Italian Popular Tales | Annotated Tale

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

Little Omelet, The

The anecdote of the fly in the latter part of the story is found independently in a version from Palermo. "The flies plagued Giufà and stung him. He went to the judge and complained of them. The judge laughed and said: 'Wherever you see a fly you can strike it.' While the judge was speaking a fly rested on his face and Giufà dealt it such a blow that he broke the judge's nose."

               This story, which, as we shall see, has variants in different parts of Italy, is of Oriental origin and is found in the Pantschatantra. A king asked his pet monkey to watch over him while he slept. A bee settled on the king's head; the monkey could not drive it away, so he took the king's sword and killed the bee--and the king, too. A similar parable is put into the mouth of Buddha. A bald carpenter was attacked by a mosquito. He called his son to drive it away; the son took the axe, aimed a blow at the insect, but split his father's head in two, in killing the mosquito. In the Anvar-i-Suhaili, the Persian translation of the Pantschatantra, it is a tame bear who keeps the flies from the sleeping gardener by throwing a stone at his head. [2]

               The only popular European versions of this story, as far as we know, are found in Italy. Besides those from Sicily, there are versions from Florence, Leghorn, and Venice. The first is called:


ONCE upon a time there was a little woman who had a little room and a little hen. The hen laid an egg and the little woman took it and made a little omelet of it, and put it to cool in the window. Along came a fly and ate it up. Imagine what an omelet that must have been! The little woman went to the magistrate and told him her story. He gave her a club and told her to kill the fly with it wherever she saw it. At that moment a fly lighted on the magistrate's nose, and the woman, believing it to be the same fly, gave it a blow and broke the magistrate's nose.

               The versions from Leghorn and Venice are in almost the same words. [2]

               The literary versions are quite abundant, four or five being found in Italy, and a number in France, the best known of which is La Fontaine's fable of "The Bear and the Amateur Gardener," Book VIII. 10. [3]

               One morning, before Giufà was up, he heard a whistle and asked his mother who was passing. She answered that it was the morning-singer. One day Giufà, tired of the noise, went out and killed the man who was blowing the whistle, and came back and told his mother that he had killed the morning-singer. His mother went out and brought the body into the house and threw it into the well, which happened to be dry. Then she remembered that she had a lamb, which she killed and also threw in the well.

               Meanwhile the family of the murdered man had learned of the murder and had gone to the judge, with their complaint, and all together went to Giufà's house to investigate the matter. The judge said to Giufà: "Where did you put the body?" Giufà, who was silly, replied: "I threw it in the well." Then they tied Giufà to a rope and lowered him into the well. When he reached the bottom he began to feel around and touched wool, and cried out to the son of the murdered man: "Did your father have wool?" "My father did not have wool." "This one has wool; he is not your father." Then he touched the tail: "Did your father have a tail?" "My father did not have a tail." "Then it's not your father." Then he felt four feet and asked: "How many feet did your father have?" "My father had two feet." Giufà said: "This one has four feet; he is not your father." Then he felt the head and said: "Did your father have horns?" "My father did not have horns." Giufà replied: "This one has horns; he is not your father." Then the judge said: "Giufà, bring him up either with the horns or with the wool." So they drew up Giufà with the lamb on his shoulder, and when the judge saw that it was a real lamb, they set Giufà at liberty.

               In a variant of the above story Giufà's mother, to get rid of him, one day tells him to take his gun and go off and shoot a cardinal-bird. Giufà asks what a cardinal is, and his mother tells him that it is one that has a red head. Giufà, of course, shoots a cardinal and carries him home. The remainder of the story is as above. In another variant Giufà's mother has a cock which she cooks one day, and Giufà, who had never eaten anything of the kind before, likes it greatly and asks what it is. His mother tells him it is the night-singer. One evening Giufà saw a poor man singing behind a door, and thinking he was a night-singer, killed him and carried him home. The rest of the story is like the first version. [4]


[1] See Max Müller's Chips, II. p. 229, and Benfey, Pant. I. p. 293.

[2] See Imbriani, Nov. fior. p. 545; Papanti, Nov. pop. livor. No. 3; and Bernoni, Punt. III. p. 83.

[3] See Robert, Fables inédites, II. p. 136. The Italian literary versions are: Morlini, XXI., Straparola, XIII. 4; and two stories mentioned by Imbriani in his Nov. fior. pp. 545, 546.

[4] This episode is in Strap. XIII. 4; Pitrè, IV. p. 291, gives a version from the Albanian colony of Piana de' Greci, sixteen miles from Palermo. In the same vol., p. 444, he gives a variant from Erice in which, after Giufà has killed the "canta-la-notti," his mother climbs a fig-tree and rains down figs into the mouth of Giufà, who is standing under. In this way she saves herself from the accusation of having thrown a murdered man into the well. See Note 12. For another Sicilian version of this episode see Gonz., No. 37 (I. p. 252).

Bibliographic Information

Tale Title: Little Omelet, The
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 1586: The Man in Court for Killing a Fly

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