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Charles Perrault's Puss in Boots: Summary, Analysis & Morals

Instructor: Erica Schimmel

Erica has taught college English writing and literature courses and has a master's degree in children's literature.

When a young man inherits his father's cat he thinks it can't get any worse, but the cat wastes no time in proving him wrong. Find out more in this summary of Charles Perrault's 'Puss in Boots', which will also analyze some of the story's morals.

Inheritance

Sometimes the smallest gift can have the greatest impact. This is certainly what happens for the youngest son in Charles Perrault's ''Puss in Boots.'' After the miller dies, his belongings are divided among his three sons. After his mill and donkey are given to the oldest and middle children, there's nothing left for the youngest but the cat. At first, the youngest doesn't think too highly of his portion. But he soon learns he may have gotten the best gift of them all.

Laying the Groundwork

The youngest son isn't exactly quiet in his initial disappointment over his inheritance. After all, on the surface it would seem he's doomed -- he can only use the cat for food and clothing once. The cat, however, insists things are not as dire as they seem. If his new master will just give him a bag and a pair of boots, he'll see just what good fortune he has.

The cat only needs a bag and some boots.
Puss in boots

It's worth a shot, and so the cat sets out with boots on his feet and a bag in his hand. He fills the bag with ''bran and sow-thistle,'' then lies down and plays dead until an unsuspecting rabbit hops into the bag for a snack. No sooner does the rabbit start munching than Puss snaps the bag shut, kills the rabbit, and carries him to the nearby King's palace. Once there, he makes a gift of the rabbit to the king, but he doesn't take credit for this gift. Instead, he tells the King the rabbit is a token of appreciation from ''my noble lord the Marquis of Carabas.''

Meeting the Marquis

The King is even more excited by gifts he receives from the Marquis over the next few months. Finally, Puss decides to arrange a face-to-face meeting. On a day he knows the King and his beautiful daughter will be out and about, Puss tells his owner to head to the river and take a bath. In the meantime, Puss intercepts the King's coach by crying out ''my lord Marquis of Carabas is drowning.'' Only a heart of stone would be able to ignore this plea for help. The King sends his guards to help the Marquis, and even provides clothing when the cat explains thieves have taken everything his master had.

The Marquis cleans up pretty nicely, and the princess is quick to develop a crush on him. This crush blooms into love after the Marquis himself shoots her a few flirty glances. Meanwhile, Puss still has work to do. He runs a little ways ahead of the coach and tells every group of field workers he comes across to tell the following King that the land and goods they are working belong to the Marquis or else they ''shall be chopped as small as mince-meat.'' He must be a pretty intimidating cat because they all oblige.

Securing His Master's Future

Puss isn't done yet. He darts far ahead of the King's group until he comes to the castle of the Ogre. Once granted an audience, Puss wastes no time mentioning that if the rumors are true, he's in awe of the Ogre's ability to turn himself into large animals. Flattered, the Ogre seizes the opportunity to prove his skill by transforming into a lion. Even though he's expecting it, Puss is frightened by this transformation and it takes him a little while to recover. What a skill! Surely, though, the rumors that the Ogre can also transform into small animals isn't true? Well, of course they are, and the Ogre can prove it! No sooner has he changed into a tiny mouse than Puss pounces on what is now a tasty little snack.

Thus, the castle is open to new ownership and Puss is free to claim it for the Marquis when the King's group passes. There is no question now that the Marquis is worthy of the princess, and the two are married that day. As for Puss, his worth is proven too, and he becomes a ''great lord'' who only has to hunt mice for sport.

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