Puss in Boots illustrated by Fred Marcellino

Puss in Boots is a character I was familiar with but I don’t remember ever reading the actual fairy tale. The tale was first published by Charles Perrault in 1697. It’s a quite entertaining story of a very special cat.

The picture above is the cover of the version I read, Puss in Boots translated by Malcolm Arthur, illustrated by Fred Marcellino. Isn’t it gorgeous? The cat looks mysterious and intelligent. The title of the book has been relegated to the back cover, so tit doesn’t distract from the image.

The story begins with a dead miller’s estate being divided between his three sons. The oldest gets the mill, the middle gets the donkey, and the youngest gets the cat. The youngest is disappointed, of course, but the cat tells him not to worry. The cat requests a pair of boots and a sack, which the young man gives him. Since this is a fairy tale a talking cat is not remarkable.

Puss puts on his boots, heads to a warren and catches a rabbit, who he kills “without mercy or compassion.” He takes the rabbit to the king, presenting it as a gift from the Marquis of Carabas, the name he decided to give to his owner. The King accepts the gift with thanks, and Puss continues to bring the King partridges, rabbits and other game for a few months.

One day, Puss learns that the King and his daughter would be taking a ride along the river. Puss comes up with a plan, first convincing his master to pretend to be drowning. The King’s men rescue the man known as the Marquis of Carabas, pulling him out of the river.

The King ordered the officers of the wardrobe to fetch one of his finest suits for the Marquis of Carabas. Once the Marquis had changed, the King made a great fuss over him; and since the fine clothes brought out his good looks, the King’s daughter took a liking to him, too. The Marquis gave her two or three tender glances, and before you knew it she had fallen in love with him. The King proposed that he join them in the carriage for a drive.

Along the way, Puss runs ahead and threatens all the peasants working in the fields they drove through, insisting they tell the King that it is the Marquis of Carabas’s land. I’m not sure why they found the threats of a cat so terrifying, but they did. Finally, Puss comes to a castle that belongs to an ogre who can change shape. Puss flatters the ogre and convinces him to show how small a creature he can become. You see it coming, the ogre turns into a mouse who Puss then eats.

When the King and his company get to the castle, Puss goes out to meet them, welcoming the King to the Marquis of Carabas’s castle. They have a banquet in the castle’s great hall and the King gives the Marquis permission to marry the princess. They are wed that same day.

Puss became a great lord and gave up chasing mice, except just once in a while, for the fun of it.

I love Puss. He’s confident, stylish, smart, brave, quite an amazing cat. And in my head he always sounds like Antonio Banderas.

You can read the story on-line here, but I loved the book version I read. The translation is clear and easy to follow, but the illustrations simply steal the show. The paintings are gorgeous, full of sunny colors and remarkable detail. The cat is shown in all his dimensions. On one page he’s curled up on a carpet as cozy as any house cat. In another, he presents the rabbit to the king with a distinctive flourish. At times, he looks demanding, at others thoughtful or frightened. I just think the pictures add so much to the story, make it  delightful.

Purchase Puss in Boots at Amazon or an Indie bookstore.

Challenge: Fairy Tales

Friday’s Tales is a weekly event here at Carol’s Notebook. I would love it if you joined me. Fairy tales, folktales, tall tales, even re-tellings, share with us. If you have a link, please include it in your comment.