The pamphlet Cinderella in the Cotsen Children’s Library has been out of print for some years and there have been requests for a new one on another classic fairy tale. But which one? Sleeping Beauty? Too passive. Blue Beard? Too violent. Ditto Little Thumb. Riquet with the Tuft? Too obscure. Donkey Skin? Too kinky. That left the cleverest cat of all, Puss in Boots.
The selection of pictures will not come from the ones on display in the current exhibition, “Most Masterful Cat.” Here are a few illustrations of Puss that may be new to you. They may or may make the final cut.
Here he is trudging down the road to the King’s palace, with the gift of a nice fat rabbit slung over his shoulder. The illustrator is Edmond Morin, whose book about the hard life dolls lead was the subject of another post.
One of my favorite illustrations of Puss shows a rather chubby, furry tom cat hunting for quail, which were also to be presented to the king. This beautifully observed picture is by the great German 19th-century artist Otto Speckter. Wearing boots must disturb the cat’s concentration while hunting. It is one of two quite different versions of the same scene, both of which I love.There are many wonderful pictures of Puss after his elevation for service to the crown. This one by Harrison Weir imagines him as an elegant but swaggering courtier. No wonder the ladies can’t keep their eyes off of him. Obviously being waited upon by them is much more amusing than catching mice around the palace.Until the pamphlet goes out on the shelves of the bookcase in the gallery entrance, there’s some consolation for cat lovers here.