Perrault was a Frenchman who took old folk tales and added wit and satire to create a new literary genre, the fairy tale. Born on January 12, 1628, in Paris, France, to a Parliamentary lawyer and his wife, Perrault later attended school and excelled in his studies. After a disagreement with a teacher, Perrault began independent study overseen by his parents and a friend. During this time, his brother, Claude, the mentoring friend, and Perrault took part of Virgil's Aeneid and turned it into comic verse. This was the beginning of Perrault's writing.
From writing, Perrault turned to the study of law, taking the bar exam and becoming a lawyer like his father. However, law didn't suit him, so he went to work for Claude in local government service. Continuing with his writing, Perrault penned poetry and saw some of it published and some translated into Italian. Perrault involved himself in matters of the arts, helping establish the Academy of Sciences and worked for the restoration of the Academy of Painting. Then came a significant appointment for Perrault.
Perrault was chosen by the minister of finance to become secretary of the council overseeing the Academy of Inscriptions and Belles-Lettres, which was later known as the French Academy. Perrault advanced to chief clerk of royal buildings, helping Claude get approval of his design for part of the Louvre Museum. After gaining formal admittance to the French Academy, Perrault became chancellor and then director.
Perrault found the woman he would marry while he was older in years, and over time, the young bride gave him four children. Distraught by his wife's death after the birth of their last child, Perrault took a great interest in his children's welfare and education. He provided them with a tutor but oversaw much of their learning himself. Fathering his children and still a writer, Perrault penned the poem "Le Siecle de Louis XIV" which promoted the superiority of modern writers to the classic authors. Reading this aloud to the French Academy sparked three years of intense debate among the literary community and ultimately helped lead to the Age of Enlightenment in Europe.
Toward the end of his life, Perrault tinkered with popular folk tales and published his results under his son's name, Pierre d'Armancour. Perhaps he was attempting to avoid criticism or perhaps he and his son collaborated on the writings. However Perrault found his inspiration, the end result has been the overwhelmingly famous Mother Goose Tales. Many authors later re-adapted his works, such as Little Red Riding Hood or Puss in Boots. His fairy tales have been made into operas, ballets, plays, musicals, and films. Many people would recognize Walt Disney's version of Cinderella and Sleeping Beauty. Perrault isn't often remembered for any of his tales, and at his death on May 16, 1703, he probably couldn't realize how significant his contribution to literature would become.
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