Giambattista Basile (1566 – 1632) was an Italian poet, courtier, and fairy tale collector.
He is chiefly remembered for writing the collection of Neapolitan fairy tales titled Lo cunto de li cunti overo lo trattenemiento de peccerille (Neapolitan for “The Tale of Tales, or Entertainment for Little Ones”), also known as Il Pentamerone, published posthumously in Naples in 1634 and 1636 under the pseudonym Gian Alesio Abbatutis.
Although neglected for some time, the work received a great deal of attention after the Brothers Grimm praised it highly as the first national collection of fairy tales. Many of these fairy tales are the oldest known variants in existence. They include the earliest known versions of “Rapunzel” and “Cinderella”
“Open your ears and listen, and you will get bread as white as the flowers. when your father goes out on one of his outings, ask your stepmother for the old dress that she has in a chest that is in a tower, in order to save the one you are wearing. Since she would rather see you in rags that a pretty dress, she will consent and as means to demean you, she will make you hold the lid. Whilst you are holding it and she is searching for the dress, let the lid fall upon her neck and break it.”
From Cenerentola from Pentamerone by Giambattista Basile
Features: Bestiality, unnatural pregnancy, dismemberment/bodily mutilation, death by being burned alive.
While a woman sleeps in the garden, a snake crawls under her skirts and makes its way ‘into her body’ where it comes to rest in her womb. The woman falls pregnant, and when the baby (Biancabella) is born, she has a tiny snake coiled around her neck. The snake quickly slithers away into the garden.
When Biancabella is 10, she discovers the snake in the garden. The snake reveals itself to be her own sister, and gifts her with great beauty. With her new beauty, she is quickly married off to a king.
The king’s evil step-mother hatches a plan to be rid of Biancabella, and when the king is away at war, she pays a group of men to take the new queen into the forest and kill her. The men are unable to go through with the murder, so instead they cut off Biancabellas hands and tear out her eyes, which they give to the step-mother as proof of the queen’s demise. The step-mother then places her own hideously ugly and deformed daughter in Biancabella’s bed, and when the king returns home, she tells him that his precious Biancabella miscarried a child, and has become hideous with grief.
Meanwhile, Biancabella decides to kill herself – but as soon as she attempts to do so, her sister appears in human form and magically heals Biancabella’s horrible wounds. They return to the kingdom where the false queen now reigns: the evil plot is revealed, and the step-mother and her two daughters are burned alive in a furnace.
Tale of Tales brings to life Pentamerone, a collection of fairy tales by 17th century Italian poet and courtier Giambattista Basile. Pentamerone was the first book of fairytales, which inspired many authors including the Grimm Brothers, Hans Christian Andersen and Charles Perrault. Now available on iTunes!
Features: Unnatural birth, murder, dismemberment, death by angry prostitutes, execution by being buried alive in the sewer
A peasant woman gives birth to a stick of myrtle, which a prince then purchases for a great price. It turns out that a stunningly beautiful fairy lives within the myrtle stick, and soon begins sneaking into the prince’s bed in the dark to ‘play at mute sparrow’ with him. The prince takes her for his secret lover, after she confesses that she is a slave to his every whim and desire.
Sadly – the Prince being entirely satisfied by the fairy – seven of his former prostitutes now find themselves out of work. So when the Prince is away on business, they sneak into his bedchambers and discover his fairy lover. The enraged prostitutes smash the fairy’s head open, and break her body into pieces. They all take a piece of her corpse – except the youngest, who takes only a single lock of golden hair. All that is left of the unfortunate fairy are her teeth, hands, blood and some bones. A servant, who was entrusted to water the myrtle, finds the grisly mess and buries it in the pot under the myrtle tree.
The fairy manages to grow a new body from the buried flesh and bones, and reveals to the Prince her murderers’ identities. The prostitutes are all buried alive in the public sewer, save the youngest, who is married to the servant.