Friday, January 25, 2013

Early Cinderella: Basile's Il Pentamerone

From my book, Cinderella Tales From Around the World:

Lo cunto de li cunti, overo Lo trattenemiento de ‘peccerille (The Tale of Tales, or Entertainment for Little Ones), also familiarly known as Il Pentamerone, by Giambattista Basile was first published posthumously in 1634-6. The book is a collection of fifty tales told within a framework story. Many of the tales are early literary versions of popular fairy tales, two of which are part of the Cinderella Cycle, namely The Cat Cinderella (Day 1, Tale 6) and The She Bear (Day 2, Tale 6). The first is ATU 510A and the second is ATU 510B. Basile’s entire work has been rarely translated into English, but early translations of both tales are included in this collection. The Cat Cinderella is notable for its murderous, conniving Cinderella, a far cry from the virtuous innocent we know so well. For further reading and perhaps the most authoritative English translations, consult Nancy Canepa’s Giambattista Basile's “The Tale of Tales, or Entertainment for Little Ones” (2007). Despite the title’s implications, the book was not intended for a child audience but rather conveyed the “low class” or folkloric entertainment the tales emulated. While not as ribald as Straparola, much of the content would not be considered suitable for a modern children’s audience.

Yes, these tales are on the web--I was among the first people to put them there. They are on SurLaLune, and they are fascinating. And I highly recommend Canepa's translation with her notes and current scholarship.

Here we have Cinderella the Murderess. A naive one, but a murderess all the same. It's hard to be as sympathetic with her when she is the author of her own misery.

From Cenerentota or The Cat Cinderella:

"Well then," answered the governess, "open your ears and listen, and you will get bread as white as the flowers. When your father goes out, ask your stepmother to give you one of the old dresses that are in the large chest in the closet, in order to save the one you have on. Then she, who would like of all things to see you go in rags and tatters, will open the chest, and say, 'Hold up the lid !' and whilst you are holding it up, and she is rummaging about inside, let it fall with a bang, so as to break her neck. When this is done, as you know well enough that your father would even coin false money to please you, do you entreat him when he is caressing you to take me to wife; for then, bless your stars--you shall be the mistress of my life."

Then Zezolla heard this, every hour seemed to her a thousand years until she had done all that her governess had advised; and as soon as the mourning for the stepmother's death was ended, she began to feel her father's pulse, and to entreat him to marry the governess. At first the prince took it as a joke, but Zezolla went on shooting so long past the mark, that at length she hit it, and he gave way to her entreaties. So he took Carmosina (that was the name of the governess) to wife, and gave a great feast at the wedding.

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