Italo Calvino

Books: Folktales 

Italian Folktales (1956)

Italian Folktales (1956)

ItalianMichael gave me this for Christmas--an excellent gift! This is absolutely fantastic, especially following The World's Great Folktales, which weren't really. There are many tales here that I had not read before, and that were not even familiar. The stories are sorted by region, and it's interesting to see how different regions relate with the same theme. (Much the same way different culture relate the same theme, actually.) There are also a good number of tales with overt religious themes, which is unsurprisingly, considering that this is, after all, Italy. Although many of the tales do have "happy endings" there are many that do not, and some that are were quite surprising.

Those Stubborn Souls, the Biellese

A farmer was on his way down to Biella one day. The weather was so stormy that it was next to impossible to get over the roads. But the farmer had important business and pushed onward in the face of the driving rain.

He met an old man, who said to him, "A good day to you! Where are you going, my good man, in such haste?"

"To Biella," answered the farmer without slowing down.

"You might at least say. 'God willing.'"

The farmer stopped, looked the old man in the eye and snapped, "God willing, I'm on my way to Biella. But even if God isn't willing, I still have to go there all the same."

Now the old man happened to be the Lord. "In that case you'll go to Biella in seven years."

Suddenly the farmer changed into a frog and jumped into the swamp.

Seven years went by. The farmer came out of the swamp, turned back into a man, clapped his hat on his head, and continued on his way to market.

After a short distance he met the old man again. "And where are you going, my good man?"

"To Biella."

"You might say, 'God willing.'"

"If God wills it, fine. If not I know the consequence and can now go into the swamp unassisted."

Nor for the life of him would he say one word more.

Although there are some tales that are okay, most of the tales in this collection I would classify as good or great. The retelling is good, and I think you can sense the regional differences that make Italian tales different from Russian tales or Chinese tales etc.

Publisher: Mariner Books