Today's post is dedicated to always popular classic fairy tale Puss in Boots. But this story has a twist, what is probably obvious from the subtitle: reasonable fairy tale (Conte Raisonnable). Why is this work, signed by Edgar Behne, published by Hinrichsen, Paris in 1885, so special? What differentiates it from the 'original' by Charles Perrault from 1697?
Let's make a step back and try to recap Perrault's masterpiece. It is a story about a poor boy (youngest son of the deceased miller) who has nothing but a cat. Fortunately, this cat is not a regular animal. He can talk, make plans and understands how to climb the social ladder. He just needs a pair of boots to start a spectacular journey from rags to riches, which is so popular in the genre of fairy tales.
Well, we all know how the story ends. The boy marries the princess, eventually becomes a king and Puss his minister. The question is how they achieved that. On the way up they cheat, lie, threaten, trick and steal. The message is simple - everything is possible if you are willing to do what has to be done. As tricksters and imposter, they soon occupy the highest social positions and start ruling the country.
Not exactly a message we want to give our children, right?
A detailed discussion of this moral dilemma is available on:
Edgar Behne obviously believed something should be done about this questionable moral. So he wrote his own version of the Master Cat as The Puss in Boots is often titled.
This one also starts with a death of the miller. But brothers are willing to share the heirloom. At least two of them. The eldest expects other brothers will work at the mill with him, they will all live together, they won't be rich but at least they should not look for work, because everybody needs their services from time to time and their business is actually a pretty sure bet to survive.
Well, the youngest named Cyprien disagree. He doesn't really like working. He prefers playing with his cats, learning him different tricks and fool around. He convinced other brothers to pay him out (they had to borrow money for that) and starts living a good life hanging around with other lazy youngsters. On one occasion, after several drinks, they started a conversation about the smartest pet and one of them claimed his dog knows the best tricks. Cyprien tried to show the mastery of his cat but he was not successful.
The cat was just not in the mood to show any trick. Two of the boys suggested the cat should be dressed in clothes and wear boots to be taken more seriously and Cyprien paid for the overpriced gown, spending all the money. Then he and the cat realize they need money. Unwilling to work they scare some people and take their harvest selling it with a nice profit.
They trick a nobleman, a viscount, with a false identity (Marquis de Carabas) like in the Perrault's version. But this time the viscount didn't particularly like the strange duo. It was his daughter Odette who fell in love with otherwise rude and uncivilized miller's son.
Cyprien and the cat demonstrate their trickery at hunting trying to charm others yet things didn't pan out as great as expected.
After a while, they were accused of the witchcraft and thrown to jail. They spent several months there waiting for the trial. Finally, they were offered to pass a test for the witches or fighting a duel to prove their innocence.
Cyprien didn't believe he could stand the burns and heal them in only three days. He didn't believe he could defeat a healthy knight with his fighting skills either. Especially after spending months in a small unhealthy space with a limited supply of food. He and his cat took advantage of the opportunity and run away.
They were later seen in some of the neighboring countries, telling unbelievable stories. But they never gained respectful positions in society.
This is how Edgar Behne wrote The New Puss in Boots in 1885. The story is much more educational than Perrault's yet never became popular. The educational value and clear warning are obviously not enough. Who likes a fairy tale without a sympathetic main character. Without any sympathetic character? And without a happy ending? In my opinion, the intention of the author was right but the execution was very poor.
When we mention the execution we can also mention the illustrations taken from the 'original' version, uncredited in this book but clearly signed by legendary Carl Offterdinger. The illustrations are used as they were made for Perrault's Master Cat but placed in a different order. They don't possess the power shown in the classic Puss in Boots. It would be much better to invest in new pictures done for this project only.
But here we are - with one more version of Puss in Boots, one of the hundreds and definitely not one of the best ones. This story can still be used as an example of a failed attempt to improve otherwise questionable message from The Puss in Boots. Enjoy the original or try to make your own improved fairy tale!
A Frog He Would A-wooing Go by Randolph Caldecott
The British folk song A Frog He Would A-wooing Go has a long and intriguing history. At first, it looks a bit silly, nonsense series of rhymes, made to entertain a few kids. It talks about a Frog visiting a Mouse and in its most popular variant a Rat is the other visitor. This unusual meeting ends tragically by arrival of a Cat and a few kittens. Yet, after a while we can find some interesting connections with history, linguistics and even a culinary. Shall we dig in with a help of superb illustrations of legendary Randolph Caldecott?
This book is part of the series R. Caldecott's Picture Books, published by George Routledge & Sons and is also part of the history of so-called Golden Age of illustration, roughly started by Crane, Caldecott, and Greenaway. It helps to defined a picture book as a independent media with defined form and audience, setting the foundations of multi-billion business as it's today.
Frog decided to leave the house. Mother's advice is of no interest to him.
He needs some flowers, of course.
Now he is ready for the visit.
He meets the Rat and they continue together.
They are such jolly good fellows, aren't they?
Now they are at the house of the Mouse.
Yes, the Mouse is at home!
Some people might think it's a strange combination - the Frog and the Mouse.
Everything is ready for the party.
Drink is coming too.
Strange? For some, defnitely. For others - not.
Time for a toast!
The Frog, the Mouse and the Rat enjoy themselves.
The Frog and the Mouse like each other more and more.
The mouse starts playing.
The Frog and the Rat start dancing.
Oh, no. Do we have some uninvited guests?
The Cat got the Rat and her kittens caught the poor Mouse.
Only the Frog escaped.
His biggest day turns into a catastrophe.
But it could be worse ... And it is, when the Duck grabs the Frog!
It's a sad ending of the story. Now there's just a hat to help us remember the Frog.
In Fairyland, a Series of Pictures from the Elf-World by Richard Doyle
What can be a better way to start a new blog if not with a classic, yet mostly unknown book with huge historical influence? Who could be a better artist to present as first if not a tremendously talented artist who, never being academically trained never fully developed his potential? Yes, I am writing about Fairyland, probably the most typical project by Richard 'Dicky' Doyle and printed by legendary Edmund Evans, one of the godfathers of picture books as they are known today. Doyle and Evans are not the most known names from the so-called golden years, but both influenced hundreds of artists and set standards which stood the test of time being applied even a century after their death.
Who was Richard Doyle?
Richard was born as one of seven kids to John Doyle, established Irish cartoonist. All his three surviving brothers were talented artists - illustrators as well. We should probably mention at least Charles, born in 1842, more known as the father of one of the most popular writers of all times: Arthur Conan Doyle, author of the iconic detective Sherlock Holmes.
Humor was always major attribute of Richard Doyle and his pen name Dick Kitcat or his signature of small bird (dickie) standing on RD (his initials). Becoming a member of The Punch, a major satirical newspaper in the world at only 19 years he soon gain reputation and stayed there for seven years until after a series of attacks against roman Catholic Church of which he was a devoted member he left the paper and never worked for any newspaper or magazine for the rest of his life.
His cover, initially made for the sixth issue of Punch, still became one of the signature marks of the magazine and was used for more than one hundred years!
Richard Doyle decided to devote his time to book illustration and water color paintings. His major works are:
The Enchanted Doll by Mark Lemon (1849)
The King of the Golden River by John Ruskin (1851)
The Foreign Tour of Brown, Jones and Robinson by him (1854)
The Newcomes by William Makepace Thackeray (1855)
In Fairyland, illustrated and designed by Doyle with a poem by William Allingham, published 1870 In Fairyland, although a commercial flop (simply too expensive for the market), with two thousand printed copies and only a few sold, is now considered his masterpiece. It consists of 16 color plates presented here:
A rehearsal in Fairy-Land
The Fairy prince in love
Triumphal march of the elf-king
A dancing butterfly
The elf-king asleep
A race of snails
The fairy queen's messenger
Saying "Bo!" to a beetle
Elf and owls
Teasing a butterfly
A little play, in three acts
Dressing the baby-elves
A messenger by moonlight
Water-lilies and water fairies
An evening ride
Fairy child's play
Wood elves at play
The fairy queen takes an airy drive
An elfin dance by night
Feasting and fun among the fuschsias
Poor little birdie teased
Courtship cut short
Asleep in the moonlight
All plates are engraved by Edmund Evans and the book was published by Longmans, Green, Reader, and Dyer in 1870. While the story is written by
Jean-Pierre Claris Florian: Fables (Pictures by Benjamin Rabier)
Jean-Pierre Claris Florian (1755-1794) was a poet and writer from France. He achieved success with poetical and pastoral novels, but today he is most known as an author of fables suited for children. While everybody knows Aesop and (almost everybody) La Fontaine, Florian's work still remains a bit of a mystery. So we are trying to present his most popular work to wider audience. Illustrations are taken from 1936 edition published by Garnier freres (Garnier brothers) from Paris. Illustrations, black and white and color pieces are made by Benjamin Rabier (1864-1939) what them Public Domain. Please enjoy this masterpiece and if you find it interested, share it with your friends.
The cat and the mirror
Beef, horse and donkey
Carp and carpillions
The cowherd and the gamekeeper
The cat and the telescope
The blind and the paralytic
Mother, child and opossum
The mole and the rabbits
The sheep and the dog
The monkey who shows the magic lantern
Bullfinch and raven
The young hen and the old fox
The child and the mirror
The two cats
The horse and the foal
Hedgehog and rabbits
The cat and the sparrow
The fox who preaches
Monkeys and the leopard
Wild boar and nightingales
The rhinoceros and the camel
The squirrel, the dog and the fox
The hare, his friends and the two deer
The peacock, the two goslings and the plunge / The monkey, the monkey and the walnut
The fox disguised
The owl, the cat, the goose and the rat
The confident parrot
The viper and the leech
Cat and rats
Both peasants and the cloud
The leopard and the squirrel
The lion and the leopard
The little dog
The donkey and the flute
Rabbit and teal
Crocodile and sturgeon
The wasp and the bee
The warbler and the nightingale