Italian Folktales in America
The Verbal Art of an Immigrant Woman
Publication Year: 1988
Published by: Wayne State University Press
Foreword by Roger D. Abrahams
Italian Folktales in America: a modest title for a truly unusual work. The reader will not find here just another collection of Europeanstyle wonder tales which happened to be collected in the United States. Rather, this is a record of the repertoire of a remarkably animated and artful storyteller, Clementina Todesco, as recorded...
In 1941, while studying folklore at Wayne University with Professor Emelyn Gardner, Bruna Todesco collected from her mother, Clementina, the twenty-two marchen and legends presented in this book. Bruna, her mother, and her father, John, immigrated to America in 1930 from their native village of Faller...
Our greatest debt is, of course, to Clementina Todesco, our storyteller, who with grace and patience allowed herself to be interviewed for this book. John Todesco, her husband, was supportive and encouraging. Ben Todesco provided the photographs of Bruna, Clementina, and John. The people of Faller provided...
Part I Background
Alpine winters were long and cold, and night came early to the mountains. The upper pastures had long since filled with snow, and the cattle came down to the village stables. As night fell, women prepared dinner in the kitchens and carried the food to the stables. There the family ate together in the warmth furnished...
Context and History
Clementina Todesco was born in 1903 in Faller, then a village of some six hundred inhabitants in the province of Belluno, which is part of the Veneto region in northern Italy. One hundred miles northeast of Venice in the Dolomite mountain range, the town is one of five villages snuggled along the slope of a mountain called
The Storyteller in Italy
Clementina Slongo Todesco was one of eight children of Benvenuto Slongo, the town mayor, notary, folk veterinarian, and landowner. Benvenuto was considered the richest man in town because he owned over twenty head of cattle and many acres of land. As a child, Clementina would often go with her brothers...
The Storyteller in America
Clementina revealed a characteristic belief of immigrants, one
which is likely to have prompted over four million Italians to
come to the United States between 1885 and 1914:
In America when you work you earned money and could eat and...
Part II Photographs
Part III Tales
In a summer home on top of a high mountain, during the grazing season for the cows, lived a father and his five daughters. The youngest of the five daughters was called Barbarina, and she was the prettiest, most amiable, and loveliest one of them all. Each of the five girls had different chores to perform every day, and the...
Legends and Religious Tales
It is heartily believed by all the small children of Faller (and by some of the grown-ups too) that an evil elf dressed in bloodred garments lives in the surrounding hills and mountains. This elf, it is believed, is out purposely to lure children from their proper...
Narratives of Personal Experience
I had five brothers and sisters. My younger sister was able to do the chores around the house; she could milk the cows and make the polenta. There was always enough to eat compared to our neighbors, who were always in misery. I often went to visit the...
Notes to the Text
Annotations to the Tales
Index of Motifs
Index of Tale Types
Page Count: 352
Publication Year: 1988
OCLC Number: 821902802
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Italian Folktales in America