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Charles Perrault was a French author of the late 17th century credited with the invention of the fairy tale as a literary genre. The fairy tales that he wrote were rooted in the folklore of the peasantry, but transformed into witty tales with morals told in the fashionable salons of the day. Some of Perrault's most well known fairy tales include "The Sleeping Beauty in the Wood," "Puss in Boots," and "Cinderella." His work paved the way for such later authors and folklorists as the Grimm brothers, Hans Christian Anderson, and Italo Calvino.
Charles Perrault was born in Paris on 12 January 1628. Though he was not of the nobility, his family was wealthy and able to send him to the finest schools of Paris. Perrault studied law and eventually began to work in government. He helped found the Academy of Sciences and restore the Academy of Painting, and he also acted as the first secretary of the Academy of Inscriptions and Belles-Lettres.
Perrault's entree into the literary world was two treatises on the eminence of the literature of his own era over that of the ancient world. He was the main voice on the side of the "Moderns" in the Quarrel of the Ancients and the Moderns that pervaded late 17th century intellectual circles. Soon Perrault would begin to produce literature of his own.
Tragedy was the catalyst for Perrault's book of fairy tales, first published in 1697 as Tales and Stories of the Past with Morals: Tales of Mother Goose. When he was 67 years old, Perrault lost his job and his wife. He wrote his book of fairy tales with his children in mind, but soon became a celebrity in France and beyond. Perrault did not live long to enjoy this success, as he passed away in Paris in 1703.
Though Perrault's book contained only eight fairy tales, it has had an immense impact on literature ever since its debut. The Grimm brothers wrote their own versions of some of Perrault's stories, and many of them have served as the inspiration for other literary works or been adapted to theatre and film time and again. The Disney films Cinderella and Sleeping Beauty are some of the most memorable of these adaptations.