Giambattista Basile

Giambattista Basile books and biography


Giambattista Basile


Giambattista Basile
Giambattista Basile

Giambattista Basile (1566 or 1575–February 23, 1632) was an Italian poet, courtier, and fairy tale collector.



Born to a Neapolitan middle-class family, Basile was, during his career, a courtier and soldier to various Italian princes, including the doge of Venice. According to Benedetto Croce he was born in 1575, while other sources have February 1566. In Venice he began to write poetry. Later he returned to Naples to serve as a courtier under the patronage of Don Marino II Caracciolo, prince of Avellino, to whom he dedicated his idyll L’Aretusa (1618). By the time of his death he had reached the rank of "count" Conte di Torrone.

He is chiefly remembered for writing the collection of Neapolitan fairy tales titled Lo cunto de li cunti overo lo trattenemiento de peccerille (Neapolitan for "The Tale of Tales, or Entertainment for Little Ones"), published posthumously in two volumes by his sister Adriana in Naples, Italy in 1634 and 1636 under the pseudonym Gian Alesio Abbatutis.

He recorded and adapted the tales, believed to have been orally transmitted around Crete and Venice, several of which were also later adapted by Charles Perrault and the Brothers Grimm, the latter making extensive, acknowledged use of Basile's collection. Examples of this are versions of Cinderella, Rapunzel, Puss in Boots, Sleeping Beauty, and Hansel and Gretel.

Lo cunto is known as the Pentamerone, a title first used in the 1674 edition, because it is constructed roughly upon the model of the Decamerone of Boccaccio.


It is structured around a fantastic frame story in which fifty stories are related over the course of five days rather than the ten of the Tuscan compendium. The frame-story is that of a cursed, melancholy princess named Zoza ("mud" or "slime" in Neapolitan, but also used as a term of endearment) who is robbed of her only chance at matrimony by a Moorish slave, who takes her place. The now-pregnant slave-queen demands (at the impetus of Zoza's fairy gifts) that her husband tell her stories, or else she would crush the unborn child. The husband hires ten female storytellers to keep her amused; disguised among them is Zoza. Each tells five stories — most of which are more suitable to courtly than juvenile audiences. The Moorish woman's treachery is revealed in the final story (related, suitably, by Zoza), and she is buried, pregnant, up to her neck in the ground and left to die. Zoza and the Prince live happily ever after.

The fairy tales are:

  • The Myrtle
  • Peruonto
  • Vardiello
  • The Flea
  • Cenerentola — a variant of Cinderella
  • The Merchant
  • Goat-Face
  • The Enchanted Doe
  • Parsley — a variant of Rapunzel
  • The Three Sisters
  • Violet
  • Pippo — a variant of Puss In Boots
  • The Serpent
  • The She-Bear — a variant of Allerleirauh
  • The Dove — a variant of Snow-White-Fire-Red
  • Cannetella
  • Corvetto
  • The Booby
  • The Stone in the Cock's Head
  • The Three Enchanted Princes
  • The Dragon
  • The Two Cakes — a variant of Diamonds and Toads
  • The Seven Doves — a variant of The Seven Ravens
  • The Raven
  • The Months
  • Pintosmalto
  • The Golden Root — a variant of Cupid and Psyche
  • Sun, Moon, and Talia — a variant of Sleeping Beauty
  • Nennillo and Nennella — a variant of Hansel and Gretel
  • The Three Citrons — a variant of The Love for Three Oranges


The text was translated into German by Felix Liebrecht (1846), into English by John Edward Taylor (1848) and again by Sir Richard Francis Burton (1893) and into Italian by Benedetto Croce in 1925.

External links and resources

  • "La vita di Giambattista Basile" (in Italian)
  • Works by Giambattista Basile at Project Gutenberg
  • SurLaLune Fairy Tale Pages: Il Pentamerone by Giambattista Basile
  • Illustrations by Warwick Goble
  • Illustrations by George Cruikshank
  • Professor S. Cicciotti's page about G. B. Basile (in Italian)
  • Online text of some stories, in English (from Taylor translation)

This article might use material from a Wikipedia article, which is released under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share-Alike License 3.0.

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