Italian Popular Tales | Annotated Tale

COMPLETE! Entered into SurLaLune Database in October 2018 with all known ATU Classifications.

Parrot, The (First Version)

Far more curious than any of the stories above given is the last one we shall mention from The Seven Wise Masters. The story in this collection known as "Avis," or "The Talking Bird," is briefly as follows: A jealous husband has a talking bird that is a spy upon his wife's actions. In order to impair his confidence in the bird, one night while he is absent the wife orders a servant to shower water over the bird's cage, to make a heavy sound like thunder, and to imitate the flashing of lightning with candles. The bird, on its master's return, tells him of the terrific storm the night before, and is killed for its supposed falsehood. This story is found in both the Eastern and Western versions of The Seven Wise Masters, and practically constitutes the framework of another famous Oriental collection, the Çukasaptati (from çuka, a parrot, and saptati, seventy, The Seventy Tales of a Parrot), better known by its Persian and Turkish name, Tûtî-Nâmeh, Tales of a Parrot. [1] The frame, or groundwork, of the various Oriental versions is substantially the same. A husband is obliged to leave home on business, and while he is absent his wife engages in a love affair with a stranger. A parrot, which the husband has left behind, prevents the wife meeting her lover by telling her stories which interest her so much that she keeps putting off her appointment until her husband returns. In the Turkish version the parrot reconciles the husband and wife; in the Persian versions the parrot relates what has happened, and the faithless wife is killed.

               The Italian versions, as will soon be seen, are not derived from The Seven Wise Masters, but from the Çukasaptati; and what is very curious, the framework has been retained and filled with stories that are not in the original. [2] The most simple version is from Pisa (Comparetti, No. 1), and is called:


THERE was once a merchant who had a beautiful daughter, with whom the king and the viceroy were both in love. The former knew that the merchant would soon have to depart on business, and he would then have a chance to speak with the girl. The viceroy knew it, too, and pondered on how he could prevent the king succeeding in his plan. He was acquainted with a witch, and promised her immunity and a large sum of money if she would teach him how to change himself into a parrot. This she did, and of course the merchant bought him for his daughter, and departed.

               When the parrot thought it was about time for the king to come, he said to the girl: "Now, to amuse you, I will tell you a story; but you must attend to me and not see any one while I am telling it." Then he began his story, and after he had gone a little way in it a servant entered and told her mistress that there was a letter for her. "Tell her to bring it later," said the parrot, "and now listen to me." "I do not receive letters while my father is away," said the mistress, and the parrot continued. After a while another interruption. A servant announces the visit of an aunt. (It was not an aunt, but a woman who came from the king.) The parrot said: "Do not receive her; we are in the finest part of our story," and the young girl sent word that she did not receive any visits while her father was absent, and the parrot went on. When his story was ended the girl was so pleased that she would listen to no one else until her father returned. Then the parrot disappeared, and the viceroy visited the merchant and asked his daughter's hand. He consented, and the marriage took place that very day. The wedding was scarcely over when a gentleman came to ask the girl's hand for the king; but it was too late, and the poor king, who was much in love with her, died of a broken heart, and the girl remained the wife of the viceroy, who had been more cunning than the king.

*  *  *  *  *

               We have omitted the story told by the parrot because we shall meet it again in the Sicilian version, and substantially in the following version from Florence, which we give entire on account of the rarity of the work in which it is found, and for its own merits. [3] It is also entitled: [The Parrot. (Second Version)]


[1] The literature of this famous collection of tales will best be found in an article by Wilhelm Pertsch, "Ueber Nachschabî's Papagaienbuch" in the Zeitschrift der deutschen morgenländischen Gesellschaft, Bd. XXI. pp. 505-551. Prof. H. Brockhaus discovered that the eighth night of Nachschabî's version was nothing but a version of the Seven Wise Masters containing seven stories. Nachschabî, in preparing his work, used probably the oldest version of the Seven Wise Masters of which we have any knowledge. Professor Brockhaus made this discovery known in a brief pamphlet entitled: Die Sieben Weisen Meister von Nachschabî, Leipzig, 1843, of which only twelve copies were printed. The above, except the Persian text, was reprinted in the Blätt. für lit. Unterhaltung, 1843, Nos. 242, 243 (pp. 969 et seq.); and, in an Italian translation, in D'Ancona's Il Libro dei Sette Savi di Roma.

               The Persian version of Qâdirî (a compend of Nachschabî's) is the one most frequently translated. The German translation: Toutinameh. Eine Sammlung pers. Märchen, von C. J. L. Iken, mit einem Anhange von J. G. L. Kosegarten, Stuttgart, 1822, is easily found. The Turkish version is elegantly translated by G. Rosen: Tuti-nameh, das Papagaienbuch, eine Sammlung orientalischer Erzählungen nach der türkischen Bearbeitung zum ersten Male übersetzt von G. Rosen, Leipzig, 1858, 2 vols.

[2] The preservation of the frame of the Çukasaptati in Italian popular tales is only paralleled, to our knowledge, by the preservation of the Seven Wise Masters in a Magyar popular tale. See La Tradizione dei Sette Savi nelle Novelline magiare. Lettera al Prof. A. D'Ancona di E. Teza, Bologna, 1864.

               It is possible that the Italian stories containing the frame of the Çukasaptati may have been developed from the story in the Seven Wise Masters which is found in both the Oriental and Occidental versions. The spirit of Folk-tales seems to us averse to expansion, and that condensation is the rule. We think it more likely that it was by way of oral tradition, or from some now lost collection of Oriental tales once known in Italy.

[3] It is in the work by Teza mentioned in the last note, p. 52.

SurLaLune Note

This tale has multiple ATU classifications:

ATU 898: The Daughter of the Sun

ATU 1352A: The Tale-Telling Parrot

Bibliographic Information

Tale Title: Parrot, The (First Version)
Tale Author/Editor: Crane, Thomas
Book Title: Italian Popular Tales
Book Author/Editor: Crane, Thomas Frederick
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin and Company
Publication City: Boston
Year of Publication: 1885
Country of Origin: Italy
Classification: ATU 898: The Daughter of the Sun

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