Thursday, December 15, 2016

ATU 402: The Animal Bride--The Cat Versions

So another small section--but one of my favorites--in Puss in Boots and Other Cat Tales From Around the World offers Animal Brides.

Another famous folktale cat can be traced directly to the French salons and a specific author, “The White Cat,” by Madame la Comtesse d’Aulnoy. While her creation is literary and very long, it is part of a long, rich tradition of women who are rescued from living in animal form in folklore.

These tales can be typed as ATU 402: The Animal Bride. Several animal bride stories featuring enchanted cats are included in this collection. Most ATU 402 tales do not feature a cat; many feature an enchanted frog or mouse instead, but cats are more common than most other animals.

Animal bride stories can include several variations from other tale types but the overarching plot usually involves a third son who through service and various challenges breaks the enchantment of a princess and thus wins her hand in marriage. He usually doesn’t know that the animal he is serving is in fact a bewitched princess. His valor and worthiness are usually proven by the actions he takes despite his ignorance of the full situation. The final step in breaking the challenge often includes physical violence such as decapitation, mutilation or burning, an act he performs reluctantly after making an honorable promise to the enchanted creature.

More enchanted cats appear in other sections of the book, but those tales that fit most comfortably into the ATU 402 tale type are gathered into their own grouping.

It is interesting that women are so often enchanted cats when men rarely are. Here is a list of the Cat Bride tales found in the book:

  • The Grave Prince and the Beneficent Cat from Tyrol (Italy & Austria)
  • The White Cat from France
  • The White Cat of Ecija from Spain
  • Cucúlin from Ireland
  • Peter Humbug and the White Cat from Denmark
  • The Poor Miller’s Boy and the Cat from Germany
  • Silly Jura from Czech Republic
  • The Cat Who Became a Queen from India

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