Form and Content
Folktales are traditional stories told repeatedly by successive generations of storytellers. Italo Calvino’s Italian Folktales is not a collection of folktales per se, because he both embellishes the stories and combines elements of various versions to form polished literary renditions. Nevertheless, Calvino neither patronizes nor slavishly imitates his sources; instead, he skillfully reconstructs the folktales in a style worthy of the original narrations. He presents two hundred short tales, from all Italian dialects. The collection includes animal and fairy tales, religious allegories and legends, and adventure and anecdotal stories. In addition, Calvino provides an informative introduction and notes on the original sources, the Italian locales of the versions selected, and, when available, the names or descriptions of the original storytellers.
Calvino primarily presents tales from the oral tradition, collected in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, but there are notable exceptions; for example, “The Count’s Beard” was collected as late as 1956. Ultimately, however, many of these folktales have roots in much earlier—if not ancient—literary sources. Elements from the myth of Cupid and Psyche are quite popular (in “King Crin”), as are those concerning the cyclops Polyphemus (in “One-Eye” and “The Florentine”) and Danaë, the mother of the Greek hero Perseus (in “The Daughter of the Sun”). “The Palace Mouse...
(The entire section is 531 words.)