Blue Flower

Giambattista Basile: Pentamerone illustrated by Warwick Goble

The Tale of Tales or Entertainment for Little Ones (Lo cunto de li cunti overo lo trattenemiento de peccerille)

This book was originally published in two volumes (1634 and 1636) and is very likely the most important book most people never heard of. It presents numerous short stories with plots which are first written plots for some of the most popular fairy tales ever.



Here is the list:


The First Day



(The Prince and Zoza, with the Story-Tellers)

"The Tale of the Ogre"

There was a mother with six beautiful daughters and a son Anthony who was so dumb his own mother finally threw him out of the house. He was wandering around until he met an ugly ogre who was happy to meet a lad who wasn't scared of him. The fact he was stupid was actually Anthony's plus. After a few years of serving, he desired to see his mother again and an ogre gave him a gift - a donkey who dumped gold and diamonds on demand.

Unfortunately, Anthony spent the night in an inn where the innkeeper switched a donkey with a regular animal and Anthony didn't manage to bring the treasure home. Sometime later Anthony paid another visit. This time an ogre gave him a magic cloth which served all kinds of food and drink on demand. Of course, this precious gift was lost in the same place. Then ogre became angry and dismissed Anthony from his service.

He also gave him a farewell gift - a magic club. Thanks to this club Anthony got back his previous gifts and returned home as a rich man. It is probably obvious we are dealing with an old version of The Wishing-Table, the Gold-Ass, and the Cudgel in the Sack (The Magic Table, the Gold-Donkey, and the Club in the Sack), but with one instead of three sons. 

"The Myrtle"



(The Fairy appearing to the Prince)




Peruonto is a nice but very foolish boy who is sent to the forest to get some wood. On his way he find some fairies sleeping in the forest clearing. He makes an improvisational shad to protect them against the sun. Fairies notice that and reward them with a very special charm. Every wish he tells aloud will be fulfilled. Peruonto continues on his way without knowing that.


(Vastolla and Peruonto approaching the Ship)




(Vardiello with the Cloth)

"The Flea"



(The Princess as the Ogre's Bride)



There was a prince. He was a widower with a daughter named Zezolla. After a while, he remarried but his new wife was not too kind to her step-daughter. A governess, on the other hand, was much nicer. So Zezolla wished to have her for the stepmother. The governess was pretty fond of the idea and told her plan which Zezolla without any hesitation executed as soon as possible.

She asked her stepmother to help her find a dress in an old chest. When the stepmother looked inside the chest Zezolla banged the lit of the chest on her neck and killed her. Zezolla's father was a widower again and very soon he was convinced (by his daughter, of course) to remarry again, this time with a governess. While the feast was still going on a dove flew by. The bird told the girl to ask the Dove of the Fairies from Sardinia for any wish she might have.

The new stepmother was very nice to her stepdaughter but only for a few days. After less than a week her six own daughters came to the Zezolla's home and the girl soon became the least popular in the house.

They even changed her name to Cenerentola. After a while, the father had to leave for Sardinia and asked all his girls if they have any wishes. His stepdaughter had different, yet similar wishes including dresses, jewelry, and makeup, only his own daughter now named Cenerentola wished him to command her to the Dove of Fairies which should send her something.

The father forgot her wish but his ship won't sail in the port until the captain after a dream about a broken promise advised to get back to Sardinia and fulfill Cenerentola's wish.


(The Fairy appearing to the Prince in the Grotto)

Her father really visited the Dove of the Fairies and got a date tree, a golden hoe, a little golden bucket, and a silken napkin. When the girl got the present, she started caring for the date tree which only in a few days grew to the size of a grown lady.

A fairy came out of the tree and told Cenerentola she will help her at anything she might need. Soon a feast was thrown b a king and all Cenerentola's stepsister came.


Cenerentola asked the tree for a beautiful dress and she got a very fancy dress and complete entourage worth a queen. The king fell in love with her but wasn't able to disclose Cenerentola's real identity. She managed to escape his servants three nights in a row but on the last occasion lost a slipper and thanks to this slipper the king found his new wife.


We are obviously dealing with an older version of Cinderella, but we can find a motif from The Beauty and the Beast too (the part with father's gift).  It's interesting to note how two later versions borrowed the elements - Perrault's Cinderella has a fairy godmother and Grimms' Aschenputtel has a magic tree. Basile's Cenerentola has both.


Another observation for the fans - original Basile's text presents the Cenerentola as a cold-blooded murderer, but in later translations, the part with killing her first stepmother is wiped out and she convinced her father to marry the governess directly after the death of her mother.


"The Merchant"



(Two Courtiers presenting Cienzo to the King)



(The Lizard Showing Goat-Face the Palace)


"The Enchanted Doe" ("The Enchanted Dove")


Once upon a time, there were a king and a queen who wished to have a child but nothing helped. When king already said all the prayers and spent a fortune on beggars, lost optimism, he started shooting beggars with a crossbow. Then one beard beggar came with an idea - the queen should eat the heart of a sea-monster.


After that she really got twins named Fonzo and Canneloro who grew so fond of each other she became jealous and on one occasion wounded Canneloro with a hot iron. He decided to part with his brother but before that stubbed a dagger in the ground twice: once for a brook coming out and the second time for a myrtle. He told his brother he will be all right till the brook stays clear and the myrtle green.


Canneloro went through many adventures and marries a princess. For some time he lived happily but one day he wanted to go hunting. Despite warning about the shapeshifting ogre he obeyed dove's request about tying the dogs and binding his sword. The dove changed into an ogre and imprisoned the prince. Fortunately, Fonzo noticed the change at the brook and the myrtle, followed his brother, saved him and several other victims of the ogre, what resulted with a happy ending.


(Fenicia and the Two Brothers)


"The Three Sisters"



(The Prince and Parsley looking for the Gall-Nuts)


The Second Day






(The Prince appearing to Nella)


"Green Meadow"





(Violet and the Prince in the Garden)





(The King and Princess receiving Pippo at Court)

"The Snake" aka "The Serpent"



(Grannonia and the Fox)

"The She-Bear"



(Preziosa in the Garden)

"The Dove"



(The Prince and Filadoro with the Snails)

"The Young Slave"


"The Padlock"


"The Buddy"


The Third Day





(Cannetella released from the Cask)

"Penta of the Chopped-off Hands"




"Sapia Liccarda"


"The Cockroach, the Mouse, and the Cricket"


"The Garlic Patch"





(Corvetto escaping with the Ogre’s Tapestry)

"The Booby"

There was a rich merchant who had a son named Moscione. Moscone was not very bright, so father decided to send him in neighboring countries to trade and to sharpen his wit.

Moscione soon met several interesting men who one by one became part of his team:

Lightning can run like a wind.

Hare's ear has a super hearing.

Shootstraight can hit a pea on the top of the rock from a very long distance.

Blowblast can make winds with his mouth

Strongback is so strong he can take a mountain on his back




(The Royal Proclamation)


Together they challenged the princess who was the fastest runner in the country. Thanks to Lightning they won, Moscione should become her husband but the king bargains with him - instead they can take as much gold and other precious stuff as they can carry. This proved to be a mistake because Strongback could take the whole country. Anyway, the king wanted to trick them, what was another mistake thanks to the Blowblast who blew away king's army.



After that boys shared the cargo and Moscione returned home as a very rich man. It's one of many and probably the oldest version of Grimms' "How Six Went Out into the World" fairy tale. 




"The Three Fairies"


The Fourth Day


"The Stone in the Cock's Head"



(Minecco Aniello meeting the Magicians)

"The Two Brothers"


"The Three Enchanted Princes"



(Rita riding on the Dolphin)

"The Seven Little Pork Rinds"


"The Dragon"


There was a cruel king who left his castle for a visit and on return find out it is occupied by a sorceress. According to the prophecy, he could get it back only if the sorceress lost her sight. He tried but couldn't succeed. He was so angry he started killing all women until he met Porziella. She was so beautiful he decided to marry her but was determined to kill her a bit later.


When this moment came, a fairy in the shape of a bird stopped his dagger. Porziella saved the fairy some time ago from a satyr and the fairy felt obligated to help Porziella for the rest of her life. When the king found out he could not kill his wife by his hand, he locked her in the attic to starve her to death. But fairy brought her food and drink through a small hole. After a while, Porziella gave birth to a boy named Miuccio and the fairy increased the hole to get the kid out of the attic.


King met his son not knowing who is he and raised him as he would raise his own. The queen (king's stepmother) became jealous and started scheming against the Miuccio. He was sent to several seemingly impossible missions. With a help of the fairy, Miuccio solved everything, the king started to like him even more, especially when he defeated the sorceress who sole king's castle.




(The Castles in the Air)

The final mission of Miuccio was killing a dragon, who was born the same hour as the queen. Astrologers predicted she will die at the same time as the dragon but could be brought back to life with his blood. So she organized Miuccio's mission believing he would be killed by the monster with a backup plan. When Miuccio slew the dragon, she really died, the king sent him back to get dragon's blood, when the fairy explained to the boy why he should stop helping the king and queen and start thinking about his mother who is already imprisoned for fourteen years.



The king overheard this conversation, stopped the boy, happy at the revelation about having the son and saved his wife from the attic. The fairy was changed in a beautiful maiden and married Miuccio.


"The Three Crowns"


"The Two Cakes"


This is a story of two sisters who have one daughter each. One sister (Luceta) is good, the other (Troccola) bad. Their daughters are different as well. When the Marziella, the daughter of the good sister is sent to get some water from the veil, she is given a piece of cake. An old woman asks her to share it with her and Marziella is happy to do that. An old woman rewards her with a special gift: her breath starts smelling like flowers, the flowers will rise everywhere where she steps and precious stones will fall out of her hair each time she combs. When her vicious aunt Troccola finds how she gets such fortune, she sends her own daughter Puccia to the veil as well.


Mean Puccia doesn't want to share her food with the lady and is cursed - her breath will smell awful, toads will fall from her lips and after each step, some weed will grow.


The story, which is very similar to Diamonds and Toads so far, becomes a bit more complicated. Marziella had a brother Ciommo who didn't live at home but heard for her luck and praised her at the king at which court he stayed. The king wants to meet the girl and marry her, but Troccola throws Marziella into the water and sends her Puccia to the court. Needless to say, the king was unhappy. He sends the girl back and punishes Ciommo with a position of goose shepherd. Then another magic happens.


(Marziella on the Sea-shore)

Ciommo didn't care much about the geese. He left them to stray along the seashore where Marziella appeared and fed them so they grow up to the size of sheep. The king finds out something extraordinary is going on and follows the geese one day. He finds Marziella, the Troccola's plot was disclosed, bad girls were punished and king marries the Marziella. The second part of the story is obviously very close to the story of The Goose Girl.


"The Seven Doves"


(Cianna and her Brothers)

"The Raven"



"Pride Punished"


The Fifth Day


"The Goose"


"The Months"






"The Golden Root"



"Sun, Moon, and Talia"




"The Five Sons"


"Nennillo and Nennella"




 "The Three Citrons"


An old king wants his son to find a wife. After long hesitation, the prince cuts his finger. Two drops of blood fell on the cheese making an amusing mixture of red and white colors. Prince was so charmed he decided to find a wife who will be as red and white as an image he had seen. He traveled all over the world until an ogress gives him three lemons and instructions. He should cut a lemon near the well and a fairy will appear asking him for some water. He should offer her the water immediately or she will disappear.

Prince listened to the advice, but he was too slow with the first and second fairy. Yet he managed to give water to the last fairy and fell in love with her. They decided to marry but the prince wanted to dress her properly before introducing her to the king. She hid in the tree and he went to the court. After a while, a black slave came to the well and saw the reflection of the beautiful fairy in the water. She thought it was her own reflection at first and decided to stop being a slave.


The fairy laughs at the slave, so eventually, the slave finds her and tries to kill her with a prick. The fairy changes into a dove an flies away. The slave climbs the tree and tricks the prince to take her to the castle saying she is a victim of a spell. When the ball is being set. A dove which is really a fairy tries to disclose slave's trickery. The slave orders the cook to kill the dove but from the feathers the next day a lemon tree grows.

The prince cuts those lemons as well and succeeds to give water to the third fairy. It was her - his love. With the help of the old king, the slave's trick is discovered and she even proposes a cruel punishment for herself. This story is a clear mixture of The Snow White, The Goose Girls, and several other classic fairy tales.


This is the last part of the book, presenting the last story in Pentamerone (originally 50 stories). Everybody present heard the story about three lemons and finally it is disclosed how treacherous was one of the slaves. She confesses her guil and is punished with being buried up to her neck alive. The rest of the party celebrates and that's about that.


The book Pentamerone by Giambattista Basile with Warwick Goble's illustrations was published in 1911 by MacMillan & Co. in London.