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Giambattista Basile

Giambattista Basile - anagrammatic pseudonym of Gian Alesio Abbattutis, was born in Giugliano in Campania on 15th February 1566 and died, always in Giugliano, on February 23, 1632. A writer of the Baroque era, Basile was the first to use the fairy tale as a form of popular expression.
Giambattista Basile

"Lu cunto de li cunti"

Between 1634 and 1636 he wrote the first collection of short stories entirely devoted to childhood, "Lo Cunto de li Cunti overo Lo trattenemiento de' peccerille" (= trattenemiento de peccerille" (The tale of tales, or how to entertain kids) in the Neapolitan language, published posthumously thanks to the author's sister, Adriana Basile, a famous singer.

The Cunto has been the source of inspiration for the literary genre of the fairy-tale in European literature. Some of the most famous fairy tales - Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, Puss in Boots - are the result of reductions or adjustments from Basile's tales. Benedetto Croce said of this important work: "Italy has in Lo Cunto de li Cunti by Basile, the oldest, richest and most artistic of all the books of folk tales".

"Lu cunto de li cunti" had various translations: into Italian by Benedetto Croce, German, English, and was held in highest esteem by the Brothers Grimm, and the Gozzi German Wieland you drew matter of inspiration. novellas the most famous were later reworked by Perrault in the "Contes de ma mère" (Tales of mother Goose).

"Lo Cunto" is a collection of tales of folk origin, written in Neapolitan dialect, and inserted in a frame along the lines of the Decameron. The narrative is divided into five days (hence the other title of Pentamerone), each including ten fairy tales.

The author imagines that around Taddeo, Prince of Camporotondo, a Moorish slave, who had become his wife with a trick, and the young Zoza, in love with the prince, there are ten commoner women - Zeza sciancata, Ceccastorta, Meneca gozzosa, Tolla nasuta, Popa gobba, Antonella bavosa, Ciulla musuta, Paola scerpellata, Ciommetella tignosa, Iacova squarquoia, each telling a story a day, for five days. In the end, the Moorish slave's deception is revealed and the Prince will return Zoza's love.

La gatta Cenerentola

One of the most famous tales, "La gatta cennerentola" in the Neapolitan original was certainly one of the sources, if not the main source, which inspired Charles Perrault to compose the tale of Cinderella in the version now considered "classic". Basile's heroine (whose true name is Zezolla) kills her first stepmother, who is then replaced by a new, even worse stepmother, who has six daughters.

Composer and director Roberto De Simone (born in Naples, 25 August 1933) made from Basile's fable a celebrated opera stage adaptation, one of his masterpieces. Directed by Maestro Domenico Virgili the opera was performed 175 times in its first two years.

Suggested reading and links

In the first two minutes (with transcription) of the video below, actor and singer Peppe Barra speaks about Giambattista Basile. Then he proceeds in Neapolitan dialect (not transcribed), in his own way, to tell one of the fables, "La vecchia scortecata". [To print the text inside the scrollable box, select it all, copy, and paste in MSWord or other text editor.]
[The video is not seen well with Internet Explorer 8 - in case watch it on YouTube directly.]
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0:00
...pensateci. vi voglio raccontare questa favola, che ho trovato poi col senno di poi l'ho trovata in un libro incantato, un libro meraviglioso, molto importante, di un grande, un grande autore napoletano, nato a Giugliano nel 1600, che è questo grande autore, che è Giambattista Basile
...think about it. I want to tell you this fable, which I found then - in hindsight - I found it in an enchanted book, a wonderful book, very important, of a great, a great Neapolitan author, born in Giugliano in 1600, who is this great author, who is Giambattista Basile
0:23
che scrisse questo libro, questo libro importantissimo, da qui tutti gli altri favolisti hanno attinto, da questo libro - Giambattista Basile aveva già attinto da Apuleio ma aveva ancora, fatto ancora di più, un lavoro ancora più importante, Basile aveva raccolto dalla viva voce delle nonne, delle mamme di quell'epoca
who wrote this book, this book important, hence all the other storytellers have drawn, from this book - Giambattista Basile had already borrowed from Apuleius but still he did much more, a more important work, Basile e had collected from the voice of grandmothers, of mothers of that time
0:43
tante favole che aveva trascritto in questo grande libro che si chiama "Lu cunto de li cunti, overo Lo trattenemiento de' peccerille", ovvero il "Pentamerone" perché sono 50 favole.
So many tales that he had written down in this great book called "The Tale of Tales, or The entertainment of children", or the "Pentameron" because there are 50 fables.
0:55
Da questo libro hanno attinto tutti gli altri favolisti, da Perrault a Oscar Wilde, i fratelli Grimm, perché Giambattista Basile aveva scritto, tre secoli prima, Biancaneve e i Sette Nani, La bella Addormentata nel Bosco, Il Gatto con gli Stivali, Pelle d'Asino, tutte queste belle favole che noi conosciamo attraverso questi autori stranieri
From this book all the other storytellers have drawn, from Oscar Wilde to Perrault , the Brothers Grimm, since Giambattista Basile had written, three centuries earlier, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, The Sleeping Beauty, Puss in Boots, Donkeyskin, all these beautiful stories that we learned through these foreign authors.
1:17
guarda un po' il caso, li aveva scritti un grande napoletano! E parecchi napoletani non lo conoscono, nun sanno nemmanco che esiste, Giambattista Basile.
But think about it, they were written by a great Neapolitan! And many Neapolitans do not know him, do not even know that Giambattista Basile exists.
1:27
È vero o no, signò? Ora, "accattateville, stu libro", sta nelle librerie, si chiama "Il Pentamerone", ovvero "Lo cunto de li cunti" e vedrete che vi divertirete. Lo leggerete, perché ci sono delle belle traduzioni, da Roberto de Simone a Ruggero Guarini,
Is this true or no, ma'am? Now, buy yourself this book, it is in bookstores, it is called "The Pentameron", or "The Tale of Tales" and you will see that you will enjoy it. You will read it, because there are some good translations, from Roberto de Simone to Ruggero Guarini,
1:51
una un po' più pesante è quella di Benedetto Croce ma vi consiglio quella di De Simone e quella di Guarini che sono molto attuali, molto belle, ecco!
a somewhat heavier one is that by Benedetto Croce but I suggest that of De Simone and that of Guarini that are very current, very beautiful, here!