The Cat and his Master

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The Cat and his Master Puss in Boots is a strange little folk tale in which a talking cat performs deeds of heroism in order to further his master's lot in life. It is saddled with a moral which implies that through hard work and ingenuity one can rise above his station. This hardly seems to be the case, however, when we look at the contributions made by the miller's youngest son and master of the puss himself. Furthermore, the symbolism peppered throughout the tale would seem to indicate that there is more going on. The tale begins with the death of a miller, who leaves his sole possessions to his three sons. The youngest of the sons winds up with nothing but what he believes to be a lowly cat, which he is convinced will be good only for a meal and a muff. The young man begins the story in a passive hopelessness, bemoaning the fact that he received the least of his father's goods in his inheritance, and he retains this passivity throughout. He never makes any contribution to his own well-being, beyond his initial decision not to eat the cat, and to let the cat demonstrate his cunning and deceitful skills. He lets the cat do all of the thinking and all of the work. He even becomes the "Marquis of Carabas" at the whim of the puss, and follows all of the cat's instructions, including swimming nude when the cat directs him. He doesn't even ask for an explanation. The moral states that "hard work and ingenuity will take a young man further than his father's money," but the young man certainly shows no signs of hard work nor ingenuity. In fact, he seems to be an icon for naivety and blind faith. This does not, however, mean that the moral is wrong. There are several aspects of this story which take folk tale conventions and turn ... ... middle of paper ... ...ter. He traps animals and delivers them to a person of power, displaying his ability to negotiate. He puts a plan into action that will place his master in a position of power and manipulates the peasants to back up that plan. He craftily dupes the ogre into using his incredible powers against himself. In all of these instances we see evidence of the underdog using his wits and cunning to overcome the odds and be in control of the world around him, an idea that must have had appeal to people with little or no control of the events in their lives. Indeed, it is an idea that still has appeal today. Works Cited Darnton, Robert The Great Cat Massacre http://www.geocities.com/pashathecat/History/Cat_Massacre.html Perrault, Charles. "Puss in Boots." Folk & Fairy Tales Comp. Martin Hallett and Barbara Karasek. 2nd ed. Peterborough, Ontario: Broadview, 1996. 94-97.

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