Cats in Folktales – Puss in Boots

Puss in Boots is a very old European folk tale, known in many variations in many countries. The best known version is  that recounted by Charles Perrault in his 1697 collection of Mother Goose Tales in French. Basically, it is the story of a clever and magical cat who helps his poor master become rich by means of trickery. Folklorists believe that Puss in Boots originated as a tale in the oral tradition, and was first written down in Italy during the 1500’s.

Puss in Boots

Once upon a time a poor old man died and left his only three possessions to his three sons. The oldest boy got his mill, the second got his donkey and the youngest one got his cat.

The young boy was disappointed, and consoled himself by thinking he could always eat the cat. To save himself, the cat began to speak to him and struck a bargain: if the boy would give him a bag and a pair of boots, the cat would repay him by making him rich. The boy agrees, and the cat put on his new boots, grabbed his new bag, and went out to catch a rabbit. Carrying it in the bag, Puss in Boots brought the rabbit to the King in his palace, saying that it was a present from his master, the Prince of Carabas. After that the cat caught many more animals, and each time offered them to the King with the same message.

One day the King went for a ride in his coach near the river, and Puss in Boots, knowing this, told the miller’s son to go for a swim. While he was in the water, the cat hid his clothes, and then ran to the road and told the King that his master, the Prince of Carabas, was swimming when some thieves had stolen his clothes. The King wrapped the boy in a rich robe, and took him into his fabulous coach, seating him next to his daughter, the beautiful Princess.

Puss in Boots sprang into action, running ahead and threatening all of the farmers he encountered that if they did not tell the King that the all the fields belonged to the Prince of Carabas, they would all be chopped into pieces. Naturally, hearing this, the King believes the miller’s son is very rich indeed.

In reality, however, the lands were the property of a great and terrible ogre. Puss in Boots confronted the ogre at his castle, challenging him to prove the rumor that the ogre could turn himself into any animal he chose. Unable to resist showing off, the ogre changes himself into several different creatures. When he turned into a mouse, Puss in Boots pounced upon him and ate him up. As the King’s coach rolled onto the castle grounds, Puss in Boots greeted the royal party, presenting the ogre’s castle and all of his land as that of the miller’s son. The King was so impressed that he offered the boy the hand of the princess in marriage. So they were married and lived happily ever after. As for Puss in Boots, according to Perrault, he “became a personage of great importance, and gave up hunting mice, except for amusement”.

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