Tuesday, May 1, 2007

Italian Folktales by Italo Calvino

  • Paperback: 800 pages
  • Publisher: Harvest Books; Reissue edition (November 15, 1992)
  • ISBN-10: 0156454890
  • ISBN-13: 978-0156454896
  • List Price: $25.00
  • I finished this book on May 1
So, this is the first book I've read for the Once Upon a Time Challenge, and I feel it was a good start. I chose this particular collection of folktales because I have read and liked Calvino in the past. I read Calvino's The Nonexistent Knight and The Cloven Viscount in school and even laboriously picking it apart in a lit class didn't kill it for me. I also booktalked the Cloven Viscount for a split themed booktalk (cause I'm a nerd like that).
This book is exactly what it sounds like a massive collection of folktales collected and retold by Calvino from all over Italy. There are a ton of them in here - and they are all brief, one page or two a pop. Some of them are more fun than others. All of them are very reminiscent to me of other folklore and fables I've heard. Most of them involve someone outsmarting someone else and then getting to marry the princess. I have come to two conclusions: never trust a person you meet in the woods, and, two: I would have hated to be a princess back then, because it's clear that your parents would marry you off to just about anyone (including a baddie known as the 'mangy one' nice use of the word mange).
Another common theme in these stories is that no one ever does what they are told. For example, in one story called "Silver Nose" a young girl goes to work for a mysterious stranger with a Silver Nose, even though her mother tells her not to. First off, yikes stripes, who thinks it's going to be a good idea to work for a dude with a silver nose? How is that even attached? Anywho: this Mensa quality genius of a girl decides to open the one door in the house that old Silver Schnoz tells her not to (obviously an awesome plan) and of course, it's hell and Schnozzola is the Devil. Then two more sisters decide to open the forbidden door. All I'm saying is: I have power over my own curiosity. No one in this book does. That's all.
I liked Calvino's telling of the stories, but I wouldn't recommend reading the book cover to cover as I did. It becomes very repetitive after a while. As I do with my books of fairy tales I think this would be much more fun as light occasional reading. I also like skipping around books like this. For more fun stuff, check out some fables online and this fun Andersen's Fairy Tales site where you can hear a story (and send me an e-card).


Carl V. said...

Sounds like a very interesting book and it really does sound like one you should read bit by bit, savoring each story and reading something else every so often. Calvino is someone I hear alot about so I should add him to my list.

Nymeth said...

I really like Calvino, especially the book you mentioned, and also another one called "The Baron in the Trees". He's a great writer.

I've been meaning to read this collection, but yeah, definitely bit by bit. I find that if I read too many folktale books one after the other, or just a single book that is too long, I get tired of it, and so I try to alternate them with novels as much as possible.

Marina said...

I enjoy books like this because sometimes I go for stretches (not voluntarily, mind you) when I can't read more than a few pages a day. These short reads make me feel like I've accomplished something.

And, of course, I'd like to hear some of the folklore that was left behind when my great-grandparents came over from the Tuscan region.