13 May 2013
The Great Cat Massacre: And Other Episodes in French Cultural History by Robert Darnton
The Great Cat Massacre is a book that has a very unusual title, considering the fact that it is a book that discusses the history of cultural French stories and history. This isn’t some ordinary book that gives a boring, long and repetitive view of history. The majority of historical texts look at history from a political point of view; the actions of kings and queens, how politics changed, and famous political figures during those times. However, Robert Darnton does not follow the old style of viewing history through historical figures, but instead he portrays it through the eyes of other people. The Great Cat Massacre is a book that contains a collection of essays that discuss the lives of the commoners in France during the Enlightenment. The topics discussed are quite interesting, talking and explaining about fairy tales and cat massacres. Darnton explains, in the most peculiar way, the origin of children’s stories and other tales from French history as well as some academic aspects during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. The Great Cat Massacre reveals the secrets and mysteries of that time period through his stories and essays, which keeps the reader entertained and longing for more.
The opening chapter of the book, “Peasants Tell Tales: The Meaning of Mother Goose”, provides a historical reading of the many fairy tales we were told as young innocent children. These fairy tales had everything but happy endings and sweet morals. The gruesome truth is revealed for each fairy tale including Hansel and Gretel, Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, Little Red Riding Hood and many more. Each story has a horrible ending, but the real moral of the story is hidden in the text. For example in Little Red Riding Hood, clearly, the moral of the story is that little girls should stay away from wolves, after Little Red Riding Hood...