Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Time for Some Fairy Tale Fun: The Tale of Tales by Giambattista Basile

The Tale of Tales by Giambattista Basile is coming from Penguin Classics on February 9, 2016!

Why am I posting about this release so early, you ask? Because it has amused me for a few weeks now. Keep reading all the way to the end to learn why.

First, here's the book's official overview from the publisher:

Soon to be a major motion picture starring Salma Hayek, John C. Reilly, Toby Jones, and Vincent Cassel: a rollicking, bawdy, fantastical cycle of 50 fairy tales told by 10 storytellers over 5 days

Before the Brothers Grimm, before Charles Perrault, before Hans Christian Andersen, there was Giambattista Basile, a seventeenth-century poet from Naples, Italy, whom the Grimms credit with recording the first national collection of fairy tales. The Tale of Tales opens with Princess Zoza, unable to laugh no matter how funny the joke. Her father, the king, attempts to make her smile; instead he leaves her cursed, whereupon the prince she is destined to marry is snatched up by another woman. To expose this impostor and win back her rightful husband, Zoza contrives a storytelling extravaganza: fifty fairy tales to be told by ten sharp-tongued women (including Zoza in disguise) over five days.

Funny and scary, romantic and gruesome—and featuring a childless queen who devours the heart of a sea monster cooked by a virgin, then gives birth the very next day; a lecherous king aroused by the singing of a woman, whom he courts unaware of her physical grotesqueness; and a king who raises a flea to monstrous size on his own blood, sparking a contest in which an ogre vies with men for the hand of the king’s daughter—The Tale of Tales is a fairy-tale treasure that prefigures Game of Thrones and other touchstones of worldwide fantasy literature.

I am especially amused by the tasteful Penguin Classics cover with that little "Soon to be a Major Motion Picture" sticker. There are times when marketing machines entertain me so much! I appreciate the synergy and cross-pollination of the larger media machine, too, that Hollywood dominates. It frustrates me no end, but it has merits for reaching a very large audience.

So I am thrilled that a book that is over 400 years old and important to our fairy tale history is getting perhaps the biggest marketing push of its life all thanks to a film. Gypsy Thornton has shared several articles about the upcoming film at her Once Upon a Blog, so I haven't really addressed the movie yet. See her posts to date:

Breaking News: "The Tale of Tales" In Production (That's Right - We're About to Get Basile's Tales On Film. In English!)

What To Expect From Matteo Garrone’s "Tale of Tales" by "The Thinker's Garden" Custodian (& Film Update via FTNH)

"The Tale Of Tales" Gets A Trailer!

International Trailer for "Tale Of Tales" Released (Embedded video NSFW)

New "Tale of Tales" Trailers, Posters, Descriptions & TONS of Stills!

I am curious but I have to admit as much as I am willing to read the book--because I have!--I am squeamish at what the movie may offer. I'd rather not see some of the things I read in living color. Once we have that NSFW label, I'm very cautious. And Basile isn't as squeam-inducing as Straparola. Perhaps Hollywood or HBO should attack Straparola next.

Anyway, the final cause for my amusement is also a warning. If you already own this book:

Giambattista Basile's The Tale of Tales, or Entertainment for Little Ones (Series in Fairy-Tale Studies)--which I do--you do not need the new book. According to the available descriptions and such, they are the same book. The first was published over 8 years ago and was a book I was very thrilled about when it was released. (Still am. I had been wanting a modern translation for years! Thanks, Nancy Canepa!) The edition is oversized and has fine quality paper. It is very much academic in nature. Yes, it is still in print and it is more expensive than the upcoming book release, but it is the same book. You don't have to wait.

And if you want the loosely translated, less inflammatory version--some stories removed in other words--you can always visit Il Pentamerone by Giambattista Basile on SurLaLune, too.


  1. Is that new version unedited? I have a kindle edition I downloaded for free and the stories have been . . . altered.

  2. I already have Canepa's book. But... If Penguin was willing to put out Straparola's collection as well, that might make me double dip just to show there is definitely a market for the Italian tales.