Carlo Collodi is remembered today for Pinocchio, his 1881 children’s story about a puppet that turns into a real boy, immortalized on screen by Disney. Now another magical tale by the author is about to be published in English for the first time, in a new volume bringing together Italian fairy tales from the early 20th century.
All the stories of the upcoming Pomegranates and other modern Italian fairy tales have never been published in English before. The book, due out October 19 from Princeton University Press, brings together 20 fairy tales published between 1875 and 1914, following the political unification of Italy. It brings together stories from Collodi, Domenico Comparetti (considered the Italian Grimm for his work collecting fairy tales from all over the country) and Grazia Deledda, the only Italian woman to have received the Nobel Prize for Literature.
Collodi is included for his translation of Peau d’Ã¢ne by the French author of Cinderella, Charles Perrault. An unlikely children’s tale, it centers on a princess whose father wishes to marry her after the death of her mother, who escapes wearing the skin of a donkey.
Perrault’s version is simplified by Collodi and endowed with a Tuscan sensibility by the Italian author. âCollodi has made so many changes to Perrault’s version (which in turn draws inspiration from earlier Italian tales) that it’s worth reading even if you’ve read Perrault’s before,â said the translator and editor of the new volume, Cristina Mazzoni. “For example, where Perrault simply notes that the king and queen” lived in perfect union “, Collodi writes that they were” two souls in one stone of fruit “(which I have translated as” two peas in one pod “.)”
“Suddenly, and to his own shame, and even though until then he had been a man of wisdom, he lost his mind and began to think that the princess his daughter was much more beautiful and graceful than her late one.” spouse. He let it be known that he had decided to marry her, because only she could free him from the promise he had made to his mother, âwrites Collodi. âAt this brutal proposition, the young princess, who was a flower of virtue and modesty, almost fainted. She threw herself at the feet of the king her father and begged him with all the strength of her soul not to force her to commit such a serious crime.
Pinocchio’s original version of Collodi is far more brutal than the Disney adaptation: Pinocchio is nasty to Geppetto and kills Talking Cricket by throwing a hammer at him. âMaybe he didn’t think he would hit him. But sad to tell, my dear children, he hit Cricket right on the head. With a faint last “cry-cry-cry”, poor Cricket fell off the wall, dead!
âPinocchio is often called a fairy tale, but it’s not, really; it’s a novel with fairy tale elements, âMazzoni said. âAnd in fact, it was when Collodi was commissioned to translate a volume of French fairy tales into Italian that he turned to this genre, and decided to start writing for children. I have included in my book Collodi’s translation of Perrault’s Peau d’Ã¢ne (an unlikely children’s tale, today, given that it centers on an incestuous father) due to its influence in the boom. from the edition of fairy tales soon after; and because of its Tuscan flavor.
From Gabriele D’Annunzio’s 1886 tale Les Colombes, the story of a man who turns into a lion, a dove and an ant, to the Grenades by Comparetti, in which three women jump out of the bark of pomegranates, the stories in The Pomegranates and Other Modern Italian Fairy Tales are all published in English for the first time, with the exception of Deledda’s 1892 book Our Lady of Good Counsel. Deledda won the Nobel Prize in 1926, for “her idealistically inspired writings which, with plastic clarity, depict life on her native island and deal with depth and sympathy with human problems in general”.
âToday we associate fairy tales mainly with Disney and the Brothers Grimm, and maybe with Hans Christian Andersen and Perrault – USA, Germany, Denmark and France,â said Mazzoni, professor at the University. from Vermont. “But Italy has the oldest fairytale tradition in the West.”
Mazzoni said that the earliest printed fairy tales are found among the otherwise realistic stories of Giovan Francesco Straparola’s Pleasant Nights, from Venice of the 1500s, and that the oldest collection made up entirely of fairy tales is the Tale of Tales. Neapolitan Giambattista Basil from the 1600s.
“Like other European countries, Italy also experienced the folklore and fairy-tale publishing boom of the 1800s, but Italian tales from that era are not yet known – at least in part because until now they were only available to Italian speakers, âshe said. .
Comparetti, she added, was one of the Italian folklorists who, like the Grimm’s, collected folk tales from all over the country. While the Grimm’s wanted to preserve a common German heritage, the Italians sought “to protect, as well as to disseminate, the culture of each region at a time when the political unification of the country  put regional identities in danger of disappearing â.
âWhat is unique about the Comparetti collection is that it includes tales from all over Italy and that these tales have been translated into the common Italian language from the many local dialects. Few people remember Comparetti today, but Calvino adapted several of his tales into his popular 1956 Italian Tales, âshe said.
Mazzoni underlined Italo Calvino’s words in his introduction to this collection – that “fairy tales are true”. âThis is the reason why this old genre has thrived across centuries and national borders,â she said. âFairy tales tell of our shared human experiences: what it feels like to be a stranger in your family, to crave personal change, to want to leave home and travel to new and potentially scary places, to seek and to find connections with others of our choosing, to experience free will and desire and the possibility, however distant, to shape us. Fairy tales are about all of this and more, and that’s why we love them. “