Italian Popular Tales | Annotated Tale

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


The following story from Venice (Bernoni, Fiabe, No. 6) is a combination of the two stories in Grimm, "Clever Alice" and the "Clever People." It is called:


ONCE upon a time there was a husband and wife who had a son. This son grew up, and said one day to his mother: "Do you know, mother, I would like to marry!" "Very well, marry! whom do you want to take?" He answered: "I want the gardener's daughter." "She is a good girl; take her; I am willing." So he went, and asked for the girl, and her parents gave her to him. They were married, and when they were in the midst of the dinner, the wine gave out. The husband said: "There is no more wine!" The bride, to show that she was a good housekeeper, said: "I will go and get some." She took the bottles and went to the cellar, turned the cock, and began to think: "Suppose I should have a son, and we should call him Bastianelo, and he should die. Oh! how grieved I should be! oh! how grieved I should be!" And thereupon she began to weep and weep; and meanwhile the wine was running all over the cellar.

               When they saw that the bride did not return, the mother said: "I will go and see what the matter is." So she went into the cellar, and saw the bride, with the bottle in her hand, and weeping, while the wine was running over the cellar. "What is the matter with you, that you are weeping?" "Ah! my mother, I was thinking that if I had a son, and should name him Bastianelo, and he should die, oh! how I should grieve! oh! how I should grieve!" The mother, too, began to weep, and weep, and weep; and meanwhile the wine was running over the cellar.

               When the people at the table saw that no one brought the wine, the groom's father said: "I will go and see what is the matter. Certainly something wrong has happened to the bride." He went and saw the whole cellar full of wine, and the mother and bride weeping. "What is the matter?" he said; "has anything wrong happened to you?" "No," said the bride, "but I was thinking that if I had a son and should call him Bastianelo, and he should die, oh! how I should grieve! oh! how I should grieve!" Then he, too, began to weep, and all three wept; and meanwhile the wine was running over the cellar.

               When the groom saw that neither the bride, nor the mother, nor the father came back, he said: "Now I will go and see what the matter is that no one returns." He went into the cellar and saw all the wine running over the cellar. He hastened and stopped the cask, and then asked: "What is the matter, that you are all weeping, and have let the wine run all over the cellar?" Then the bride said: "I was thinking that if I had a son and called him Bastianelo and he should die, oh! how I should grieve! oh! how I should grieve!" Then the groom said: "You stupid fools! are you weeping at this, and letting all the wine run into the cellar? Have you nothing else to think of? It shall never be said that I remained with you! I will roam about the world, and until I find three fools greater than you I will not return home."

               He had a bread-cake made, took a bottle of wine, a sausage, and some linen, and made a bundle, which he put on a stick and carried over his shoulder. He journeyed and journeyed, but found no fool. At last he said, worn out: "I must turn back, for I see I cannot find a greater fool than my wife." He did not know what to do, whether to go on or to turn back. "Oh!" he said, "it is better to try and go a little farther." So he went on and shortly he saw a man in his shirt-sleeves at a well, all wet with perspiration and water. "What are you doing, sir, that you are so covered with water and in such a sweat?" "Oh! let me alone," the man answered, "for I have been here a long time drawing water to fill this pail and I cannot fill it." "What are you drawing the water in?" he asked him. "In this sieve," he said. "What are you thinking about, to draw water in that sieve? Just wait!" He went to a house near by, and borrowed a bucket, with which he returned to the well and filled the pail. "Thank you, good man, God knows how long I should have had to remain here!" "Here is one who is a greater fool than my wife."

               He continued his journey and after a time he saw at a distance a man in his shirt who was jumping down from a tree. He drew near, and saw a woman under the same tree holding a pair of breeches. He asked them what they were doing, and they said that they had been there a long time, and that the man was trying on those breeches and did not know how to get into them. "I have jumped, and jumped," said the man, "until I am tired out and I cannot imagine how to get into those breeches." "Oh!" said the traveller, "you might stay here as long as you wished, for you would never get into them in this way. Come down and lean against the tree." Then he took his legs and put them in the breeches, and after he had put them on, he said: "Is that right?" "Very good, bless you; for if it had not been for you, God knows how long I should have had to jump." Then the traveller said to himself: "I have seen two greater fools than my wife."

               Then he went his way and as he approached a city he heard a great noise. When he drew near he asked what it was, and was told it was a marriage, and that it was the custom in that city for the brides to enter the city gate on horseback, and that there was a great discussion on this occasion between the groom and the owner of the horse, for the bride was tall and the horse high, and they could not get through the gate; so that they must either cut off the bride's head or the horse's legs. The groom did not wish his bride's head cut off, and the owner of the horse did not wish his horse's legs cut off, and hence this disturbance. Then the traveller said: "Just wait," and came up to the bride and gave her a slap that made her lower her head, and then he gave the horse a kick, and so they passed through the gate and entered the city. The groom and the owner of the horse asked the traveller what he wanted, for he had saved the groom his bride, and the owner of the horse his horse. He answered that he did not wish anything and said to himself: "Two and one make three! that is enough; now I will go home." He did so and said to his wife: "Here I am, my wife; I have seen three greater fools then you; now let us remain in peace and think about nothing else." They renewed the wedding and always remained in peace. After a time the wife had a son whom they named Bastianelo, and Bastianelo did not die, but still lives with his father and mother. [1]

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               There is a Sicilian version of this story (Pitrè, No. 148) called, "The Peasant of Larcàra," in which the bride's mother imagines that her daughter has a son who falls into the cistern. The groom (they are not yet married) is disgusted and sets out on his travels with no fixed purpose of returning if he finds some fools greater than his mother-in-law, as in the Venetian tale. The first fool he meets is a mother, whose child, in playing the game called nocciole, [2] tries to get his hand out of the hole while his fist is full of stones. He cannot, of course, and the mother thinks they will have to cut off his hand. The traveller tells the child to drop the stones, and then he draws out his hand easily enough. Next he finds a bride who cannot enter the church because she is very tall and wears a high comb. The difficulty is settled as in the former story.

               After a while he comes to a woman who is spinning and drops her spindle. She calls out to the pig, whose name is Tony, to pick it up for her. The pig does nothing but grunt, and the woman in anger cries: "Well, you won't pick it up? May your mother die!"

               The traveller, who had overheard all this, takes a piece of paper, which he folds up like a letter, and then knocks at the door. "Who is there?" "Open the door, for I have a letter for you from Tony's mother, who is ill and wishes to see her son before she dies." The woman wonders that her imprecation has taken effect so soon, and readily consents to Tony's visit. Not only this, but she loads a mule with everything necessary for the comfort of the body and soul of the dying pig.

               The traveller leads away the mule with Tony, and returns home so pleased with having found that the outside world contains so many fools that he marries as he had first intended.

               The credulity of the woman in the last version, in allowing Tony to visit his sick mother, finds a parallel in a Neapolitan story (Imbriani, Pomiglianesi, p. 226) called: [Christmas]


[1] There is a version from Siena in Gradi, Saggio di Letture varie, p. 179, "Teà, Tècla e Teopista;" and from Rome in Busk, pp. 357, 367. References to other European versions of this story may be found in Grimm, Nos. 34, 104; Schneller, No. 56, "Die närrischen Weiber;" Zingerle, Märchen, I. No. 14; Dasent's Tales from the Norse, p. 191, "Not a Pin to choose between Them" (Asbj. & M., No. 10); Ralston, R. F. T. pp. 52-54; Jahrbuch, V. 3, Köhler to Cénac Moncaut's Contes pop. de la Gascogne, p. 32, "Maître Jean l'habile Homme;" Orient und Occident, II. p. 319; Köhler to Campbell, No. 20, "The Three Wise Men," p. 686, to No. 48, "Sgire Mo Chealag."

[2] A game played with peach-pits, which are thrown into holes made in the ground and to which certain numbers are attached.

SurLaLune Note

This tale has multiple ATU classifications:

 ATU 1384: The Husband Hunts Three Persons as Stupid as His Wife        


ATU 1450: Clever Elsie

Bibliographic Information

Tale Title: Bastianelo
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 1450: Clever Elsie

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