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Giambattista Basile's The Tale of Tales, or Entertainment for Little Ones

Translated by Nancy L. Canepa Illustrated by Carmelo Lettere Foreword by Jack Zipes

Publication Year: 2007

The Tale of Tales, made up of forty-nine fairy tales within a fiftieth frame story, contains the earliest versions of celebrated stories like Rapunzel, All-Fur, Hansel and Gretel, The Goose That Laid the Golden Egg, Sleeping Beauty, and Cinderella. The tales are bawdy and irreverent but also tender and whimsical, acute in psychological characterization and encyclopedic in description. They are also evocative of marvelous worlds of fairy-tale unreality as well as of the everyday rituals of life in seventeenth-century Naples. Yet because the original is written in the nonstandard Neopolitan dialect of Italian—and was last translated fully into English in 1932—this important piece of Baroque literature has long been inaccessible to both the general public and most fairy-tale scholars. Giambattista Basile’s “The Tale of Tales, or Entertainment for Little Ones” is a modern translation that preserves the distinctive character of Basile’s original. Working directly from the original Neopolitan version, translator Nancy L. Canepa takes pains to maintain the idiosyncratic tone of The Tale of Tales as well as the work’s unpredictable structure. This edition keeps the repetition, experimental syntax, and inventive metaphors of the original version intact, bringing Basile’s words directly to twenty-first-century readers for the first time. This volume is also fully annotated, so as to elucidate any unfamiliar cultural references alongside the text. Giambattista Basile’s “The Tale of Tales, or Entertainment for Little Ones” is also lushly illustrated and includes a foreword, an introduction, an illustrator’s note, and a complete bibliography. The publication of The Tale of Tales marked not only a culmination of the interest in the popular culture and folk traditions of the Renaissance period but also the beginning of the era of the artful and sophisticated “authored” fairy tale that inspired and influenced later writers like Charles Perrault and the Brothers Grimm. Giambattista Basile’s “The Tale of Tales, or Entertainment for Little Ones” offers an excellent point of departure for reflection about what constitutes Italian culture, as well as for discussion of the relevance that forms of early modern culture like fairy tales still hold for us today. This volume is vital reading for fairy-tale scholars and anyone interested in cultural history.

Published by: Wayne State University Press

Cover, Title Page, Copyright

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Contents

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pp. vii-ix

List of Illustrations

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pp. xi-

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Foreword: The Rise of the Unknown Giambattista Basile

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pp. xiii-xv

It is not an exaggeration to claim that, along with E. T. A. Hoffmann, Giambattista Basile is the most talented and innovative of all the fairy-tale writers in Europe up through the present day. Nobody wrote and invented tales with such gusto...

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Illustrator’s Note

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pp. xvii-xxviii

In the varied course of its four hundred years Basile’s The Tales of Tales has enjoyed unusual popularity as well as noteworthy marginality, above all with regard to the creation of national values. This condition of neglect has allowed for a better...

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Acknowledgments

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pp. xxix-xxx

This translation has been an idea since I began to study Basile’s work in the 1980s. By the time my critical study of The Tale of Tales appeared in 1999...

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Introduction

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pp. 1-31

Just how do we explain the appearance of the extraordinary creation that is Lo cunto de li cunti, overo Lo trattenemiento de ’peccerille (The Tale of Tales, or Entertainment for Little Ones)? Written in the early years of the seventeenth century and published...

I. The First Day

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pp. 33-139

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Introduction to The Tale of Tales

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pp. 35-42

A seasoned proverb of ancient coinage says that those who look for what they should not find what they would not, and it’s clear that when the monkey tried putting on boots it got its foot stuck,1 just like what happened to a ragged...

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1. The Tale of the Ogre: First Entertainment of the First Day

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pp. 43-51

“Whoever said that Fortune is blind knows a lot more than master Lanza,1 stick it to him! For she certainly strikes blindly, raising people you wouldn’t deign to kick out of a bean field to great heights and beating to the ground people who are...

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2. The Myrtle: Second Entertainment of the First Day

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pp. 52-60

No one was seen to utter a peep as long as Zeza continued her story, but once she had put an end to her talking a huge racket was heard, and none of those present could keep their mouths shut as they chattered about the ass’s shit and the enchanted club...

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3. Peruonto: Third Entertainment of the First Day

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pp. 61-69

They all showed signs of having felt great pleasure at the consolation that the poor prince had received, and at the punishment delivered upon those wicked women. But since Meneca needed to continue the conversation, an end was put...

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4. Vardiello: Fourth Entertainment of the First Day

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pp. 70-75

When Meneca had finished her tale, which was judged to be no less wonderful than the others, packed as it had been with curious events that had kept her audience hanging by its tail right up until the end, Tolla, following the prince’s command...

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5. The Flea: Fifth Entertainment of the First Day

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pp. 76-82

The prince and the slave split their sides laughing over Vardiello’s ignorance and praised his mother’s good judgment, since she had been able to foresee his bestial behavior and find a remedy for it. When Popa was urged to start talking she waited...

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6. The Cinderella Cat: Sixth Entertainment of the First Day

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pp. 83-89

The audience looked like statues as they listened to the tale of the flea, and they gave a certificate of asininity to the boorish king, who had exposed his own flesh and blood and the succession of his state to such great risks, and all for a piddling...

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7. The Merchant: Seventh Entertainment of the First Day

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pp. 90-100

It’s impossible to imagine how much Zezolla’s good fortune touched each of them right down to their marrow, and just as they praised the generosity the heavens had bestowed on the girl, they also passed judgment on the insufficient punishment...

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8. Goat-Face: Eighth Entertainment of the First Day

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pp. 101-107

When Ciulla had finished telling her sugary tale, Paola, whose turn it was to enter the dance, began to speak: “All the evils committed by man are colored in some way: either by disdain that provokes, or by need that presses, or by love that blinds...

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9. The Enchanted Doe: Ninth Entertainment of the First Day

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pp. 108-114

Their mouths hung open listening to Paola’s splendid tale, and they all concluded that a humble person is like a ball, since the harder you throw it to the ground the higher it bounces, or like a billy goat, since the farther it backs up the harder it butts...

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10. The Old Woman Who Was Skinned: Tenth Entertainment of the First Day

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pp. 115-125

There wasn’t one person who didn’t like Ciommetella’s tale, and they derived a double-soled pleasure from seeing Canneloro freed and the ogre, who had done such a butcher job on the poor hunters, punished. And when the order was given...

The Crucible: Eclogue

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pp. 126-139

II. The Second Day

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pp. 141-212

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Introduction to the Second Day

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pp. 143-146

Dawn had come out to grease the wheels of the Sun’s coach, and, after the effort of removing the grass from the hubs of the wheel with a stick, became as red as a summer apple. Then Tadeo got out of bed, and after a good long stretch he called...

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1. Petrosinella: First Entertainment of the Second Day

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pp. 147-151

“My desire to keep the princess happy is so great that all last night, when not a thing could be heard high or low, I did nothing but rummage in the old chests of my mind and search all the closets of my memory, choosing from among the things...

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2. Green Meadow: Second Entertainment of the Second Day

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pp. 152-156

Oh, my dear, they listened to Zeza’s tale right up until the end with such pleasure that if it had lasted another hour it would have seemed like a moment to them! And since it was now Cecca’s turn, she carried on with the speaking in this manner...

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3. Viola: Third Entertainment of the Second Day

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pp. 157-162

Those who heard that tale felt its effects all the way down to the little bones in their feet, and they blessed a thousand times over the prince who had given Nella’s sisters a dressing-down, and praised to the stars the unbounded love of the girl...

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4. Cagliuso: Fourth Entertainment of the Second Day

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pp. 163-168

It is impossible to describe the great pleasure that everyone felt at the good fortune of Viola, who used her wits to construct such a fine destiny in spite of the vexations caused her by her sisters, enemies of their own flesh and blood, who tried...

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5. The Serpent: Fifth Entertainment of the Second Day

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pp. 169-176

The poor cat was pitied beyond measure for having been so badly compensated, even if one person said that there was at least something about which she could be consoled, since she was not alone. For nowadays ingratitude has become a domestic...

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6. The She-Bear: Sixth Entertainment of the Second Day

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pp. 177-183

The entire tale that Popa told had the women shaking with laughter, but when the subject turned to their own cunning, which could trick even a fox, they really split their sides. And women truly have so many different forms of cunning that...

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7. The Dove: Seventh Entertainment of the Second Day

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pp. 184-194

When this tale of Antonella’s had reached its “z”1 and had been vociferously praised for being lovely and charming as well as a wonderful example for a girl of honor, Ciulla, whose lot it was to continue the tale-telling, spoke in this manner...

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8. The Little Slave Girl: Eighth Entertainment of the Second Day

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pp. 195-198

“Truly,” said the prince, “every man must practice his own trade: the lord that of the lord, the groom that of the groom, and the cop that of the cop. For just as the boy who wants to act like a prince makes himself ridiculous, so the prince...

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9. The Padlock

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pp. 199-202

Everyone’s heart was moved to great compassion by all the misfortunes that poor little Lisa had undergone, and more than a few of them displayed red eyes welled up with tears, for there is nothing that arouses pity more than seeing someone...

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10. The Buddy: Tenth Entertainment of the Second Day

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pp. 203-207

The tale was truly wonderful and was told with grace and listened to with attention, so that a thousand things contributed to give it the juice necessary to provide pleasure. But since every little bit of time that put itself between one tale...

The Dye: Eclogue

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pp. 208-212

III. The Third Day

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Introduction to the Third Day

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pp. 215-292

No sooner were all of the shadows that had been imprisoned by the tribunal of Night liberated by the Sun’s visit than the prince and his wife, together with the women, returned to the usual place. And in order to pass in merry fashion...

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1. Cannetella: First Entertainment of the Third Day

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pp. 217-222

“It is a bad thing, ladies and gentlemen, to look for bread better than that made from wheat,1 because you end up desiring what you’ve thrown away. One should be content with what is honest, for those who want everything lose everything...

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2. Penta with the Chopped-Off Hands: Second Entertainment of the Third Day

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pp. 223-232

After hearing Zeza’s tale they were all of the opinion that Cannetella had deserved this and even worse for having split hairs like that. Nonetheless, they were greatly comforted to see her extricated from such suffering, and they reflected...

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3. Face: Third Entertainment of the Third Day

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pp. 233-240

While Cecca was telling her tale to great effect, you could see a stew1 of pleasure and disgust, of comfort and affliction, of laughter and tears cooking. They cried at Penta’s misfortune, they laughed at how her hardships came to an end...

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4. Sapia Liccarda: Fourth Entertainment of the Third Day

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pp. 241-245

All of the pleasure of the past tales was muddied by the miserable story of those poor lovers, and for a good while everyone looked like a baby girl had just been born. When the king saw this, he told Tolla to tell something pleasant in order...

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5. The Cockroach, the Mouse, and the Cricket: Fifth Entertainment of the Third Day

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pp. 246-254

The prince and the slave heartily praised Sapia Liccarda’s wisdom, but they praised Tolla even more for her ability to present the story so well that everyone hearing it had seemed to be present. And since, following the order of the list...

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6. The Garlic Patch: Sixth Entertainment of the Third Day

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pp. 255-260

The wretched bridegroom didn’t shit all over himself nearly as much as the listeners pissed in their pants laughing when they heard of the trick the mouse had played. And the laughter would have lasted until the next morning had...

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7. Corvetto: Seventh Entertainment of the Third Day

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pp. 261-266

The listeners had been so transported by Belluccia’s adventures that when they saw her married they were as happy and jubilant as if she had been born from their own loins. But the desire to hear Ciulla gave pause to their applause...

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8. The Ignoramus: Eighth Entertainment of the Third Day

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pp. 267-272

There was no lack of courtiers around the prince who would have made evident the anger they felt at being touched on their sore point, if their art had not been precisely that of dissimulation. Nor could one say whether the affront of...

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9. Rosella: Ninth Entertainment of the Third Day

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pp. 273-279

They listened to Paola’s tale with great satisfaction, and everyone said that the father was right to want a son who knew something, even if in this case the cuckoo had sung for him,1 since if the others had kneaded the pasta he had taken...

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10. The Three Fairies: Tenth Entertainment of the Third Day

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pp. 280-287

Ciommetella’s tale was judged to be one of the best told so far, so that when Iacova saw that everyone was struck with amazement she said, “If it were not for the prince and princess’s order, which is the winch that hoists me up and the towline...

The Stove: Eclogue

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pp. 288-292

IV. The Fourth Day

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Introduction to the Fourth Day

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pp. 295-382

Dawn had just come out to take its cut from the laborers,1 since the Sun would be rising at any time, when the white prince and black princess met at their place of appointment; the ten women had also just arrived, after filling their bellies...

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1. The Rooster’s Stone: First Entertainment of the Fourth Day

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pp. 299-304

“The thief’s wife does not always laugh; he who weaves fraud works on the loom of ruin; there is no deceit that cannot be discovered, nor are there betrayals that never come to light; the walls spy on scoundrels; and thievery and whoring...

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2. The Two Brothers: Second Entertainment of the Fourth Day

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pp. 305-313

The story of Mineco Aniello gave great satisfaction to the prince and his wife, and they blessed the mice a thousand times for having caused the poor man to recover his stone and the sorcerers to recover the measure of their ring finger with...

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3. The Three Animal Kings: Third Entertainment of the Fourth Day

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pp. 314-319

More than a few of the listeners were moved by the mercy shown by Marcuccio to Parmiero, and they all acknowledged that virtue is an unfailing wealth that time cannot consume, storms cannot blow away, and woodworms cannot gnaw to dust...

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4. The Seven Little Pork Rinds: Fourth Entertainment of the Fourth Day

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pp. 320-325

Everyone blessed Meneca’s mouth for having told the tale with so much gusto that she was able to bring before the eyes of her listeners things that had happened so far away. This stirred up Tolla’s envy, and she was overcome by a desire...

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5. The Dragon: Fifth Entertainment of the Fourth Day

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pp. 326-335

The tale of the seven little pork rinds fattened up the soup of the prince’s pleasure to such a degree that it was dripping with oil as he tasted the ignorant malice and the malicious ignorance of Saporita, which had been ladled out with...

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6. The Three Crowns: Sixth Entertainment of the Fourth Day

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pp. 336-343

Popa’s tale gave them extreme pleasure, and there was no one who did not savor Porziella’s good fortune. But there was also no one who envied her a fate that had been bought with so much hardship, since in order to reach the status of royalty...

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7. The Two Little Pizzas: Seventh Entertainment of the Fourth Day

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pp. 344-349

The prince and his lady would surely have affirmed that Antonella’s tale beat all of the others that had been told, had they not feared that Ciulla’s spirits might be dampened. And so, after placing the lance of her tongue in its...

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8. The Seven Little Doves: Eighth Entertainment of the Fourth Day

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pp. 350-360

The tale of the two little pizzas was truly a stuffed pizza, which everyone savored so much that they’re still licking their fingers. But Paola was prepared to tell her tale, and the prince’s command was like the eye of a wolf that took the words...

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9. The Crow: Ninth Entertainment of the Fourth Day

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pp. 361-370

If I had a hundred reeds in my throat, a bronze chest, and a thousand tongues of steel,1 I would not be able to describe how much Paola’s tale was appreciated when it was heard how none of the good deeds that Cianna performed had gone...

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10. Pride Punished: Tenth Entertainment of the Fourth Day

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pp. 371-376

If Ciommetella hadn’t made the wizard appear quickly to throw water on the fire, everyone’s spirits would have been squeezed so tightly by pity for Liviella that it would have been hard for them to breathe. But they were all comforted...

The Hook: Eclogue

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pp. 377-382

V. The Fifth Day

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pp. 383-445

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Introduction to the Fifth Day

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pp. 385-388

The birds were already reporting to the ambassador of the Sun on all the tricks and traps that had been prepared during the night when prince Tadeo and princess Lucia delivered themselves bright and early to the usual place, where...

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1. The Goose: First Entertainment of the Fifth Day

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pp. 389-393

“That great and respectable man emitted a great sentence when he said that an artisan envies other artisans, a toilet cleaner other toilet cleaners, a musician other musicians, a neighbor other neighbors, and a pauper the...

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2. The Months: Second Entertainment of the Fifth Day

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pp. 394-398

The laughter that came over the company when they heard of the prince’s misfortune was so excessive that every one of them nearly got a hernia, and they would have kept on laughing in counterpoint right up to the rosette of their...

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3. Pretty as a Picture: Third Entertainment of the Fifth Day

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pp. 399-403

When Cecca had finished her tale, which everyone liked enormously, Meneca, who was aiming1 to shoot out her own, saw that everyone was ready to listen with perked-up ears, and she spoke in this manner: “It has always been more difficult...

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4. The Golden Trunk: Fourth Entertainment of the Fifth Day

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pp. 404-412

There was more than one of them who would have given a finger of their hand to be able to have the power to make a husband or wife just as they desired; the prince in particular would have liked some sugar paste next to him instead...

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5. Sun, Moon, and Talia: Fifth Entertainment of the Fifth Day

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pp. 413-417

Although the story of the ogresses might have solicited a bit of compassion, instead it was the cause of pleasure, for everyone was happy that Parmetella’s affairs had gone far better than expected. After this tale it was Popa’s turn for deliberating...

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6. Sapia: Sixth Entertainment of the Fifth Day

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pp. 418-421

The lord prince and the princess were full of joy when they saw Talia’s affairs come to a happy end, for they never would have believed that amid such a tempest she could find a safe port. And after they ordered Antonella1 to unsheathe...

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7. The Five Sons: Seventh Entertainment of the Fifth Day

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pp. 422-426

When Antonella’s tale was over it was Ciulla’s1 turn to speak, and after getting comfortable on her chair she had a look around her and then began to speak graciously: “Those who stay and tend to the hearth have the brains of a cat...

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8. Nennillo and Nennella: Eighth Entertainment of the Fifth Day

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pp. 427-432

When Ciulla had finished her race, Paola1 prepared to run hers, and after she generously praised the tale of the other woman, who had portrayed Sapia’s good judgment so realistically,2 she said, “Hapless is the man who has children and...

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9. The Three Citrons: Ninth Entertainment of the Fifth Day

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pp. 433-442

It is impossible to say how much Paola’s tale pleased the company, but it was Ciommetella’s1 turn to speak, and when she had gotten the sign she spoke in this manner: “That sage man truly spoke well when he said, ‘Do not say all you know...

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End of The Tale of Tales

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pp. 443-445

Their ears were all hanging as they listened to Ciommetella’s tale; part of the group praised the ability with which she told it, while others murmured and accused her of poor judgment, since she shouldn’t have broadcast the disgraceful...

Selected Bibliography

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pp. 447-455

Index

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pp. 457-463


E-ISBN-13: 9780814337387
Print-ISBN-13: 9780814328668

Page Count: 496
Illustrations: 28
Publication Year: 2007

Series Title: Series in Fairy-Tale Studies

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