Literary Fairy tales from Italy and France

This first story is from the writer Giambattista Basile, whose collection known as Il Penteramone (subtitled: Lo cunto de li cunti, “The Tale of Tales”) which set down many tales being told around Europe and marks some of the oldest versions of these type of stories to be written down. The collection wasn’t published until after his death by his sister Adriana, in Naples, in 1634. The collection served as inspiration for the Grimms’ project nearly two hundred years later.

It is an old saying, that he who seeks what he should not, finds what he would not.

“How the Tales CAme to be Told” – the first line of Il Pentamerone

The story you’ll be reading from this collection is called, “Sun, Moon, and Talia” and is a form of a “Sleeping Beauty” story.

This is a very different story than you might know from Disney and has some extremely troubling elements relating to sexual consent and violence.

Illustration for “Sun, Moon, and Talia” by Warwick Gable, 1911 –
courtesy of ArtPassions.net

Sun, Moon, and Talia – Text

You can read the text linked above or listen to the story below – (Note that there may be differences between the text and the voice recording as this story has been translated.)

Charles Perrault

Perrault was a French artistocrat, who, in 1697, published Histoires ou contes du temps passé. (Stories of Past times), which is subtitled “avec des moralités” or “with morals.” It also was known as Mother Goose Tales (though Mother Goose became more known for the association with nursery rhymes later on), implying an authorship of an imaginary ‘mother’ or nurse figure from whom the tales were first heard. Perrault wrote and embellished these stories and had enormous impact on later variations.

Bluebeard – Text collage of bluebeard images

Bluebeard is a story that some scholar’s theorize may have been based on a real-life serial murderer. Like many stories, there are variants of this tale.

Charles Perrault’s version of “Cinderella” is closest to the version that was animated by Disney, pumpkin and all. His rendition of Sleeping Beauty retains elements of Basile’s, specifically the evil queen/ogre trying to eat the children.

Has anything surprised you in these two stories?

8 thoughts on “Literary Fairy tales from Italy and France

  1. Wow the tree stories evolved crime, envy , phantasy, terror, love and life lessons. I never hear the version of Cinderella with the ogre trying to eat the children. Also, it was my first time reading about Bluebear and the story somehow reminds the myth of Cupid and Psyche. Psyche and the Bluebear’s wife had a strong strong curiosity. Indeed the adaptation of the fairy tales open the doors to all those real life stories mixed with phantasy.

    1. This was intense I agree with you Melida never hears this Cinderella story before the plot was different the part about eating the children was a little scary especially if I was reading this to children.

  2. One thing that surprised me from Sun, Moon, and Talia was the moral of the story: “Those whom fortune favors Find good luck even in their sleep.” It did not seem to me that Talia had much good luck at all. She was first locked away to attempt to stop a curse/bad omen from being fulfilled, then she was left and more or less forgotten about until the king came and assaulted her. This story can be read in a very morbid light depending on how you interpret what is supposedly a positive and happy story in the end.

  3. After reading Sun, Moon, and Talia, I was surprised to hear such a dark version of sleeping beauty. Typically, you hear the story be told about a princess who falls in love and is awoken by true loves kiss. This variation is disturbing as it talks about the Talia being raped while unconscious. I have heard about this specific version however, never actually read it.

  4. It’s so crazy because just the other day, I was talking to my mom about how the Disney princess movies we’ve all watched as a kid are all happy endings but they aren’t the “original” versions of the story. The real versions of each princess fairytale are very very dark and terrifying which is scary! For example the story of Cinderella. There’s an ogre that eats children… Obviously children aren’t going to like that so that’s why Disney came into play to create a “happier and brighter” version.

  5. I was very surprised by both of these stories. They seem to be gruesome and more dark in nature compared to the films we are used to. It makes it hard to see these fairy tales/ movies the same because of how dark they are in these versions. We are typically presented with these fairytales in a more lighter, child friendly way, which I find understandable, especially after reading this.

  6. That is such a dark and terrifying version of sleeping beauty. Disney has really switched out these stories and put happy endings on all of them for children to enjoy and I’m glad they did that. No one really thinks about how gruesome these fairytales once were because of how well its portrayed in the media. I remember learning about the actual fairy tales in middle school and I was so shocked to hear how scary they were.

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