Well before Walt Disney adapted fairy tales to film, Charles Perrault had a similar idea. A retired bureaucrat during the reign of Louis XIV, Perrault assembled old French fables into a book for his children. The name? Tales of Mother Goose. And like that, the modern fairy tale was born.
When choreographer Marius Petipa, composer Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky, and librettist Ivan Vsevolozhsky decided to adapt Perrault’s The Sleeping Beauty into a ballet in 1890, they didn’t stop with just one fairy tale. They chose to include characters from other stories as guests at Aurora and Desiré’s wedding. In Helgi Tomasson’s The Sleeping Beauty, you’ll see characters from three different tales: Puss in Boots, who dances with the White Cat, and the Bluebird and his partner, Princess Florine.
The story of Puss in Boots is well-known: a cat, given to the youngest son, and insistent on wearing boots, decides that he’ll make his master’s fortune. Through hard work—and a bit of trickery—he arranges his master’s marriage to a princess. Mission accomplished.
The other two stories are more obscure: The White Cat and The Blue Bird were written not by Perrault, but by his contemporary, Madame D’Aulnoy. The White Cat tells the story of a prince whose adventures are aided by a mysterious white cat, who turns out to be an enchanted princess. Why she attends this wedding with Puss in Boots instead of her prince is a mystery.
The Blue Bird is the story of Princess Florine and King Charmant. Florine’s stepsister’s evil fairy godmother (try to do that relationship in dance!) transforms Charmant into a bluebird and traps Florine in a tower where Charmont flies up to visit her. Ultimately, the villagers rebel, Princess Florine is saved, and she and Charmant get their happy ending.
Header Image: Sasha De Sola and Carlo Di Lanno in Tomasson’s The Sleeping Beauty // © Erik Tomasson