The Fairy Tales of Charles Perrault is a little known work of translation by Angela Carter, with illustrations by Martin Ware. Carter worked from Charles Perrault’s Histoires ou Contes du Temps Passé avec des Moralités, published in 1697. Prior to the 17th century, folk tales had existed within an oral tradition of storytelling, passed down between generations. The French author is regarded as the father of the fairy tale as he was the first person to publish many of these folk tales in print.
‘Each century tends to create or re-create fairy tales after its own taste’, Carter writes in the foreword, anticipating her own work later that decade. Carter’s translation of 10 tales was published in 1977, when she was simultaneously drafting The Bloody Chamber and Other Stories (1979), her collection of feminist stories based around traditional fairy tales. The Bloody Chamber draws heavily on Perrault’s originals including ‘The History of Blue Beard’ (see Carter’s ‘The Bloody Chamber’) and ‘Little Red Riding Hood’ (see Carter’s ‘The Company of Wolves’).
Like The Bloody Chamber, the tales published here are not straight translations. Carter modernises language and allusions, and subtly distorts Perrault’s original morals. For example, Carter’s concluding moral for ‘Little Red Riding Hood’ reflects 20th-century concerns about the dangers that threaten children:
Now, there are real wolves, with hairy pelts and enormous teeth; but also wolves who seem perfectly charming, sweet-natured and obliging, who pursue young girls in the street and pay them the most flattering attentions. Unfortunately, these smooth-tongued, smooth-pelted wolves are the most dangerous beasts of all.
- Full title:
- Angela Carter's translation of The Fairy Tales of Charles Perrault The Fairy Tales of Charles Perrault / Translated [from the French] and with a foreword by Angela Carter; Illustrated with etchings by Martin Ware
- 1977, London
- Book / Illustration / Image
- Charles Perrault, Angela Carter, Martin Ware
- Usage terms
Charles Perrault: This material is in the Public Domain.
Angela Carter: © Displayed with the permission of the Estate of Angela Carter c/o Rogers, Coleridge & White Ltd., 20 Powis Mews, London W11 1JN. Angela Carter’s work is published in the UK by Vintage, Virago, Penguin Classics. You may not reuse the material for commercial purposes.
Martin Ware: © Estate of Martin Ware. Published under a Creative Commons Non-Commercial Licence.
- Held by
- British Library
- Article by:
- Marina Warner
- Fantasy and fairy tale, Literature 1950–2000, Exploring identity
Marina Warner explores cross-dressing and the performance of identity in Angela Carter's fairy tale-inspired works.
- Article by:
- Margaretta Jolly
- Gender and sexuality, Exploring identity
The women’s movements of the 1960s and 70s gave rise to a new era for women’s writing. Women also took over the means of production by setting up feminist printing houses such as Virago Press. Margaretta Jolly takes a tour of women’s writing, publishing and literary criticism of this period and explores the work of some of its key players.
- Article by:
- Fantasy and fairy tale, Literature 1950–2000, Exploring identity, Gender and sexuality
The last three stories in Angela Carter's The Bloody Chamber all feature wolves. Bidisha considers how these tales use wolves to explore sexual and gender politics, social violence and the possibility of liberation.