Charles Perrault's version "Puss in Boots" is a simple enough tale, in which the cleverness of the small prevails over the merits of size and strength and the lowly thirdborn son of a miller transcends his own expectations to achieve personal success. A major part of the tale is the archetypes used within, those easily recognisable symbols of common association and subconscious significance. Among these are symbols standing for the boy's transformation into self-determined adulthood, others associated with the miller's son's growth and achievement, and Puss himself, by whose characteristics and machinations the boy achieves his success.
Like so many other fairy tales, "Puss in Boots" recounts the progression from one stage of life to another, in this case from a child's dependence on his parents for shelter and guidance to a separate existence as a self-sufficient adult away from the childhood home. This development is reflected in the archetypes found in the story, which at points draw attention to and accentuate the changes the miller's son undergoes. To begin with, the very identity of the hero's father - a miller - is an indication of where the boy starts out. Millers grind flour to be made into bread, bread being a common symbol of childhood, and the son has no need to begin his progression toward independence until his father dies, effectively cutting off his source of that childhood standby. This lack of bread means, from another perspective, that he cannot eat and as the act of eating is an archetype indicating transformation, it's notable in its absence - he is not yet ready for that next stage of life.
So, the miller's son turns to the cat to form a whole new relationship of ...
... middle of paper ...
...tainment value, if nothing else. It is all these aspects which the boy must be able to draw on to succeed, all neatly condensed into a small, furry body.
Though "Puss in Boots" is about the miller's son's movement from childhood to a mature, adult societal role, it is Puss who steals the spotlight. The boy is pushed into the background in favour of his more flamboyant and active servant, and though he achieves his transformation, it cannot happen without the cat's use and manipulation of what is already present inside him. As such, Puss embodies what the miller's son needs most following his loss of adult shelter to push into the adult world himself, becoming the principal archetype of all used within the tale.
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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