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The Fairy Tales of Charles Perrault by Angela Carter

The fairy tale of Charles Perrault

The past few weeks have been tough at work. It’s ok to work your butts off at work when you are appreciated but it is harder to work so hard and yet receive undue criticism about my work. I am nursing my wound and hope in two weeks’ time when I’m off travelling again I can put this behind me and forget about it. As you can tell, I wish I was living in a fairy tale and that everything will turn out well at the end. 😉

After reading Grimm Tales compiled by Philip Pullman, I was interested to read more fairy tales. Angela Carter’s name is synonym with fairy tales and her inspiration begins when she translated Charles Perrault’s classical collection of fairy tales.

If I am right (because I was just born then), the feminists thinking gave birth in the 1970’s and when Angela Carter translated these fairy tales, she gave it a feminist twist and write an excerpt that carries the title “Moral” at the end of the 10 fairy tales in this book. I especially love the moral behind “Bluebeard” if you remember, it is about a man who marry several wives who threaten each of them not to open the door at the end of the hall, or else…. The moral is: “Curiosity if a charming passion but may only be satisfied at the price of a thousand regrets; one sees around one a thousand examples of this sad truth every day.”

You wouldn’t think there is any moral in the story of “Sleeping Beauty” but Angela Carter is ready for one anytime: “A brave, rich, handsome husband is a prize well worth waiting for, but no modern woman would think it was worth waiting for a hundred years. The Sleeping Beauty shows how long engagements make for happy marriages, but young girls these days want so much to be married I do not have the heart to press the moral.” I beg to defer that long engagements make for happy marriages, still there is a sound wisdom that could be taken away from here. There’s humour, too. Sleeping Beauty may be sustained by the food of love, but the palace’s other inhabitants are “ravenous”, and she is reminded impatiently that dinner is ready. It is these snippets of “Moral”, “Another Moral” and a good sense of humour that makes me smile.

Equally interesting is for to read about the original writer, Charles Perrault. He was born in 1628 into one of the more distinguished bourgeois families of Paris in the reign of Louis XIV. These fairy tales are not written for children in mind. French women writers in Perrault’s time were composing and reciting their fairy tales for their peers in literary salons, meant as veiled reference or satire to conditions at Louis XIV’s court. Perrault uses these tales to convey his position about “modern” development of French civility.


Perrault read law in Lyons and worked as a senior civil servant who had a hand in selecting the team to design Versailles and Louvre. The principal architect of the Louvre was another brother of Charles, Claude, who was a physician. Needless to say, Perrault had some of the healthy opportunism of Puss in Boots in with which he was endowed.

It is certainly interesting to read fairy tales again at my advancing, cynical middle age. What seems like innocent fairy tales suddenly become full of subtle and cynical meanings and I don’t think it is such a bad thing at all! 😉

I hope to post this review together when I finished with Angela Carter’s Book of Fairy Tales. Since it’s been a long time I have posted a review, this will do for now.

Other views:

Kim@Reading Matters

For more of Angela Carter short stories trying reading the The Bloody Chamber

Paperback. Publisher: Penguin Classic 2008, originally published 1977; Length: 78 pages; Setting: Fairy tale land. Source: Reading Library. Finished reading on: 13th January 2013.

About the writer:

Angela CarterFrom the Fay Godwin Archive at the British Library

Angela Carter (7 May 1940 – 16 February 1992) was an English novelist and journalist, known for her feminist, magical realism, and picaresque works. In 2008, The Times ranked Carter tenth in their list of “The 50 greatest British writers since 1945”. In 2012, Nights at the Circus was selected as the best ever winner of the James Tait Black Memorial Prize.

Carter attended the University of Bristol where she studied English literature. She spent much of the late 1970s and 1980s as a writer in residence at universities, including the University of Sheffield, Brown University, the University of Adelaide, and the University of East Anglia. In 1977 Carter married Mark Pearce, with whom she had one son. In 1979 The Bloody Chamber appeared. She was much more independent-minded than the traditional feminist of her time.

Angela Carter died aged 51 in 1992 at her home in London after developing lung cancer.

About JoV

A bookaholic that went out of control.... I eat, sleep and breathe books. Well, lately I do other stuff.


11 thoughts on “The Fairy Tales of Charles Perrault by Angela Carter

  1. Ooh, where are you going travelling? I’ve been having a stressful time at work too but it’s only three weeks until half term, I’m holding on!

    I had the same experience with Grimm Tales on Netaglley as you – denied for the UK copy but accepted for the US copy, bizarre. My husband has Angela Carter’s Book of Fairy Tales, it sounds like a good idea to read it as a companion read. Great review 🙂

    Posted by Sam (Tiny Library) | January 26, 2013, 1:28 pm
    • Sam,
      Ahh..I’m going somewhere hot. To the Middle East and the centre of the world dispute. 😉
      I hope you enjoy Angela Carter’s Book of Fairy Tales, if you haven’t read it.

      Posted by JoV | January 26, 2013, 8:30 pm
  2. I am currently reading the Brothers Grimm Fairytales 🙂

    Posted by jessicabookworm | January 27, 2013, 10:37 am
  3. I ve never read any books by her this may be a place to start ,all the best stu

    Posted by winstonsdad | January 27, 2013, 4:49 pm
    • Stu,
      It is a collection of one of the best known fairy tales. Although at 73 pages you can’t go wrong, still think you should try “Night Circus” first. It’s her original work.

      Posted by JoV | January 28, 2013, 10:56 pm
  4. Very interesting to have juxtaposed the two books together like that (Perrault and Carter). This must have been an interesting contrast to Grimm’s tales. I always thought Carter was American so you’ve enlightened me there! Hope work improves

    Posted by acommonreaderuk | January 28, 2013, 8:48 am
  5. I have read two of her short stories and I loved both of them-I hope to read her collected short stories in 2013 or at most 2014

    Posted by Mel u | February 15, 2013, 11:53 am

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3 = A good read.

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5 = The book is so good that I feel like I am on scale 4 and 4.5, and more, it blew me away and lingers on my head for weeks!

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Strange Weather In Tokyo
Strange Shores
And the Mountains Echoed
Ten White Geese
One Step Too Far
The Innocents
The General: The ordinary man who became one of the bravest prisoners in Guantanamo
White Dog Fell from the Sky
A Virtual Love
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Reading, after a certain age, diverts the mind too much from its creative pursuits. Any man who reads too much and uses his own brain too little falls into lazy habits of thinking. - Albert Einstein (1879 - 1955)

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