Friday, August 28, 2009

The fairy tales of Charles Perrault

Today I would like to share with you not a cover but a set of stamps. This is a set I just acquired through an auctions website because, as you will see, one of the stamps fits to my topic for collection. This is a set which I’m looking for since quite some time, even though it is not rare, so I’m quite happy to get it.
The full set contains nine stamps issued on the 8th of November 1978 by Monaco and picturing various fairy tales from Charles Perrault.

Charles Perrault was a French author who laid the foundations for a new literary genre, the fairy tales. Charles Perrault was born in 1628. After his studies he began a career in government service. Under Jean Baptist Colbert, the finance minister of King Louis XIV, he served as secretary of the Academy of Inscriptions and Belles-Lettres. He was a major element in what is called in French “La querelle des Anciens et des Modernes “ (the Quarrel of the Ancients and the Moderns) opposing tow types of literature: the Ancients supporting the literature of Antiquity and the Moderns supporting the literature from the century of Louis XIV. Of course Perrault was on the side of the Moderns.
When he lost he job as secretary in 1695 he decided to dedicate himself to his family. In 1697 he published a book, Tales and Stories of the Past with Morals (Hisoires et Contes du temps passé) , which is sometimes better known by its subtitle: Tales of Mother Goose (Les contes de ma Mère l’Oie). This book, published under the name of his younger son Pierre Darmancourt met a very big success. It is in fact a compilation of fairy tales, some of them being derived from pre-existing folk tales. The particularity of the fairy tales from Perrault compared to other authors is that they all contain a moral. Charles Perrault died in 1703 at the age of 75.
Unfortunately Charles Perrault is not pictured on a stamp as far as I know, but his tales are often pictured on stamps, as on this set of Monaco.

Let’s have a look to the nine stamps of the set. The first is dedicated to Cinderrela (Cendrillon).

I don’t think I need to give details on this tale that is widely known all over the world. One of the most famous adaptation of this tale is probably the 1950 animated movie form Disney studios.

The second stamp pictures a tale which is probably less widely known: Puss in boots (Le chat botté).

The tale tells about a cat who, with the help of magic boots, helps his poor master to marry the daughter of a king by making the king believe that his master is rich and wealthy.

The third stamp pictures another very well known tale, Sleeping beauty (La belle au bois dormant).

This tale has also been adapted by Disney studios in 1959, but Sleeping beauty is also a ballet from Tchaikovsky. It is to be noted that there is a difference between the version of Perrault and the tale related in Disney’s movie: in Perrault’s tale the sleeping beauty wakes up by herself whereas in Disney’s movie this is the kiss from the prince that wakes her up.

The fourth stamp pictures the tale entitled Donkeyskin (Peau d’âne). The tale tells the story of a king who is desperate after the death of his very beautiful wife that he loved more than anything else. Before dying his wife made him promise that he would not marry with another woman who is less beautiful than herself. Pushed by his people he tries to find another woman that he could marry but he hardly finds any as pretty as his former wife. Except his daughter! To escape from this unnatural marriage she flees from her home hiding herself under a donkey skin. She then takes shelter in a farm where she lives, always wearing the skin to hide her beauty.
Sometimes later a prince of the area starts searching for a wife. In order to decide who will marry him, he triggers a competition, asking all the young girls of the area to cook him a cake: he would marry the girl who has made the better cake. In the cake he selects he find a nice ring, which has been lost by the girl who has cooked it. The prince starts searching for the girl who has the fingers delicate enough to wear this ring. And as you can guess, he finally finds out that the ring fits perfectly on the fingers of Donkey skin. She then reveals here beauty and they get married!
The fifth stamp is also for a tale that is widely known I think: Little Red Riding Hood (Le petit chaperon rouge).

In Perrault’s version the little girl is eaten by the wolf whereas in the version which is usually known (and told to kids before they go to sleep ;-) ) she is saved by the woodcutters.
This is this tale that has inspired to Tex Avery the character of Red, the sexy girl pursued by a very excited wolf!

“Blue beard” (Barble bleue) is the tale pictured on the sixth stamp.

This tale tells the horrible story of this wife who discovers that her husband, Blue beard, has killed all his previous spouses and keeps their bodies in a closet. Hopefully there is a happy ending for the wife!
Because of the way he has treated some of his wives, the King Henry VIII is sometimes referred as the English blue beard!

The seventh stamp shows “Little thumb” (Le petit poucet).

This is the story of a couple of faggot-makers who has seven children, al boys, but they are so poor that they can not feed them anymore. They decide to bring them into the forest and to abandon them, hoping they would be rescued in one way or another. The tale then tells the story of the youngest boy called Little thumb because of his small size, who rescues his brothers from the fate of being eaten by an Ogre.

“Riquet with the tuft” (Riquet à la houpe) is the subject of the eighth stamp.

Riquet is a young prince who is very ugly. At his birth a fairy offered him a gift to compensate his ugliness: he would be very intelligent and he would be able to give wit to the person he would love the best. The story also tells bout a princess who is very beautiful but very stupid. And she also got a gift from a fairy: she would make the man she loves very beautiful. You guess what happens. Riquet meets the princess, he falls in love so she becomes intelligent and she falls in love so Riquet becomes beautiful!

Finally, the last stamp is the reason why I bought this set. It pictures a tale called “The fairy” (Les fées) or sometimes Diamonds and Toads.

This is probably the tale which is the less known in the set. At least I did not know it before.

The story is about two sisters: one is a nice girl and once is a nasty one. The nasty one is, as often in fairy tales, the preferred daughter of her mother and the nice is obliged to do all the dirty tasks in the house. One day the nice daughter goes to the well to take some water. There she meets a fairy who asks here for some water. The nice girl is… nice so she gives some water to the fairy. In exchange the fairy offers to the young girl a gift: each time she would say a word, diamonds and precious jewels would come out of her mouth. When her mother sees what happened to her daughter, she sends her other one to the well so that she gets the same gift! But as the other daughter is a nasty one, she says to the fairy that she can take her water herself. Then the fairy also gives to the second girl a gift, but a different one: each time she would say a word, a toad or a serpent would come out of her mouth! Seeing that the mother gets furious and asks the nice girl to leave their own, putting responsibility of what happened to her sister on her shoulders. Then fleeing from home, the young girl meets a prince who is seduced by her gift and he takes her to his castle to marry her.

You understand why I wanted this stamp, for the toads pictured on it ;-)

But I am also very pleased by the full set because I think these are very beautiful stamps. Much nicer than a lot of stamps that are issued these days…

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