Some people believe cats to be superior beings who carefully train their humans to provide for their needs. Presented here is a retelling of a story by Charles Perrault which was a retelling of earlier stories by other authors. He called his story, The Master Cat or Puss in Boots, which features a rather magical cat.
Death of the Miller
The story begins with the death of a miller who left his three sons all he had. The eldest son received the mill. The second eldest received a donkey, while the youngest received a cat. The young man, aggrieved at only receiving the cat, complained to his brothers, “You are lucky! You might earn a living from your inheritance by working together, but of what use is a cat?”
The cat overheard this and, as cats do, went and sat in a cardboard box to think about it. After a short while he went to the young man and said, “Master, do not worry about your wellbeing. If you provide me with a bag and a pair of new boots I shall prove to you that your lot is far better than you may see.”
His master did not see, but he was very fond of the cat. He knew he was very clever, having seen the tricks he had invented to catch the rodents around the mill. For example, he had witnessed him hanging by his heels from a rafter and dropping on victims, or hiding in sacks of grain, waiting to pounce. Sometimes he would even play dead to catch unwary victims. Now the youth was about to discover just how clever his cat really was.
Puss in Boots
Thinking he had little to lose, with his last few pennies he purchased his cat a bag, and had some boots made especially for him. Thus equipped, Puss in Boots set about earning his master a living. Placing bran in his bag he went to a rabbit warren and laid himself full length on the ground as if dead. Presently a young rabbit came hopping along. Smelling the bran it popped its head inside the bag. Quick as a flash the cat pulled the bag over the rabbit and had it tied in a trice. Very pleased with himself and his capture, he went to the palace of the king and bowing low said, “Greetings, Your Majesty! My master, the Marquis of Carabas offers you this fine rabbit as a gift from his own warren!”
The king was very impressed saying, “Thank the marquis and give him this money as a reward!”
Every day Puss caught game and took it to the king as a present from the Marquis of Carabas. Each time he was rewarded with money which he took back to the young man.
One day while he was at the palace he overheard that the king and his beautiful daughter were to go for a carriage ride in the country. He said to his master, “Do as I say and your fortune will be made. Just go down to the river and bathe and I will do the rest.”
The Marquis of Carabos
While he was bathing the cat hid his clothes under a nearby rock. As the king and his daughter passed by Puss cried out, “Help! Help! Help! The Marquis of Carabas has been thrown into the river and is drowning, help!”
The king saw it was the cat who had brought him presents. He ordered the carriage to halt and his guards to rescue the marquis. Puss told the king how villains had ambushed his master, stealing his clothes before throwing him into the river. Shocked at the news, the king sent his fastest servant to fetch a new set of clothes from his own royal wardrobe.
The clothes were brought and the marquis was handsomely dressed. The king’s beautiful daughter cast admiring eyes upon him and the marquis was instantly besotted with her. The king invited him to join them in the carriage for a leisurely ride. Puss, feeling very pleased at the way his plan was working out, ran on ahead.
Along the road he came across a group of workers reaping a cornfield and told them sternly, “My good men listen carefully. When the king passes by and asks who this corn belongs to you must tell him it belongs to the Marquis of Carabas. If you fail to do so you will be chopped into fine pieces!”
As the king’s carriage passed the king put his head out the window and asked who owned the cornfield. The reapers replied, “Sire, it belongs to the Marquis of Carabas!”
All along the road the crafty cat ran before the king’s carriage making sure all of the workers who were about their business replied to the king’s questions in the same way. The king was most impressed with all of the productive and well managed fields that the Marquis of Carabas appeared to own, praising him greatly.
The Ogre and his Castle
Running before the carriage Puss came to a grand and magnificent castle that was the home of the biggest, strongest, richest and wickedest ogre in all of the land. In fact all of the estates that Puss had led them through had belonged to him. Running up to the castle gates he rang the bell. Explaining to the gatekeeper he had been travelling past the castle and thought he should pay the lord his respects as he was clearly very important and very powerful. The ogre loved to be flattered and fawned upon and agreed to see him. Puss bowed low before him saying, “Thank you for seeing me. While I was nearby I simply had to come and beg you to meet me so that I could see just how magnificent and powerful you are!”
Greatly flattered, the ogre asked if there was anything he could do for him. Puss replied, “I hear you have the power to transform yourself into any kind of animal that you choose. For example, I hear you can change yourself into a lion.”
The ogre replied, “Yes, I will show you!” and immediately changed into a lion. When he had changed back, Puss said, “Most impressive! I have been told that you can change your gigantic self into a tiny mouse. I find it very hard to believe anyone so great and powerful could do that!”
The ogre, enjoying the flattery cried, “I will show you just how powerful I am!” Instantly he transformed into a tiny mouse scampering around the floor.
In a flash the crafty cat jumped upon the mouse and ate it up.
Outside the king’s carriage was passing by the castle. The king was most impressed by the fine looking castle and ordered his coachman to take him to the gates as he wished to see inside. As the coach approached the drawbridge the gates were flung wide open and out marched Puss to greet the king saying, “Your Majesty, welcome to the castle of the Marquis of Carabas!”
The Castle of the Marquis of Carabas
The king and his daughter were most impressed, “This is the finest castle I have ever seen,” he told the marquis, “I should very much like to have a look around!”
Therefore, they all disembarked from the carriage and the marquis offered his hand to the princess as they followed the king, who was being escorted by Puss. They soon found themselves in the banqueting hall. The ogre had been planning to entertain friends and had ordered a magnificent feast. With the demise of their wicked master Puss had easily persuaded the servants to serve the marquis and the royal party sat down to it.
The king was even more impressed with the Marquis of Carabas and after a few glasses of good wine said, “You will only have yourself to blame if you do not become my son-in-law!”
His beautiful daughter made it clear this would be very agreeable and the young man formally proposed marriage to the princess. This was readily accepted and they were married that same day. The king confirmed the marquis as lord of the castle and all the surrounding estates and the young man realised at last just how lucky he had been to inherit such a clever cat.
Puss, like all cats, still held a fascination for things that wriggled or scampered. Every now and then he would take to sitting in a cardboard box in the middle of the floor looking exceedingly pleased with himself. Occasionally he would catch the odd mouse or frog and present it to his master. More often than not he could be found lounging in a chair by the fire, where he would luxuriously stretch and say: “Ha! Now who is the master?” Cats!