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Puss In Boots By Charles Perrault

1810 words - 7 pages

Charles Perrault’s classic fairy-tale Puss-in-Boots has been admired and loved by children and adults alike for centuries. This engaging tale features a walking, talking cat who goes out into the world to make his young master’s fortune. It is an adventure of the side-kick hero, of the loyal friend and devoted underling who has only his own exquisite wit and industriousness to help him on his quest. It is also a story with one of the most enigmatic and perplexing protagonists in fairy-tale culture. Puss is a feline who embodies ancient cat symbols in a uniquely paradoxical fashion; he is a female entity in a male character as well as a magical and demonic totem who is perceived as such by only a select few.

Cats have always had a powerful feminine aspect to their image. This is little surprise considering the number of ancient cultures who associated cats with goddess worship. The Egyptians placed a cat’s head upon their goddess Bast, both the Greeks and Romans made cats attributes of their virgin huntress goddesses Artemis and Diana, and the Norse goddess Freya drove a chariot drawn by cats (Walker 367). As Hans Bierdermann comments, one can see “the frequent feline metaphors in misogynist expressions and clichés: ‘a cat fight’ between two women, a ‘catty remark...’” (60).

One may then ask about Perrault’s motives behind using a female symbol in the creation of the male Puss. Upon close inspection of the text, the need for the feminine cat becomes evident, and is addressed right at the beginning of the story. The cat must immediately be seen as a relatively useless thing, incapable of the heavy labour needed to generate a reasonable living, unlike the mill or the ass bestowed upon the two older brothers. Indeed, the idea of a woman preforming physically demanding tasks like mill work would have seemed quite ridiculous at the time. Nor would that idea be in line with other Perrault fairy-tale women such as Sleeping Beauty or Cinderella. Puss must also be an initially dependent relationship towards his master. The feminine dependence of the cat serves two purposes; first, it aides in providing motivation for Puss to increase his master’s lot in life, not only to save Puss’ own skin, but to ensure that he still has someone who will provide him with shelter and creature comforts. Secondly, it provides a test to see if the young man is willing to place trust in Puss by giving the cat the requested boots and pouch, which Puss, resourceful as he is, clearly cannot get for himself. The cat must also serve yet another feminine attribute - that of comforter. In a soft and gentle gesture, Puss advises that “there is not the least need for you to worry, Master. . . . You will find then that your share is not so bad after all” (Perrault 155). Much like a mother comforting a fretful son, the cat assures the young man that he will fare well in life and will be watched over, a reassurance that is certainly more appropriate...

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