Charles Perrault Criticism - Essay

Bruno Bettelheim (essay date 1976)

(Literary Criticism (1400-1800))

SOURCE:“The Animal-Groom Cycle of Fairy Tales,” in The Uses of Enchantment: The Meaning and Importance of Fairy Tales, Alfred A. Knopf, 1986, pp. 277-310.

[In the following excerpt, from a work originally published in 1976, Bettelheim argues that “Bluebeard” teaches lessons about sexual morality and forgiveness, noting that the tale is Perrault's original narrative and not a retelling of a specific prior story.]

Bluebeard is the most monstrous and beastly of all fairy-tale husbands. Actually this story is not a fairy tale, because with the single exception of the indelible blood on the key which gives away the fact that Bluebeard's bride has entered the...

(The entire section is 2028 words.)

Jeanne Morgan (essay date 1985)

(Literary Criticism (1400-1800))

SOURCE: “The Creation of a Modern Genre” and “Conclusion,” in Perrault's Morals for Moderns, Peter Lang Publishing, 1985, pp. 35-54 and 155-58.

[In the following essays, Morgan analyzes Perrault's development of the prose conte (tale) in relation to other prose and verse forms of the era, and offers reasons for Perrault's lasting literary significance.]


Perrault's Contes du temps passé were selected by him to represent traditional French tales which illustrated the superior moral character of modern culture. In terms of structure and expression, however, the Contes are not traditional...

(The entire section is 6731 words.)

Marina Warner (essay date 1989)

(Literary Criticism (1400-1800))

SOURCE:“Bluebeard's Brides: The Dream of the Blue Chamber,” in Grand Street, Vol. 9, No. 1, Autumn, 1989, pp. 121-30.

[In the following essay, Warner analyzes the themes of the color blue and forbidden knowledge in the “Bluebeard” tale, and suggests that the prevalence of death in childbirth was one context for the story.]

In 1697 Charles Perrault, poet, courtier, deviser of pageants for His Majesty Louis XIV, published a collection of stories, under the title Tales of Olden Times, or Mother Goose Tales (Contes du temps passé, ou Contes de ma mère l’Oye). This firm attribution of the stories to an ancient oral tradition, to Mother Goose—the...

(The entire section is 3187 words.)

Carol de Dobay Rifelj (essay date 1990)

(Literary Criticism (1400-1800))

SOURCE:“Cendrillon and the Ogre: Women in Fairy Tales and Sade,” in Romanic Review, Vol. 81, No. 1, January 1990, pp. 11-24.

[In the essay below, de Dobay Rifelj analyzes the similarities in the ways Perrault and the Marquis de Sade viewed and represented women in their writings, finding the female characters passive and weak.]

In Perrault's verse tale “Griselidis,” Griselda's husband, the king, has locked her in a dark room and removed all the jewels and finery she was given as queen. Her reaction is emblematic of the presentation of women in Perrault's tales

Par un pur mouvement de sa bonté suprême,
          Il me choisit comme un enfant...

(The entire section is 7100 words.)

Philip Lewis (essay date 1991)

(Literary Criticism (1400-1800))

SOURCE:“Food for Sight: Perrault's ‘Peau d’âne,’” in MLN, Vol. 106, No. 4, September, 1991, pp. 793-817.

[In the excerpt below, Lewis analyzes culinary themes in Perrault's “Peau d’âne” and “Cendrillon.”]

[B]efore looking more closely at Louis Marin's [scholar and author of the influential study La parole mangée] intriguing line on the tales of Charles Perrault, we should outline the larger historical scheme in which his reading of the tales takes root. Marin's understanding of the culinary sign stems from the study of representation and representationality that he elaborates in La critique du discours, a study that takes the...

(The entire section is 6451 words.)

James M. McGlathery (essay date 1991)

(Literary Criticism (1400-1800))

SOURCE: “Beauties and Beasts” and “Father and Daughters,” in Fairy Tale Romance: The Grimms, Basile, and Perrault, University of Illinois Press, 1991, pp. 55-86 and 87-112.

[In the following excerpts, McGlathery provides a comparative analysis of themes in tales by Perrault, the Brothers Grimm, and Giambattista Basile.]


The indirect or symbolic portrayal of maidenly ambivalence about marrying is not limited, in fairy tale romance, to encounters with animal suitors. The bridegroom may be portrayed as subhuman or “beastly” in some other way, as for example in the familiar story of Bluebeard, one of the folktales...

(The entire section is 3836 words.)

Eric Méchoulan (essay date 1992)

(Literary Criticism (1400-1800))

SOURCE: “The Embodiment of Culture: Fairy Tales of the Body in the 17th and 18th Centuries,” in Romanic Review, Vol. 83, No. 4, November, 1992, pp. 427–36.

[In the following essay, Méchoulan discusses themes of food and orality in several of Perrault's tales in the context of contemporary religious and political concepts of the body.]

Once upon a time there was a body. This body was peculiar indeed. One, it was only produced by a speech act. Two, the subject of its enunciation gave his body as a body which was obviously heterogeneous. Three, this heterogeneous body was manifested only by a deixis, by a “this.” Four, this body alone must represent a whole...

(The entire section is 5404 words.)

Jack Zipes (essay date 1993)

(Literary Criticism (1400-1800))

SOURCE: “The Trials and Tribulations of Little Red Riding Hood,” in The Trials and Tribulations of Little Red Riding Hood, Routledge, 1993, pp. 17-88.

[In this excerpt, Zipes discusses the origins of the “Little Red Riding Hood” tale and analyzes how Perrault transforms it for a bourgeois-aristocratic audience.]

Little Red Riding Hood has never enjoyed an easy life. She began her career by being gobbled up by the wicked wolf. Later she was saved by an assortment of well-meaning hunters, gamekeepers, woodcutters, fathers, grandmothers, and fairies. Of course they all scolded her for being too carefree, and she obediently promised to mend her ways. However, she...

(The entire section is 7521 words.)

Philip Lewis (essay date 1996)

(Literary Criticism (1400-1800))

SOURCE: “The Cartesian Turn: Perrault against Descartes,” in Seeing through the Mother Goose Tales: Visual Turns in the Writings of Charles Perrault, Stanford University Press, 1996, pp. 9-41.

[In the following essay, Lewis analyzes Perrault's writings with respect to Cartesian ideas about visualization and self-sensation, arguing that Perrault simultaneously—and ingeniously—resisted and appropriated René Decartes' insights.]

In 1661, more than thirty years before the Mother Goose Tales began to appear, Charles Perrault published a short story entitled “Le Miroir, ou la métamorphose d’Orante.”1 Appearing at a moment when the writing of...

(The entire section is 13674 words.)

Jack Zipes (essay date 1997)

(Literary Criticism (1400-1800))

SOURCE: “Of Cats and Men: Framing the Civilizing Discourse of the Fairy Tale,” in The Origins of the Literary Fairy Tale in Italy and France, edited by Nancy L. Canepa, Wayne State University Press, 1997, pp. 176-93.

[In the following excerpt, Zipes analyzes Perrault's “Puss in Boots” and explains how Perrault's account has become the canonical version of the tale.]

[Giambattista Basile's “Puss in Boots”], though humorous, contains a devastating critique of the feudal system of that time and represents a moral code that was not yet fully instituted within the civilizing process in Europe. Throughout the tale, the cat is completely loyal to her master, works...

(The entire section is 2052 words.)