Lo Cunto de li Cunti

This is a 1634 collection of Fairy Tales by the Neapolitan Story Collector Giambattista Basile.

There is one tale that he called Petrosinella. A familiar story that we know, today, by another name.

A pregnant woman steals parsley from the garden of an ogress (orca) and agrees to give up her child when she is caught. The baby is born and named Petrosinella, after the Italian word for parsley (the modern word is prezzemolo). The ogress watches the girl grow in her mother’s care and reminds her often of her mother’s promise. Petrosinella, unaware what the promise is, tells her mother of the ogress’s comment.  Petrosinella’s irritated mother tells the girl to say to the ogress that she can act on the promise.

The ogress takes Petrosinella by her hair and locks her in a tower deep in the woods with only a single window; the ogress relies on Petrosinella’s extremely long hair to enter the tower. Within the tower, Petrosinella is taught “magic arts” by the ogress. One day, a prince sees her hair in the wind. Petrosinella noticing his passionate declarations of love blows him a kiss. Eventually, the prince makes his way to the tower and climbs up Petrosinella’s hair after he imitates the ogress’s voice. The couple continues to see each other every night, but the ogress is informed by a neighbour of the romance.

Petrosinella overhears that her secret has been revealed and plans to escape with the prince to the city. Stealing three magic gullnuts or acorns before climbing out of the tower with a rope ladder, Petrosinella uses the gullnuts as a distraction by throwing them behind her as the ogress chases the couple. The first bean turns into a dog that the ogress feeds a loaf of bread. The second becomes a lion that the ogress feeds a donkey from a nearby field, and she takes the donkey’s skin as a coat. The third bean turns into a wolf that swallows the ogress whole, as she is wearing the donkey skin.


Samson and Delilah sorely twisted and corrupted?

By the way – Giambattista Basile more than likely knew of the long-lived and internationally common practise of poor women cutting off and selling their long and lustrous hair for money.

Side Note : The nasty ogress/enchantress/witch forgot that hair/power/truth grows back :o)

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