Stories from the Pentamerone
by Giambattista Basile
Since it’s May I will be focusing exclusively on Rapunzel or ATU 310 Maiden in the Tower tales.
“One hour in port, the sailor, freed from fears,
Forgets the tempests of a hundred years” (Basile, 68).
ATU 310 Maiden in the Tower
Today I wanted to focus on a more “classic” tale: An early Rapunzel and Maiden in the Tower story by one of my favorite fairy tale writers, Basile.
It’s pretty basic “Rapunzel” with a few details that make the story make more sense and add a different flavor. As usual, a pregnant woman, Pascadozzia, gets a craving for the parsley she sees in an ogress’ garden. She steals some but is later caught. When accused for her transgression, she claims she was afraid her child might “be born with a crop of parsley on its face” (65). Unimpressed, the ogress asks for the unborn child in exchange for Pascadozzia’s life (that’s how I’m reading “‘the balance-sheet of life'”) (65).
When Parsley (our Rapunzel) turns seven, the ogress seizes her and takes her “to a wood which the horses of the Sun never entered, not having paid the toll to the pastures of those Shades” (66). I’ve always got to love Basile’ colorful way of expressing time or atmospheric phenomenon.
Eventually the “son of a Prince” sees her hair and they get to talking. Parsley tells him her troubles and asks him to rescue her. Unfortunately, a gossip sees this and tells the ogress, giving a better explanation than Grimm at least as to how the witch/ogress discovers the man.
Ah, but the best part here is Parsley suspects that gossip will tell the ogress. Furthermore the reason she can’t leave the tower is because of three enchanted gall-nuts. For the ogress “had laid a spell upon her, so unless she had in her hand the gall-nuts which were in a rafter in the kitchen it would be a labor lost to attempt to get away (67).
Being rather clever, which I love in fairy tale heroines, Parsley has the prince get the nuts after he climbs her hair. Then the two escape on “a rope-ladder” (67). The ogress, finding Parsley gone, chases after them.
Parsley then throws one of the nuts and “instantly a Corsican bulldog started up” and tries to eat the ogress. But she tames the dog by giving him bread. So Parsley throws the second nut and “a fierce lion arose” (67). He almost eats the ogress, but she skins a donkey and by throwing on its skin scares away the lion. But being afraid of the lion, the ogress doesn’t remove the skin.
Parsley finally throws the third (and last) gall-nut and from it “sprang up a wolf, who, without giving the ogress time to play any new trick, gobbled her up just as she was in the shape of a jackass” (68). Well, I love that. Not only does the wolf succeed in stopping the ogress, but the fairy tale trait of gluttony achieves a good turn in this tale. I approve.
(Parsely and the prince marry and, I assume, live the rest of their lives untroubled by any more trouble like the ogress.)