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History of Puss in Boots


Shrek 2 DVD

Puss in Boots made an appearance in Shrek 2 in 2004 and again in Shrek the Third in 2007. While Shrek and Princess Fiona are original creations of William Steig, a children's book author, Puss in Boots comes from a French fairy tale written down by Charles Perrault hundreds of years ago. The animators of the film obviously found inspiration from Gustave Dore's illustrations of the tale.

Below are links to the first Shrek movie and William Steig's original book.

Shrek DVD

Shrek by William Steig


Puss In Boots is the most famous of the animal helper tales. It is classified as tale type 545B by Aarne-Thompson. Tales of 545A have a female as the central character while 545B has a male. The female character appears most frequently in oral versions of the tale, while Charles Perrault has made the male character the more common in the literary versions (Thompson 1946). Many modern scholars do not use the gender differences in their classification of the tales and rely primarily on the 545B designation for similar tales with either gender.

Perrault published The Master Cat; or Puss in Boots in his Histoires ou Contes du temps passe in 1697, but the story of the trickster cat preceded Perrault's tale by a few centuries. A variant of the story, Constantino Fortunato, appears in Straparola's Piacevole notti (Night 2, Fable 1) in the sixteenth century (ca. 1550-3). Most scholars think that Straparola derived his story from oral folklore, but no evidence is available to substantiate the theory beyond the general popularity and worldwide spread of the tale. Giambattista Basile also included a trickster cat story--Gagliuso (Day 2, Tale 4)--in Il Pentamerone in the seventeenth century (ca. 1634-6) (Opie 1974). An alternate translation of Gagliuso is Caglioso which is favored by current scholars.

The story has been found in all parts of Europe, across Siberia, onward to India, Indonesia, and the Philippines. It also traveled with colonists and travelers from Europe to Africa and the American Indians. The further away from central Europe, the stories take on more variations from the well-known literary version. The greatest problem is distinguishing variations of the tale from other animal helper stories. It is hard to determine which stories are part of the Puss In Boots tradition and which are independent creations (Thompson 1946).


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©Heidi Anne Heiner, SurLaLune Fairy Tales
Page created 10/2000; Last updated 7/2/07