It is almost 400 years since Perrault's birth, and if that seems a long time, it is!
So it is hugely is completely remarkable that so many tales in his collection are established in our psyche. Here, in one volume, we find "Sleeping Beauty," "Little Red Riding-Hood," "Bluebeard," "Puss in Boots," and "Cinderella." Surely, through their presence in the nurseries of Europe and across the generations, these stories have had as much influence on how we view the world as those of other more celebrated authors like Shakespeare.
Of course, it is not completely clear whether Perrault created all of these tales or 'merely' rendered them into a literary form and so made them available to us so many years later. Nevertheless, it seems certain that Perrault added to and polished his stories, working and re-working the texts between published editions and so improving the narratives making them more substantial and more memorable.
This edition is enhanced by a collection of illustrations by Gustave Doré. Rather sadly, the book takes no more than one brief paragraph to comment about this artist who was born almost two hundred years after the author. His woodcut-effect pictures go a long way to capture the tone of the tales and little details (like the heaped plate of babies at the Ogre's banquet table in Puss in Boots) add a further dimension to the reader's perception.
On the other hand, illustrations (just like the Disney and Pixar films) tend to cement fairy tales in a particular mythical past. Although the originals were also written in the past tense, they were intended to apply to the here and now of the audience's imagination. For today's reader, the stories lack immediacy and urgency: they require a creative leap into a past of castles and kings. Not, of course, that this is a bad thing for extending how we (and especially children) toy with new ideas and develop their play and thoughts, but there is a risk that the result is a belief that the core message of the old tales does not apply to us because the world has moved on.
In his translation, Christopher Betts has drawn on previous work and done a fine job tackling the verse: by far from an easy task! A little more editorial care would have been welcome, however. It is a shame to stumble over small details, but (for example) in The Fairies, while the translator adds a good note about why the title is in the plural when the story contains only one fairy, he fails to update the text so that the fairy's gift "at every word you speak, from your mouth a flower will come, or else a precious stone" mysteriously only yields "two roses, two pearls, and two great diamonds" when the girl says "I beg your pardon, mother, for having taken so long." Has the fairy short-changed the poor girl?
Whatever the details, these stories should be required reading for all fairy tale enthusiasts. They lay the foundation for literary fairy stories as we know them.
It's a nice edition of Perrault's tales in hardcover with illustrations by Gustave Dore', but I found that the text feels a little clumsy compared to this translation by A.E. Johnson: http://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/0486223116/ref=oh_details_o04_s00_i00
This Oxford World's Classics edition has the advantage of being the only one I found with an introduction about the work and the author, and it's pretty thorough. The illustrations unfortunately are cropped versions of the originals, which is a shame. There are also less illustrations than you find in the other edition I mention above.
It contains the eight prose tales, plus the three verse tales that are not included in some other editions. As far as I know, this is the only English edition with Perrault's verse tales actually in verse, so it's worth getting. It might claim to be the most accurate translation, but the text is not as pleasurable a read as A.E. Johnson's.
An easy to read translation of the complete (verse and prose) tales with an excellent introduction and notes with the added attraction of selected illustrations by Dore. Some tales probably not suitable for very young children!
I am studying for an English Degree and whilst reading Jane Eyre and some critical material on Bronte's masterpiece I came across a reference to Little Red Riding Hood... strange but true!
I bought this to see how Charles Perrault (the man widely credited with bringing us the version we know today of Little Red Riding Hood and other fairy tales) differed the scene in Jane Eyre and the Brothers Grimm version too. Perrault's version is shorter than the Grimms' and there is no woodsman to provide the happy ending as it part of a collection with morals... maybe not one to read to younger children then!
Perrault was born in 1628 and died in 1703, so his versions of fairy tales/folk tales pre-date Brothers Grimm and are worth a read. Not sure I would read them to very young children today as some are quite dark... but saying that, these tales are too good for kids, read them yourself and use the kids as an excuse for owning and reading fairy tales!
What was a nice surprise in this collection of fairy tales is that they have illustrations! Traditional style drawings look so much better than those modern, bright and gaudy images, which I always found boring even as a kid! Not all the tales are illustrated, but quite a few are.