodle by artist Sophie Diao