The nearly 500-year-old story of a swordsman cat
Puss in Boots is known as the anthropomorphic Spanish-speaking cat, a fugitive on the run from the law who is particularly known for his iconic boots. Although he is most popular these days as a character in Shrek before its 2011 spin-off and a new movie, Puss in Boots: The Last Wishcoming out soon, the story was originally an Italian fairy tale that spread widely across Europe. Now, with nearly 500 years of the swashbuckling feline in the cultural lexicon, let’s take a look back at the original story and enjoy the fairy tale that people often overlook.
A tale as old as time
The startling origins of Puss in Boots go back perhaps to the earliest and earliest written account of the story by Italian author Giovanni Francesco Straparola between 1550-1553, who included it in his The facetious nights of Straparolabut there is also a version written by Girolamo Morlini, which Straparola also used for other miscellaneous tales in his collection. Later another version was published by Giambattista Basile in 1634, titled Cagliuso, and although the tale is originally Italian, retired civil servant Charles Perrault wrote a French version towards the end of the 17th century. Perrault also created a collection of eight fairy tales called Stories or tales of the pastin which appeared a handwritten and illustrated manuscript of Puss in Boots.
The story has been recognized in both Italian and French, its Italian title being Il gatto con gli stivali (The cat in the boots). The book gained incredible recognition and popularity and remains a hit in Europe to this day as a children’s fairy tale. From this storybook, Puss in Boots has inspired artists as varied as composers and choreographers over the centuries, from Tchaikovsky’s ballet Sleeping Beauty (especially in the third act) even the Brothers Grimm Kinder and Hausmärchen (Grimm’s Fairy Tales). Actor Christopher Walken, of all people, even appeared as Puss in Boots in human form in a largely forgotten ’80s movie.
Puss in Boots even starred in a Walt Disney cartoon short in 1922, six years before Mickey Mouse appeared, and was made into Japanese animated films by Tohei (with manga by Studio Ghibli director Hayao Miyazaki), and the company actually made the cat its logo.
Puss in boots is no ordinary cat
While this Spanish cat with adorable huge eyes may be popular in Shrek, few fans know the original story of Puss in Boots. The tale opens with the death of a miller and the distribution of his goods to his sons. The miller’s youngest son simply receives the family cat. Although not a gift like the one his older brother receives (their father’s mill), this cat is not like any ordinary feline, and as soon as the boy realizes his magic , he provides her with a pair of boots, at the request of the cat. . Hoping to make his master rich, the cat embarks on his cunning and mischievous adventures. Along the way, he shows cunning tricks and a celebration of mischief, including his plan to trick the king; in the end his tricks succeed and the miller’s son ends up holding the title of Marquess and is offered a princess’s hand in marriage.
The famous version made by Perrault is the story that most people know, even if it is not his creation. Over time, the original story has been adapted and modified. In Straparola’s version, for example, the poor young man is not the son of a miller, but of a bohemian. The cat is also actually a fairy in disguise, but in the end, the man still becomes king. Similarly, a version by Giambattista Basile in 1634 showed the young boy as a beggar whose fortune is made through the cat (similar to the story we know), but in the end the boy promises the cat a coffin of when he dies, so the cat tricks him and pretends to be dead. The cat is then mortified to learn that the boy was planning to throw him out the window. In distress, the cat runs away, leaving the boy to find his own way.
The moral of The Trickster Tale
Despite the many versions of Puss in Boots, many may agree that the ancient story of the talking trickster cat is intriguing, but how should we interpret its meaning? At first glance, it seems like lying, cheating, and deceiving our way through life is how we’d be rewarded, though it doesn’t seem right for someone of that nature to be shown with the honors. Puss in Boots, while deceiving those above him in powerful positions, always seems to evade retribution, which, again, doesn’t seem so ethical or realistic. We can’t take it for granted that Puss never has to answer for his misdeeds, as we surely would in our society, which begs the question: what’s the moral of the story?
Like many tales, the “moral” is most certainly open to interpretation, and everyone can view this historical fairy tale in different ways. While the moral that seems to make the most sense here is that sometimes it really pays to lie, cheat, and cheat your way to getting what you want, we could easily discuss an alternative (and more beneficial) way. ) to see it. What if we looked at Puss in Boots as someone who simply does what he has to, so that he and his master survive and make the most of their bad luck in life? He always goes out of his way and puts himself in danger to create a better life for them because, well, what else do they have to lose?
Stories (especially fairy tales) are often written explicitly to allow the reader to learn a lesson, compare their own life, and reflect on their behavior, actions, and choices. So, in this case, Puss in Boots could simply ask us to see each other: do we lie to avoid difficult situations? Do we cheat in life to succeed and get what we want? Are we tricking people into believing us? If so, maybe the moral of the story here is to make changes, ask yourself if it’s really worth it, and ask yourself if we’re doing what we can do to build ourselves up a better life and be happy, but more importantly, to ask if we are doing it fairly and for whom we are doing it.