Giambattista Basile in the late 1500's collected oral tales in Naples and Venice. He wrote them down in Neopolitan Italian, in a parody of the flamboyant pre-Baroque style. The published work was known as
Il Pentamerone because in the manner of the Decameron it consisted of a frame story and forty-nine tales
told over a period of five days.
The original stories and the existing translations are filled with extraneous material and redundancy.The language is opulent, elaborate, and exaggerated to the point that the plots are almost smothered. But dig underneath to remove what pertains to the intrigues of court at the time, the many topical references and
the mannered descriptions and colloquialisms, and there are gems of stories to be retold. For that reason
I have put those forty nine stories into narrative verse, eliminating the embellishments and going straight
for the plot.
My intent is to make the stories more readily accessible to storytellers and educators. They are posted on
my website free for anyone to use.
These are stories from which Perrault and the Grimm brothers took much of their material – with a difference.
The poems adhere strictly to the story motifs. I have allowed myself a little playfulness at the end of each
story when the original morals appended appeared to be incomprehensible in our time.
I have necessarily worked from translation, principally those of Nancy L. Canepa in “Giambattista Basile’s
The Tale of Tales, or Entertainment for Little Ones” Wayne State University Press, Detroit 2007, and those
by John Edward Taylor, 1848.
There are ten stories for each day. Click on the buttons to read and listen to the tales.