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The Journal of American Folklore





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In Fairy Godfather: Straparola, Venice, and the Fairy Tale Tradition Ruth Bottingheimer proposes to correct the historical narrative of the emergence of the fairy tale in Europe and to recognize "Straparola's role as an originator in the history of modern fairy tale" (Bottingheimer 2002:3). Giovanni Francesco Straparola (c. 1480-c. 1557) is not exactly an unknown figure in folktale history.1 His book, Le piacevoli notti (Pleasant nights), which appeared in English as The Nights of Straparola (Straparola [1551-1553] 1894), was long recognized as a predecessor of Giambattista Basile's Lo cunto de li cunti (The tale of tales; published 1634-1636; also known in its 1674 edition as Il Pentamerone) and Charles Perrault's Contes de ma mere l'Oye (Tales of Mother Goose; Perrault [1695-1697] 1956). As Bottingheimer (2002:2) points out, the Grimm brothers considered Straparola as their precursor, admiring him as an author who conscientiously drew upon oral tradition. Selections from Straparola's tales appeared in volumes published in Vienna in 1791, which included twenty-four tales, and in Berlin in 1817, which included eighteen tales and was accompanied by the copious notes of the editor and translator Friedrich Wilhelm Valentine Schmidt. In the mid-nineteenth century, Theodor Benfey found in the case of Straparola implicit support for his theory of the Indian origin of folktales. For him, the availability of Straparola's tales was felicitous evidence for the possible historical interdependence of oral and literature tales. Since the idea that oral tradition alone could sustain a global diffusion of tales was unfathomable in his days, he relied on the migration and translation of the Panchatantra, a classic Indian tale collection, as a support for his Indian origin hypothesis (Benfey 1859). The availability of a European tale collection that demonstrated the possibility of such historical interdependence provided him with further support for his theory.

Copyright/Permission Statement

Published as Ben-Amos, D. Introduction: The European Fairy-Tale Tradition between Orality and Literacy. The Journal of American Folklore 123(490): 373-376. © 2010 by the Board of Trustees of the University of Illinois.



Date Posted: 22 September 2017

This document has been peer reviewed.