"Puss in Boots" (Italian: "Constantino Fortunato"/"Cagliuso"/"Gagliuso"/"Pippo"/"Il gatto con gli stivoli";  French: "Le Maître chat ou le Chat botté"'; German: "Der gestiefelte Kater") is a European fairy tale. The oldest known version of the story was written by the Italian author Giovanni Franceso Straporola in the mid 16th century and is included in his anthology Le piacevoli notti (The Facetious Nights of Straparola). Straparola may have invented the story or may have adapted it from an existing folktale. A slightly different version of the story appears in Giambattista Basile's 1635 anthology Pentamerone. "Puss in Boots" was made internationally famous by the French author Charles Perrault, whose version of the story was first published in his 1697 anthology Histoires ou Contes du temps passé (Fairy Tales from Past Times with Morals or Mother Goose Tales). A version of "Puss in Boots" also appears in Kinder- und Huasmärchen (Children's and Household Tales), the collection of German folktales compiled by the Brothers Grimm in 1812.
The plot of Charles Perrault's "Puss in Boots" is set in motion when a young man inherits nothing from his late father apart from a cat. The talking cat tells the young man that he is better off than he thinks he is. The cat then sets out to make the young man's fortune.
There have been numerous adaptations of the tale to other media.
Charles Perrault version
A miller has three sons. When he dies, he leaves his mill to his oldest son, his donkey to his second son and his cat to his youngest son. The youngest son is very unhappy to have inherited nothing but a cat. He thinks that he will be able to eat the cat and use the animal's skin to keep his hands warm but that he will be left with nothing after that. Puss the cat says that he can help the young man. He asks to be given some boots and a sack. Puss puts on the boots, puts some food in the sack and lies in wait to catch a rabbit. When a young rabbit goes into the sack, Puss takes it to the King. He tells the King that the rabbit is a present from his master the Marquis of Carabas.
Shortly afterwards, Puss catches two partridges. He takes them to the King and tells them that they are a present from the Marquis of Carabas. This time, the King gives Puss a little money in return for the partridges. For several months, the cat goes hunting and gives what he catches to the King. Each time he says that he is bringing a present from the Marquis of Carabas.
Puss knows that the King and his daughter, the most beautiful princess in the world, are going to pass by a river. He tells the miller's son to swim in the river. While the young man is in the river, Puss hides his clothes under a rock. When the King's carriage approaches, Puss shouts out that the Marquis of Carabas is drowning. The King gets some of his soldiers to pull the young man out of the river. Puss tells the King that some robbers stole his master's clothes. The King provides some fine clothes for the miller's son. The princess notices the young man and finds him very handsome.
The cat goes on ahead of the King's carriage. He sees several groups of peasants working in fields. He tells each group of peasants that when the King asks who the fields belong to, they have to answer that they belong to the Marquis of Carabas. Puss tells the peasants that they will be chopped up into little pieces if they do not say what he has told them to say. The frightened peasants do as Puss tells them. As a result, the King thinks that the miller's son owns a vast amount of land.
All of the farmland really belongs to an ogre who lives in a castle. Puss goes to the castle. He asks the ogre if it is true that he can change into any animal that he chooses. The ogre replies that it is true and changes into a lion to prove it. Puss then says that he does not believe the rumor he has heard that the ogre can also change into small animals like rats and mice. The ogre takes offense at this. To prove his great magical powers, he changes into a mouse. Puss jumps on the mouse and eats it.
The King's coach arrives at the castle. Puss tells the King that it is the castle of the Marquis of Carabas and invites him inside. A meal has been prepared because the ogre was expecting some friends. His friends do not dare enter the castle when they see that the King is there. The King is very impressed by the castle. Seeing that his daughter likes the young man, the King says that the two young people should marry. The miller's son and the princess marry the same day. Puss is rewarded by being made a lord.
Perrault ends the story with two short verses. According to the first verse, the moral of the story is that becoming rich through one's own hard work and knowledge is better than inheriting wealth. According to the second verse, the moral of the story is that a miller's son can marry a princess simply by being young, handsome and well-dressed.
Earlier Italian versions
The earliest known version of the "Puss in Boots" story is "Constantino Fortunato" ("Lucky Constantino") which was written by the Italian author Francesco Giovanni Straparola between 1550 and 1555 and is included in the anthology Le piacevoli notti (The Facetious Nights of Staparola). The basic plot of Straparola's "Constantino Fortunato" is identical to that of Charles Perrault's 1697 "Puss in Boots", although there are also several differences between the two stories.
"Constantino Fortunato" takes place in Bohemia. The title character, Constantino Fortunato, has two brothers named Drusolino and Tesifone. They live with their mother, an old woman named Soriana who is very poor. Soriana only has three possessions of any value, her cat, a kneading trough which is used for making bread and a board which is used for making pastry. When Soriana dies, she leaves her kneading trough to Drusolino, her pastry board to Tesifone and her cat to Constantino. Neighbors sometimes borrow the kneading trough and the pastry board. They pay Drusolino and Tesifone for the loan of the objects by giving them cakes. Drusolino and Tesifone never share those cakes with Constantino. They tell him to ask his cat to provide for him. The cat is really a fairy in disguise. One day, the cat speaks to Constantino and tells him that he will provide for him. The cat does not ask to be given boots in "Constantino Fortunato".
The cat gives King Morando of Bohemia presents of hares and other animals he has caught. Unlike in "Puss in Boots', the cat does not invent a title of nobility for his master and simply tells the King that he is bringing presents from Constantino. The King rewards the cat by giving him lots of food and drink. The cat takes some of that food and drink home and shares it with Constantino.
When Constantino is pulled out of the river, the cat says that his master was on his way to present a large amount of jewels to the King when robbers attacked him and threw him in the river. When the King hears this, he believes that Constantino is very rich and has him married to his daughter Elisetta immediately. The King gives Constantino presents of gold and many fine clothes which are carried by ten mules. Constantino asks the cat where he will be able to keep all of the presents. The cat then goes on ahead to look for a castle.
There is no ogre in "Constantino Fortunato". The cat finds a badly guarded castle. He tells its guards that an army is coming and that they will be cut up into pieces unless they say that the castle belongs to Master Constantino. The castle really belongs to a nobleman named Valentino, who happens to be away. Luckily for Constantino, Valentino has an accident and dies while he is away, meaning that Constantino gets to keep the castle.
Shortly afterwards, King Morando dies and Constantino becomes King of Bohemia.
Another version of the "Puss in Boots" story that predates Charles Perrault's 1697 one is "Cagliuso" (also referred to as "Gagliuso" or "Pippo") written by the Italian author Giambattista Basile and included in the 1635 anthology Pentamerone. Basile's version of the story differs from both "Constantino Fortunato' and Perrault's "Puss in Boots" in several ways. The moral of Basile's version of the tale is that ingratitude ruins everything.
Basile's story takes place in Naples. A very poor old man has two sons named Oriatello and Pippo. When the old man dies, he leaves his sieve to Oriatello and his cat to Pippo. Oriatello is able to use the sieve to earn a decent living. Pippo complains that he now has to provide for himself and the cat as well. The cat, who is female in Basile's story, says that she will look after Pippo. As in "Constantino Fortunato", there is no reference to the cat asking for boots. Unlike in "Constantino Fortunato', the cat is not said to be a fairy in disguise.
The cat first brings fish, which she says are presents from Pippo, to the King of Naples. She later brings birds. One day, she says that Lord Pippo will visit the King that evening. The cat goes to the King that evening and says that Pippo apologizes for not being able to come. The cat says that some of Pippo's servants have robbed him and taken all of his clothes. The King sends some clothes to Pippo, who then goes over to the palace and is given a feast. After Pippo leaves the feast, the cat stays behind. She tells the King that Pippo owns a lot of property in the regions of Rome and Lombardy. The King thinks that Pippo may be a suitable person to marry his daughter.
The King sends soldiers to find out how much property Pippo owns. The cat goes ahead of them. She tells everyone she meets that some dangerous robbers are coming. She adds that everything they own will be taken unless they say it belongs to Lord Pippo. The soldiers soon stop asking who property belongs to since Pippo seems to own everything.
Pippo marries the King's daughter and is given a large amount of money by the King as a wedding present. He uses the money to buy a large estate and sets himself up as a baron. Pippo tells the cat how grateful he is to her for all that she has done for him. He tells her that when she dies, he will have her body preserved and keep it in a gold coffin in his bedroom so that he can remember her always.
The cat decides that she would like to see how Pippo would react to her death. She pretends to be dead. When Pippo's wife tells him that the cat is dead, he is not at all upset and tells her to throw the animal out of a window. The cat then reveals that she is still alive. She angrily berates Pippo for his ingratitude. She also berates herself for foolishly working so hard for Pippo and expecting to get something in return. Pippo apologizes to the cat and tries to persuade her to stay. The cat, however, has made up her mind to leave. Before she goes, she says that the rich who become poor and the poor who become rich are both people who should be avoided.
Brothers Grimm version
The "Puss in Boots" story which is included in the 1812 collection of German folktales compiled by the Brothers Grimm is largely the same as Charles Perrault's 1697 version. There are, however, some minor differences.
In the Brothers Grimm version, the miller's son is said to be surprised the first time that he hears the cat speak. Strangely, however, none of the many other people whom Puss interacts with in the story appear to be surprised by a talking cat. Puss knows that the King is very fond of eating partridges which, although abundant, are very difficult to catch. When Puss goes hunting for the first time, he catches several partridges. He tells the King that they are a present from the Count, rather than from the Marquis of Carabas. The King rewards Puss by letting him fill the sack in which he brought the partridges with gold. Each time that Puss brings the king a present, he is given a sack of gold in return. Consequently, the miller's son becomes rich before he marries the princess. The King also allows Puss to go wherever he likes in the castle. While he is warming himself by the fire in the kitchen, Puss overhears a coachman complaining about how he has to take the King and the princess to the lake the following day. The original owner of the castle that the miller's son takes over, whom Puss tricks into turning into a mouse, is described as a wizard rather than an ogre. Unlike in Perrault's version of the story, it is explicitly stated in the Brothers Grimm version that the miller's son inherits the kingdom when the King dies. Puss is rewarded by being made prime minister.
The story of "Puss in Boots" was adapted by the German writer Ludwig Tieck as a satirical play which was first performed in 1797.
A short opera for children based on "Puss in Boots" was written by the Russian composer César Cui. It was first performed in Rome in 1915. It became very popular in East Germany in the 1970s. Another children's opera based on the story, with music by the Spanish composer Xavier Montsalvatge and libretto by Nestor Lujan, was first performed at the Gran Teatre del Liceu in Barcelona in 1947.
Puss in Boots appears as a character in Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky's ballet Sleeping Beauty, which was first performed at the Imperial Mariinsky Theater in Saint Petersburg on January 15, 1890.
A black-and-white short animated cartoon based on "Puss in Boots" was made by Walt Disney in 1922. Another black-and-white short animated version of the story was made in the Soviet Union in 1938. A 30-minute television cartoon based on "Puss in Boots' was made as the eighth episode of the series Festival of Family Classics, made by the American company Rankin/Bass Productions in association with Mushi Studios and Topcraft of Japan. The episode first aired in the United States in syndication on December 9, 1972. The third episode of the second season of the American animated series Happily Ever After: Fairy Tales for Every Child is a half-hour adaptation of "Puss in Boots". The episode, which features the voices of Dean Cain, Pat Morita and David Hyde Pierce as Puss, was first shown on HBO on April 27, 1997. An American feature-length animated version of the story, directed by former Disney animator Phil Nibbelick and featuring the voices of Michael York as Puss and Judge Reinhold as his young master, was released direct-to-video in 1999. The 2009 French-Belgian-Swiss animated film La Véritable histoire du chat botté was translated into English as The True Story of Puss 'N Boots. The English dub features the voice of William Shatner as Puss.
The 82-minute animated cartoon The Wonderful World of Puss 'n Boots (Japanese: 長靴をはいた猫; Nagagatsu o Haita Neko), made by Toei Animation and directed by Kimio Yabuki, was released theatrically in Japan in 1969. A dubbed English version of the film was released on home video in the United States in 1980. The story is expanded upon with the introduction of more anthropomorphic animals and swashbuckling adventures in the style of Alexandre Dumas' The Three Musketeers. The movie's titular cat, named Pero after Charles Perrault, became very popular in Japan and now appears on the Toei Animation logo. The film was adapted as a comic strip which appeared in Sunday editions of the newspapers Chunichi Shimbun and Tokyo Shimbun in 1969. The collected comic strips were published as a book in 1984. Sequels to the film were released in Japan in 1972 and 1976. In the second film, Pero travels to the American Wild West. The plot of the third film is loosely based on Jules Verne's Around the World in Eighty Days. The third film in the series spawned two video games, the first of which was released in Japan only in 1986 and the second of which was released internationally in 1990.
A live-action Mexican color film based on "Puss in Boots", starring dwarf actor Santarón as the cat, was released in 1961. An American live-action adaptation of the story was made as part of the Cannon Movie Tales series and released direct-to-video in 1988. In the adaptation, Puss takes on human form thanks to a pair of magic boots. It stars Christopher Walken as the human version of Puss and Jason Connery as his young master. The sixth episode of the fourth season of the American TV series Faery Tale Theater is a live-action adaptation of "Puss in Boots". The episode, which stars Ben Vereen as Puss and Gregory Hines as his young master, first aired on Showtime on September 9, 1985.
The DreamWorks Animation version of the character Puss in Boots (voiced by the Spanish-born actor Antonio Banderas) was created for the 2004 computer animated film Shrek 2. The character also appears in the sequels Shrek the Third (2007) and Shrek Forever After (2010), the Christmas TV special Shrek the Halls (which first aired on ABC on November 28, 2007) and the Halloween TV special Scared Shrekless (which first aired on NBC on October 28, 2010). The character was popular enough to be made the star of his own animated film Puss in Boots (the plot of which is unrelated to Charles Perrault's fairy tale), which was released in 2011. The 2011 film spawned two video games and a 13-minute sequel Puss in Boots: The Three Diablos, which was released in 2012 as a DVD bonus feature. A spin-off animated TV series, The Adventures of Puss in Boots, premiered on Netflix on January 16, 2015. A feature-length sequel to the 2011 film is reportedly in development.
- Sound files of audiobooks of "Puss in Boots":
- Video of the 1938 Soviet cartoon Puss in Boots (in Russian without subtitles)
- "The Three Sons of Fortune"
- The Tale of Kitty-in-Boots
- The fairy tale is now normally referred to in Italian as Il gatto con gli stivoli (literally: "The Cat with the Boots"). The earliest known versions of the "Puss in Boots" story are Giovanni Francesco Straparola's "Constantino Fortunato" (literally: "Lucky Constantino") and Gianbattista Basile's "Cagliuso", which is also known as "Gagliuso" or "Pippo".
- In the original French version of Perrault's story, the unnamed cat is occasionally referred to as le Maître chat ("the Master Cat")
- Although the cat makes a point of asking for a pair of boots, they do not help the cat to carry out his task in any way and are only briefly referred to later on in the story.
- Neither moral really fits the story as Perrault presents it. The miller's son does not become rich as a result of his hard work and knowledge. His fortune is made by the cat and entirely by means of deception. Furthermore, although the princess finds the miller's son handsome, she also believes him to be a wealthy landowner.
- Original Italian text of Giovanni Francesco Straparola's Constantino Fortunato on Wikisource.
- Giambattista Basile's Cagliuso in Italian and English on Wikisource.
- Versions of "Puss in Boots" in French, German and English on Wikisource.
- Fan-made French language audiobook of Charles Perrault's "Puss in Boots" on YouTube.
- Public domain audiobook of Andrew Lang's adaptation of "Puss in Boots' on YouTube.