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Voices in Fairy Tales

by Michelle Tocher

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Cunning Cat

Themes: Inheritance | Worth

My master was the third son of a poor miller. When the miller died, his eldest got the mill, the second got the ass, and the youngest inherited me.

I sat on the windowsill and listened to him speak to me when the others had gone out.

He said, “My brothers will make a handsome living by joining their stocks together, but for my part, after I have eaten you and made a muff of your skin, I will die of hunger.”

I looked him in the eye and addressed him in a grave and serious manner. “Do not afflict yourself, my good master. All you have to do is give me a bag with drawstrings, and a pair of boots that will protect my feet when I am scampering through the dirt and the brambles. Then you will see that your lot is not as bad as you imagine.”

He did not take me seriously. He had watched me use my cunning to catch rats and mice. He had seen me hide in the meal sack to spring upon unsuspecting mice. But he had very low expectations. At best, I could hunt for him and catch him a rat or two if he became desperately hungry.

At any rate, he followed my instructions. He went out and came back with a bag that he tied around my neck. He had also found a pair of boots that gave me a distinctive appearance. I held the strings of the bag in my two forepaws and ran out into a warren full of rabbits. I found bran and sow-thistle to put in my bag, and then I stretched out as if I were dead. I waited for the young rabbits who were not yet acquainted with the deceits of the world. They would be first to come along and rummage in my bag.

I had hardly lain down before I got what I wanted. A rash and foolish young rabbit jumped into my bag, and then, moi, Monsieur Puss, immediately pulled the drawstrings. I killed him instantly, and without pity.

After, I did not return to my master. Non, non, mes amis.

I took my prey to the palace and asked to speak to his majesty. A bemused servant led me into the king’s apartment.

Making a low and reverent bow, I said:

“I have brought you, sir, a rabbit of the warren, which my noble lord the Marquis of Carabas has commanded me to present as a gift to your majesty.”

My master will soon adjust his expectations of me. I assure you, he will not regret having me as his cat.

The Cunning Cat in Puss and Boots, Blue Fairy Book. Illustration by Adrienne Segur.

Cunning Cat