Once upon a time there lived a miller who had three sons. When the miller died, his scarce possessions were his sons’ only inheritance: a mill, a donkey, and a cat. The mill went to the eldest son, the donkey to the second son, and the youngest son was left with the cat.
“A bequest that’s just right for you,” laughed the older brothers, who never missed a chance to make fun of the youngest.
“Do not be concerned, master,” mewed the cat. “I am no mill and no donkey, but neither am I just an ordinary cat. I cannot grind grain like a mill nor carry heavy weights like a donkey, but I’ve got the smarts aplenty. If you will but buy me a pair of boots and give me a bag, you will soon be living a life you’ve never even dreamed of.
The master was surprised but he did as the cat asked.
The cat pulled the boots onto his hind legs, put oats in the bag, slung the bag over his shoulder, and went out hunting. In the forest he found a place where there was an abundance of rabbits, opened the bag, threw it on the ground and hid himself in the bushes.
He did not have to wait long. Curious, some young rabbits hopped up to the bag, sniffed it and jumped inside to feast on the oats: just as the cat had expected. He leaped out of the bushes, pulled the strings to close the bag, and off he went with it to the royal palace.
It has to be said that the king was a great lover of good food. He was a great lover of money too. Nothing gave him such joy as good food or a jingling coin.
The cat made a low bow and said to the king, “Your Majesty! I have brought you this humble gift from my noble master as a token of his deep respect.”
— “How generous of him! What is the name of your master?”
— “The Marquis of Carabas, Your Majesty,” said the cat inventing the name on the spot.
—“Tell the Marquis that I am very pleased with his gift.”
The cat bowed in farewell and set off for home. From that day on for several months he brought the king treats from the Marquis of Carabas — rabbits and partridges that he caught in the forest. And his master had no idea what Puss in Boots was up to.
“Oh, what an honorable man, that Marquis of Carabas!”— the king would say in delight.
“Indeed he is, Your Majesty,” the cat agreed with a nod of the head. “Honorable and very rich.”
The daughter of the king, the beautiful princess, was also curious about the mysterious marquis.
“I should like to meet your master!”she told the cat.
The cat looked at the princess and realized she would make his master a wonderful wife.
“Nothing could be simpler, Your Highness,” the cat exclaimed. “Tomorrow you will find him taking his walk by the river. He goes there every day and believes there’s no better place for quiet reflection.”
“Father, let’s pay a visit to the Marquis of Carabas!” the princess begged of the king.
The king nodded his consent, and the cat ran home to the miller’s son in all haste.
“Tomorrow, master, your life will change. All you have to do is go for a swim in the river”.
“I’ve never heard of lives being changed by swimming in a river. But I don’t mind taking a dip.”
Next morning, accompanied by the cat, the miller’s son went to the river. As soon as he slid into the water, the cat snatched up all his clothes and hid them in the bushes.
At that very moment, the royal carriage appeared on the road. The cat sprang into the road and yelled at the top of his lungs, “Help! Help! The Marquis of Carabas is drowning!”
The king heard the yelling and commanded the coachman to stop.
“Hurry, Father, we have to help,” the princess exclaimed, peeping out of the carriage.
“Hey, Guardsmen! Pull the Marquis out of the water!” the king commanded.
The miller’s son had the fright of his life when two big fellows started dragging him out of the river where he was enjoying the warm water.
The king’s servants searched every bush on the river bank but failed to find the young man’s clothes. The king ordered them to run and fetch his silk suit for the Lord Marquis of Carabas. The miller’s son refused at first, but he rather liked the magnificent gold-embroidered suit and so he gladly donned on the royal attire.
“After you, Marquis,” said the king, inviting the young man to enter the carriage where the beautiful princess was sitting.
The poor miller’s son was stunned at such a great honor, but he needed no persuasion to climb into the carriage. They rode over fields and meadows which belonged to a wealthy ogre whose castle was nearby.
Meanwhile, the cat had run on ahead. On his way he saw peasants mowing hay in a meadow.
“Hey, folks,” the cat said, “the king will soon be coming down this road and if you don’t tell him that these meadows belong to the Marquis of Carabas, it’ll be off with your heads!”
The mowers barely had time to be surprised before the king’s carriage drew up.
“Tell me, whose meadows are you mowing?” the king inquired.
“They belong to the Marquis of Carabas,” they chorused.
The king exclaimed, “What fine lands you have, Marquis!”
The miller’s son, who was increasingly enjoying the role of a rich marquis, only managed to say, “Yes, sire.”
In the meantime, the cat had sped to the ogre’s castle. With feline dexterity, he jumped over the stone wall and made his way into the castle.
The ogre was sitting at a huge table groaning with all kinds of foods. He nearly choked at the sight of a cat in boots.
“What are you doing here?”
“I have come to pay my respects,” the cat answered.“They say that you are able to change yourself into any kind of creature you like. Even one that’s bigger than you, a lion, for example. But I find that hard to believe.”
“How dare you!” the ogre roared and, quick as a flash, he turned himself into a giant lion with a shaggy mane.
The cat’s heart sank into his boots, but he collected himself and said, “Other people say you can change into something small, a mouse, for example, but I have my doubts.”
Insulted, the lion began to roar and immediately disappeared. Where he had been standing there was a tiny little mouse. That was what the cat had been waiting for. In the blink of an eye, he fell him and ate him up.
At that very moment, the royal carriage drove through the gates of the castle. The cat rushed out to meet the guests.
“Your Majesty is welcome to the castle of the Marquis of Carabas!”
It was hard to say who was more surprised, the king or the miller’s son who no longer had any idea what was happening.
“What a splendid castle!” said the king in admiration. “I’m very pleased to call you my loyal friend, Marquis.”
“Indeed,” was all the miller’s son could say.
“May I invite you to dine with us?” asked Puss in Boots and led the guests into a hall where a magnificent dinner was served.
The king ate to his heart’s content, then said, “Well, my dear Marquis, I can see that you in fact are a man of worth. I would be delighted to give you my daughter’s hand in marriage”.
The princess clapped her hands in happiness. The young, handsome, and what’s more wealthy Marquis was very much to her liking.
And so, the miller’s son married the princess and became a prince. They lived long and happily ever after, especially the cat, who became a great lord and ever after caught mice only for fun.
And when the miller’s son was asked how he achieved such success, he would simply reply, “Well... You had better ask my cat.”