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Charles Perrault: 5 facts you need to know

The man who invented the modern fairytale has been chosen by Google to be celebrated in the January 12 doodle. French author Charles Perrault features in a Sleeping Beauty doodle on what would have been 388 birthday. What’s even more interesting about Perrault is that the fairytales he’s credited with have changed dramatically since he wrote them back in the 17th century.

Here’s what you need to know about the great Charles Perrault, author of Little Red Riding Hood, Sleeping Beauty and Cinderella :

1) He began his life as a tax collector and a lawyer

Perrault was born into a wealthy Parisian family in 1628. According to his official website, “He was always interested in learning. He went to the best schools, where he was always top of his class.” After leaving high school, Perrault worked as a tax collector in Paris and then went to law school. He was well connected and knew the French king, even arguing with the monarch that the famed Tuileries Gardens in Paris should be open to the public.

2) He didn’t write his first fairy tale until he was 70

His first fairytale finally arrived in 1697 when Perrault was 70. That book was Stories or Tales from Times Past, with Morals: Tales of Mother Goose. Inside were eight stories, maybe you’ve heard of some of them, Sleeping Beauty, Little Red Riding Hood and Cinderella, to name but a few. Prior to Perrault putting pen-to-paper on these works, the stories were just word-of-mouth but were all well-known throughout Europe. Due to his celebrity status, Perrault published his book under his son, Pierre’s, name.

The original versions of the stories were more racy than the watered down Disney versions. For example, in Sleeping Beauty, the beauty is a student who takes a job at a brothel to help make ends meet. A 2011 movie version of the story paid close homage to Perrault’s vision.

3) His wife was only 19 when they first got married, he was 44

In 1672, Perrault settled down and married 19-year-old Marie Guichon. She passed away in 1678. At that time, Perrault retired from public life in the Parisian social circles. It was then that he began to write his fairytales as well as educate his children at home. One book on Perrault, French Fairy Tales: A Jungian Approach, says Guichon died just after giving birth to the couple’s third child.

It was five years after he published his first book that Perrault would pass away in Paris in 1703.

4) The story of Cinderella is the most filmed story of all time

Perrault’s story Cinderella has the distinction of having the most film adaptations ascribed to it. It was French director Georges Méliès who began this trend in 1899 with his version. The story was fairly recognizable to today’s audiences, right down to the pumpkin coach. The movie lasted for six minutes and was a box office bomb.

Though if you’re counting movies featuring a single character, there are more movies based around Dracula, by Irish author Bram Stoker.

5) He said “Little Red Riding Hood’ was a warning for girls not to talk to strangers

In speaking about Little Red Riding Hood, Perrault made it clear that the wolf is meant to symbolize a stranger. He said:

“From this story one learns that children, especially young lasses, pretty, courteous and well-bred, do very wrong to listen to strangers, And it is not an unheard thing if the Wolf is thereby provided with his dinner.

I say Wolf, for all wolves are not of the same sort; there is one kind with an amenable disposition – neither noisy, nor hateful, nor angry, but tame, obliging and gentle, following the young maids in the streets, even into their homes. Alas! Who does not know that these gentle wolves are of all such creatures the most dangerous!”

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