Italian Popular Tales | Annotated Tale

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

Truthful Joseph

Many single stories of Oriental origin will be found in the chapters following. We shall close this one with a story which was popular in Europe during the Middle Ages, being found in one of the great collections of that period, the Gesta Romanorum. Of the various Italian versions we shall select one from Pomigliano d'Arco called:


ONCE upon a time there was a mother who had a son named Joseph; and because he never told a lie she called him Truthful Joseph. One day when she was calling him, the king happened to pass by, and hearing her call him thus, asked her: "Why do you call him Truthful Joseph?" "Because he never tells a lie." Then the king said that he would like to have him in his service, and set him to keeping his cows. Every morning Joseph presented himself to the king, and said: "Your Majesty's servant." The king answered: "Good morning, Truthful Joseph. How are the cows?" "Well and fat." "How are the calves?" "Well and handsome." "How is the bull?" "The same." So he did every morning. The king praised him so highly in the presence of all his courtiers that they became angry at him; and one day, to make Joseph a liar, they sent to him a lady, who was to induce him by her words to kill the bull. Joseph was urged so strongly that he consented; but afterwards he was in great perplexity as to what he should tell the king. So he put his cloak on a chair and pretended that it was the king, and said: "Your Majesty's servant. Good morning, Truthful Joseph. How are the cows? Well and fat. How are the calves? Well and handsome. How is the bull? The same. But no; that will not do! I am telling a lie! When the king asks me how the bull is, I will tell him that it is dead."

               He presented himself to the king and said: "Your Majesty's servant." "Good morning, Truthful Joseph. How are the cows?" "Well and fat." "How are the calves?" "Well and handsome." "How is the bull?" "Your Majesty, a lady came and with her manners made me kill the bull. Pardon me." The king answered: "Bravo, Truthful Joseph!" He summoned his courtiers and showed them that Joseph had not yet told any lie. And so Joseph remained always with the king, and the courtiers were duped, because they gained nothing that they had expected. [1]


[1] The Italian versions are: Pitrè, No. 78, "Lu Zu Viritati" ("Uncle Truth"); Gonz., No. 8, "Bauer Wahrhaft" ("Farmer Truth"); XII. Conti Pomiglianesi, p. 1, "Giuseppe 'A Veretà" ("Truthful Joseph," the version translated by us); p. 6, another version from same place and with same name; and in Straparola, III. 5. References to Oriental sources maybe found in Köhler's notes to Gonz., No. 8, and Oesterley's notes to Gesta Rom. cap. 111.

*  *  *  *  *

               In addition to the Oriental elements mentioned in the third chapter, Stanislao Prato has discovered the story of Nala in a popular tale from Pitigliano (Tuscany), see S. Prato, La Leggenda indiana di Nala in una novella popolare pitiglianese, Como, 1881. (Extracted from I Nuovi Goliardi.)

Bibliographic Information

Tale Title: Truthful Joseph
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 889: Wager on the Faithfulness of the Servant

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