Messages of Puss in Boots

by Tolovaj

Puss in Boots is a fairy tale with many interesting messages in different layers.

When Charles Perrault wrote Puss in Boots in 1696, he couldn't imagine that we would still love this fairy tale about a cunning cat who helps his master, a poor miller's son, climb the social ladder. Perrault included numerous allusions to the then-existing state in society, ironically exposing the cruel facts of being a non-privileged human with zero chances to join the nobility, no matter how capable one could be.

His fairy tale brings so many twisted bits of advice and corrupt morals we simply must explore it. Not just because we can still learn something new about the world we live in, but also why this seemingly completely uneducational story became a classic. Like it or not, it can actually teach us a lot and even offer some very valuable lessons.

So here they are - ten messages of The Puss in Boots!

Millers son gets a cat, illustration by Henri Thiriet

1 Life Is Not Fair!

Get over it!

The story begins with the death of a miller. He had three sons and not much of a property.

The first son gets a mill. This gives him a headstart in life. The business is already established. The mill very likely already has regular customers. People will bring him money in exchange for his services.

The second son gets a donkey. A donkey is a transportation tool. He can start working with his brother at once because there will very likely be some flour to transport around the neighborhood. He can also find some business on the side. The donkey will bring him money.

The third son gets a cat. The cat looks valueless. People won't pay the boy for renting his cat. He can't pull carts or carry large bags. It's probably good to have a cat around the mill because it's an attractive location for mice, but compared to the rest of the inheritance, the youngest son got by far the least of all.

And real life is often just the same  - some people inherit fortunes and some people nothing. We should be aware of that and find a way to progress despite everything.

What to do with the cat?, illustration by Richard Heighway

2 Don't Judge by First Impression

The cat doesn't look anything special at first sight.

The youngest son had no idea what to do with a cat. It looked completely unnecessary for his situation, and the only thing that looked anything worth was the cat's fur.

But then the cat started talking. This was the crucial moment in the story. An ordinary cat is worth the same as a pair of gloves. The talking cat should be worth much much more.

Puss is bringing gifts, illustration by Carl Offterdinger

3 Connections Are More Important than Education or Hard Work

So make some connections!

The youngest son and the cat could start some kind of business together. They could, for instance, join the circus. With hard work and a bit of luck, they could earn a decent living.

Instead of that, the cat decided to climb the social ladder.


Jump is a much better word for that.

The cat decided to befriend the king of the country. Having a king for your friend is definitely the best shortcut in the life of someone who wasn't born a prince. Kings have powers. They can give you well-paid jobs, powerful positions, precious gifts, or valuable real estate. And some of them have daughters just waiting for Mister Right.

King is impressed, illustration by Henry Louis Stephens

4 Gifts Are the Key To One's Heart

If you can't buy them, steal them!

While it's not explicitly written who owns the forest where the cat caught the partridges and rabbits, it's obvious that the miller's son doesn't have any right to hunt.

Puss pretending, illustration by Carl Offterdinger

5 There Are Many Ways to Catch Whatever You Want to Catch

Just use the right bait.

The Puss interacts with different entities: his prey, the king, the princess, the workers, the ogre, and, of course, his master who wants to skin the cat right after he inherits it.

The Puss finds exactly the right tool to win everybody on his side. He uses promises, flattery, lies, threats, and just everything he needs to achieve his goals, from smaller ones to the ultimate ones.

Puss gets clothes for miller's boy, illustration by Henri Thiriet

6 The Clothes Make the Man

You don't have to wear your own clothes to look better

Miller's boy doesn't even have a decent dress to meet the king and his daughter. But he has a reputation built on Puss' gifts (stolen partridge and rabbits). When the time is right, Puss sends him in water, stops the king's coach, and lies about a robbery.

His master, the famous Marquis de Carabas, lost everything, including his clothes!

Of course, the king, who is already fond of the generous Marquis, provides luxurious clothes to the naked boy, who gets a chance to impress the princess.

And, let's not forget - everything started by Puss getting a pair of boots.

Puss threatening workers, illustration by Henry Louis Stephens

7 Every Lie Can Become the Truth

Just be convincing and persistent.

When the miller's boy drives in a coach with the king and the princess, the Puss runs in front and tells everybody to claim that everything around (the fields, the woods, ...) belongs to Marquis de Carabas. This is, of course, a lie, but the truth doesn't matter if only the king believes it.

People don't really care about telling the truth or the lie. They just want to survive another day, and Puss' imminent threats seem more important than the possibility of the real owner's anger.

Puss at the ogre, illustration by Charles Robinson

8 Flattery Opens Many Important Doors

Everybody loves flattery!

Puss has to get the king on his side, the princess on his master's side, and for the grand finale, eliminate the shapeshifting ogre. While the king is simply bribed with gifts and the princess with his master's look, the ogre is a different kind of beast.

Even entering his castle puts Puss in great danger. He flatters his way to the ogre's table, trying to convince the ogre how big a fan of his abilities he is. The ogre is obviously naive (aren't we all, if somebody knows what to say?) and believes him. He is willing to set the show just for the cat.

Puss flattering ogre, illustration by Henry Louis Stephens

9 Strength Can Be Defeated by Wit

If you can't beat him, eat him.

Many fairy tales share this simple message. That's one of the most important reasons for their popularity. Children are constantly in situations where they have to deal with stronger, bigger, louder entities. It's very comforting to know that they can still win at least occasionally.

When the ogre changes into a different kinds of animals, the cat patiently waits for the ogre's carelessness. After all the praise, a simple wish - to change into a mouse - doesn't ring the bell. Then, the cat simply eats the mouse.

Puss gets mouse, illustration by Richard Heighway

10 You May Not Have Been Dealt the Best Cards, but You Can Still Make the Best of Your Hand

You are still in the game!

While the superficial looking at messages of The Puss in Boots offer very questionable messages (to achieve your goals, you should be willing to lie, steal, extort, kill), the main message is somewhere else. Yes, the miller's boy wasn't as lucky as his brothers, who inherited a mill and a donkey. But he still managed to make the most of his situation.

Instead of being a victim, he became a winner. This puts this fairy tale in the range of other immortal classics, like Cinderella or Snow White. If nothing else, take this message with you.

And, please, share it with your friends.

Puss at wedding, illustration by Henri Thiriet
Updated: 05/03/2024, Tolovaj
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Tolovaj on 05/11/2024

It's Offterdinger's interpretation.

Tolovaj on 05/11/2024

Yes, it can. It works in both ways, though.

Tolovaj on 05/11/2024

Thanks, DerdriuMarriner, for congrats. I have a long list of project with always changing priorities, so I can't promise any time schedule.

DerdriuMarriner on 05/10/2024

The caption You don't have to wear your own clothes to look better to the sixth subheading, The clothes make the man, amuses me.

At the same time, the in-text image above it by Henri Thiriet (Jul 4, 1873-Jun 10, 1946) appears among my favorite images by Puss in Boots illustrators because of the realistic body language of a youngster without clothes in water and of his feline committed to getting help.

Your second link above, about Great old books, contains an effective same-scene illustration by Carl Offterdinger (Jan 8, 1829-Jan 12, 1889). But the latter displays that young man amid tall grass, perhaps as water-body plants, perhaps not.

Your paragraph expresses a water-body context, as epitomized by the water-body image.

Is it Offterdinger's interpretation or might retellings have located the young man within tall grasses?

DerdriuMarriner on 05/09/2024

The captions account for a favorite part of this wizzley.

In particular, the captions You don't have to wear your own clothes to look better under the sixth subheading The Clothes Make the Man and If you can't beat him, eat him under the ninth subheading Strength Can Be Defeated by Wit appeal to me.

So the two morals --"It's great to have a property, but it's even better to know how to act.
Youth and good clothes may be enough to win a heart of a princess" -- to the Puss in Boots illustrations and images in the last, fifth link above to Perrault fairy tales on weebly caused me quite a chuckle.

"The end justifies the means" is a saying that some Unitedstatesians like even as other Unitedstatesians mistrust the extent of its possible applications.

Might that saying be expanded for Puss in Boots to The end (of not turning into fur clothing or gloves) justifies the means?

DerdriuMarriner on 05/09/2024

The sole paragraph to the fourth subheading, Gifts Are the Key To One's Heart If you can't buy them, steal them!, advises us that "While it's not explicitly written who owns the forest where the cat caught the partridges and rabbits, it's obvious that the miller's son doesn't have any right to hunt."

The fifth in-text image -- Puss pretending, by Carl Offterdinger -- counts among my favorite parts amidst Puss in Boots illustrations. It exposes how Puss in Boots fetches forest-flocking partridges and rabbits!

(In another direction, but relevant because forest-related, you mention elsewhere sharing with us forest roles in fairy tales. Might that be any time soon? [And congratulations to your city for the consecutive number of Tree City awards!)

Tolovaj on 05/08/2024

It's a lovely picture, yes. We should also take Perrault's idea about skinning the cat with a grain of salt. After all, he presented the idea of serving 'The Sleeping Beauty' in sauce Robert ...

Tolovaj on 05/08/2024

His initial idea was to make a pair of gloves.

Tolovaj on 05/08/2024

I believe it was a custom.

Tolovaj on 05/08/2024

No, no such examples.

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