Charles Perrault was born on this day in 1628. He’s the man you’ll want to thank/curse for all those impossible-to-escape viral Disney princess remixes.

While the Brothers Grimm are probably better-known (thanks at least in some part to that evocative last name), Charles Perrault was every bit as important in shaping of the corpus of stories we now know as “fairy tales.” His 1697 collection Les Contes de ma Mère l’Oye—“Mother Goose stories”—contained early versions of Little Red Riding Hood, Blue Beard, and many others. Today’s Google Doodle by Sophie Diao illustrates three of the best known: Sleeping Beauty, Cinderella, and Puss in Boots.

Of course all three and a bunch of lesser-known collectors alike were hoovering up and reworking a circulating oral tradition, not pulling stories out of thin air. So, rather than fathers, they could more accurately be described as midwives. But, via the Guardian, Neil Philip’s Complete Fairy Tales of Charles Perrault points out that Perrault was doing something fresh and important, adding quirks and tailoring his stories to his adult contemporaries at the court of Louis XIV:

He gave the tales a more courtly dress and a more knowing air than they would have had in a peasant’s cottage, but he did not make fun of them or spoil them with literary embroidery. He let them speak for themselves, and in the process revealed that what they had to say was not so simple after all.”

In the process, he helped turn an oral tradition into something that would be reprinted, retold, and re-imagined for centuries—especially once his works appeared in English translation in 1729, rearranged in a more kid-friendly order, as the Public Domain Review notes. Disney should probably send a thank-you card or something.


Contact the author at kelly@jezebel.com.

Lead image via Getty, the New York Public Library’s public domain collection; illustration via Google.com screencap; 1841 etching via the New York Public Library’s public domain collection.