Fairytales act as fuel for the imagination. In them, we have a fantasy world of fairy godmothers and wicked witches; we have carriages conjured up from pumpkins; we have a world where nothing is impossible. That in itself is a vivid reminder to us that there is more to this world than meets the eye…
‘Puss in Boots’ is an example of this imaginary world: we have a cat who wears a pair of boots, talks and takes the leading role in a story where the marriage of a poor miller’s son to a princess is incidental to the ingenious scheming of the main character, Puss. Anthropomorphism – where human emotions and skills are attributed to an animal or object – is quite easily embraced by children and is a frequent feature of fairytales.
The moral of ‘Puss in Boots’ shows us that perseverance and skill, not to mention a little bit of suave savoir-faire (perfectly exemplified in the voice of Antonio Banderas as Puss in the Shrek fairytale and spin-off stories) may well triumph over poverty and external circumstances. The story concerns a poor man who has little going for him; his eldest brother has inherited their father’s mill and his middle brother the mules, whereas all he has inherited is a cat. Ultimately, however, he prospers thanks to the skills of the cat, and the story ends once again with the marriage of this miller to a beautiful princess.
We may well feel this fairytale commends dubious means, but Jesus spoke about a shrewd manager in one of his parables (Luke 16:1-8), and Puss always reminds me of this person! We are urged to be ‘as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves’ (Matt 10:16). Moreover, Puss’s loyalty to his master is an example to us. God wants the same kind of loyalty from us, a single-minded devotion to Him which supersedes all other loyalties. (Matt 10:37)