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Italian Folktales by Italo Calvino
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Italian Folktales (original 1956; edition 1992)

by Italo Calvino

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
1,473145,061 (4.1)43
parrishlantern's review
This is a masterful collection of Italian Folktales, where the reader is lured into a world of flux, of metamorphoses, where kings and peasants, tricksters and saints, and a whole zoology* of extraordinary animals, plants and fish wend their way through the landscape and history of the Italian nation.

Italian Folktales (Fiabe Italiane) is a collection of 200 folktales, collated from various regions around Italy, and from the works of a whole army of collectors, folklorists, ethnologists etc., making use of an extensive collection of work compiled over the centuries. Italo Calvino started this undertaking in 1954 (published 1956), with the intention of emulating The Brothers Grimm, and producing a collection of tales that would be popular amongst the general reading public. Within these pages we follow a nations collective psyche, yield to the joyous imagination and complexity of the human experience.

In his introduction, Italo Calvino, one of his nations most celebrated writers, describes how he himself became bewitched & bedazzled by his encounter with his nations vast library of folklore. He goes on to say how he reached the two main objectives – The presentation of every type of folktale, and to represent all of the regions of Italy.

“These folk stories are the catalogue of the potential destinies of the men and women,especially for that stage in life when destiny is formed, i,e, youth, beginning with birth, which itself often foreshadows the future, then the departure from home, and finally through the trials of growing up, the attainment of maturity and proof of one’s humanity. This sketch although summary, encompasses everything: the arbitrary divisions of humans, albeit in essence equal, into Kings and poor people, the persecution of the innocent and their subsequent vindication, which are the terms inherent in every life, love unrecognised when first encountered and then no sooner experienced than lost; the common fate of subjection to spells, or having one’s existence predetermined by complex and unknown forces. This complexity pervades one’s entire existence and forces one to struggle to free oneself, to determine one’s own fate; at the same time we can liberate ourselves only if we liberate other people, for this is a sine qua non* of one’s own liberation. There must be fidelity to a goal and purity of heart, values fundamental to salvation and triumph. There must also be beauty, a sign of grace that can be masked by the humble, ugly guise of a frog; and above all, there must present the infinite possibilities of mutation, the unifying element in everything: Men, Beasts, Plants, Things”.

http://parrishlantern.blogspot.co.uk/2011/02/italo-calvino.html ( )
  parrishlantern | Jun 29, 2012 |
All member reviews
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Showing 13 of 13
I can't claim I've read every story in this book. Italian folktales are quite earthy and this is a great addition to any storyteller's or folklore enthusiast's collection. ( )
  auntieknickers | Apr 3, 2013 |
l'intento del libro è eccezionale ma la fruibilità molto meno, nonostante calvino. ( )
  Lorenzo_Giannini | Sep 10, 2012 |
l'intento del libro è eccezionale ma la fruibilità molto meno, nonostante calvino. ( )
  Lorenzo_Giannini | Sep 10, 2012 |
l'intento del libro è eccezionale ma la fruibilità molto meno, nonostante calvino. ( )
  Lorenzo_Giannini | Jul 19, 2012 |
l'intento del libro è eccezionale ma la fruibilità molto meno, nonostante calvino. ( )
  Lorenzo_Giannini | Jul 19, 2012 |
This is a masterful collection of Italian Folktales, where the reader is lured into a world of flux, of metamorphoses, where kings and peasants, tricksters and saints, and a whole zoology* of extraordinary animals, plants and fish wend their way through the landscape and history of the Italian nation.

Italian Folktales (Fiabe Italiane) is a collection of 200 folktales, collated from various regions around Italy, and from the works of a whole army of collectors, folklorists, ethnologists etc., making use of an extensive collection of work compiled over the centuries. Italo Calvino started this undertaking in 1954 (published 1956), with the intention of emulating The Brothers Grimm, and producing a collection of tales that would be popular amongst the general reading public. Within these pages we follow a nations collective psyche, yield to the joyous imagination and complexity of the human experience.

In his introduction, Italo Calvino, one of his nations most celebrated writers, describes how he himself became bewitched & bedazzled by his encounter with his nations vast library of folklore. He goes on to say how he reached the two main objectives – The presentation of every type of folktale, and to represent all of the regions of Italy.

“These folk stories are the catalogue of the potential destinies of the men and women,especially for that stage in life when destiny is formed, i,e, youth, beginning with birth, which itself often foreshadows the future, then the departure from home, and finally through the trials of growing up, the attainment of maturity and proof of one’s humanity. This sketch although summary, encompasses everything: the arbitrary divisions of humans, albeit in essence equal, into Kings and poor people, the persecution of the innocent and their subsequent vindication, which are the terms inherent in every life, love unrecognised when first encountered and then no sooner experienced than lost; the common fate of subjection to spells, or having one’s existence predetermined by complex and unknown forces. This complexity pervades one’s entire existence and forces one to struggle to free oneself, to determine one’s own fate; at the same time we can liberate ourselves only if we liberate other people, for this is a sine qua non* of one’s own liberation. There must be fidelity to a goal and purity of heart, values fundamental to salvation and triumph. There must also be beauty, a sign of grace that can be masked by the humble, ugly guise of a frog; and above all, there must present the infinite possibilities of mutation, the unifying element in everything: Men, Beasts, Plants, Things”.

http://parrishlantern.blogspot.co.uk/2011/02/italo-calvino.html ( )
  parrishlantern | Jun 29, 2012 |
Awesome book. I ordered through Abe books and received a paperback first edition from 1988 with a gorgeous picture of pink flowers stuck between its pages--probably a book mark for its previous owner. As if that gem wasn't magical enough, the stories never disappoint. Many follow the fairy tale formulas and some are even very similar, but that does not detract from the wondrous nature of these tales.

I can not wait to read some other works by Mr. Calvino. For now, though, his Italian Folktale collection offers me a new nugget of gold every time I pick it up. I can not wait to have kids and share these yarns with them. ( )
1 vote JosephJ | Nov 7, 2011 |
Wow!! It's a must have if you like folktales even in the least. It's the perfect book. Read a story every night, read one story over and over again, leave it on your table to pick up whenever you feel like a fresh story, it doesn't matter. Its wonderful whatever you do with it. ( )
  weeksj10 | Dec 21, 2010 |
Book Description: Published by Pantheon Books , New York , 1980. , 763 pages with 32 introductory pages Reprint , spine not creased, book in very good condition Octavo (over 7-10 inches tall) Paperback ISBN: 039474909X.

First paper back edition. First printing
  Czrbr | Jun 7, 2010 |
This collection of Italian folktales, collected and rewritten by Italo Calvino, is a cornucopia of tiny tales. The 200 stories (twice the number in that other great collection of Italian tales - the Decameron) of this 700 page book sparkle with wit and provide insight into the minds of the poorer classes of medieval and premodern society.

The tales are, according to the introduction, from previous collections made by folklorists, mostly during the 19th century, when people still made a hobby out of collecting such things. The stories come from all around Italy and each has, at its conclusion, the name of the region from which it was drawn. I am under the impression that Italo Calvino rewrote them from their original dialects into standardized Italian. He also added his own special touch, distilling, trimming and rewriting them as only a master could. The English translation by George Martin is taut and clean and makes the read all the more enjoyable.

The book includes an introduction by the author, somewhat scholarly in nature. It also has a note for each story discussing technical issues and origins. It could be used as a scholarly reference for folklore studies but it is a delight to read just for pure pleasure. If you are looking for a book of fairytales for your children this collection is probably on par with the Grimm Brothers or the Red Fairy Tale Book. It was written, however, considerably later, in 1956. The book shares with these collections (their unexpurgated versions at least) a certain earthiness, an occasional tendency towards brutality and a distinct lack of political correctness. If you are offended by golden donkey dung, witches defenestrated, tarred and burned at the stake, or princesses killed by their husbands later resurrected and remarried to their repentant murderers, you might want to avoid this book. At the very least you might want to pick and choose which tales you read to your children. Not that the tales dwell on these things in detail but you will encounter them. You will also encounter the three little pigs (as geese), little Red Riding Hood as herself, a Snow White who falls in with thieves, a Sleeping Beauty awakened not by a prince but by her newborn child, and Aladdin, Ali Baba and Ulysses dressed up as merchants, peasants and monks. One can also hear vague echoes of celtic mythology, prehistoric magical rites and even a plot I find reminiscent of Gogol.

Two hundred stories is quite a few and while there are occasional variations on a theme, on the whole they remain remarkably fresh. Just when you think you've seen everything, a new plot twist comes along to enchant and amuse. ( )
1 vote Neutiquam_Erro | Mar 18, 2008 |
Wonderful beyond description. I love each of these stories. ( )
  duckwood | Nov 21, 2007 |
I love this book.

So does my beloved firstborn.

As such, I no longer have custody of the book.

It moved to Berkeley with my beloved firstborn, John-Paul, his girlfriend, Blair, John-Paul's best friend, Kenny, the only cat I ever loved, Mr. Bigglesworth, and Mr. Bigglesworth's sidekick, Rick James.

So, the book has a life of its own.

I think, however, that the borrowing of my copy of the book, helps to demonstrate the book's intrinsic value and worthiness. ( )
  ljstahlhut | Sep 26, 2007 |
Molto Bello ( )
  fortunae | Dec 31, 1969 |
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Penguin Australia

An edition of this book was published by Penguin Australia.

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