What do Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, Red Riding Hood, Puss in Boots, and Bluebeard have in common? They were all written by Frenchman Charles Perrault, who essentially invented the fairy tale. Perrault was born on January 12, 1628. Seventh son of a wealthy middle-class family, he followed his father and brother into law. These famous tales came about by accident. In 1695, when he was 67 years old, Perrault lost his job. Rather than just retiring to his 17th century La-Z-Boy, he decided to dedicate his time to writing stories for his children. Two years later, he published Histoires ou Contes du Temps Passé, subtitled Les Contes de ma mère l’Oye and Mother Goose was born. The tales weren’t original to Perrault; he re-worked folktales and incorporated elements from his own world, like the real château d’Ussé. It’s only fair that the tales he borrowed were then re-worked by the Brothers Grimm and the stories, complete with the château were transformed by Disney. He died on May 16, 1703.
Today’s expression, s’en laisser conter (sohn lessay contay) means “to let oneself be taken in.” Who hasn’t let him or herself be taken in by the wonderful tales of Mother Goose? They’ve become part of our cultural heritage even though they came about through Perrault losing his job.