Fairy Tales Before Disney And Grimm: Giambattista Basile, Newly Translated

Giambattista Basile wrote down the earliest European 'Cinderella' story, over 300 years before this Walt Disney illustrated version of the same tale. (Tom Simpson / Flickr)

Giambattista Basile wrote down the earliest European ‘Cinderella’ story, over 300 years before this Walt Disney illustrated version of the same tale. (Tom Simpson/Flickr)

Before Walt Disney’s 1950 “Cinderella” movie, there were the Grimm Brothers, who wrote an earlier Cinderella tale in 1857. And before the Grimm Brothers, there was Charles Perroult’s “Cinderella,” published in 1697. And even before Perroult, there was Giambattista Basile, the Neapolitan poet and courtier whose “Cinderella” story, published in 1634, is the first European version of the tale ever written.

Don’t recognize that last name? Well, Giambattista Basile penned the earliest European versions of the Rapunzel and Cinderella tales. He also wrote versions of other fairy tale classics such as “Puss in Boots,” “Sleeping Beauty,” “Snow White” and “Beauty and the Beast” before the Grimm brothers, Perroult and Disney.

Basile’s name still isn’t ringing a bell? Maybe this newest translation will change that.


Nancy Canepa, associate professor at Dartmouth College.


WBUR: Folklore For Hipsters: Fairy Tales Before They Were Cool

  • “Reading The Tale of Tales, Giambattisa Basile’s 17th-century book of fairy stories, is both exhilarating and exhausting. If that sounds like a warning, it is. If that sounds like a promise, well, good news.”

Journal of Folklore Research Reviews: Giambattista Basile’s The Tale of Tales, Or Entertainment For Little Ones

  • “Back beyond about 1500, things fall apart: there is very little European material that conforms to whole fairy-tale tale types. Nevertheless, many of the episodes and motifs that are important in fairy tales have interesting analogs in literature from earlier times in Europe, the Middle East, and Asia. Basile’s Tale of Tales constitutes a crossroads in this landscape, and Canepa has provided a valuable service by making it available again in English.”

The Guardian: Tale Of Tales Review: Monarch Of The Gran

  • “Matteo Garrone’s Tale of Tales is fabulous in every sense: a freaky portmanteau film based on the folk myths collected and published by the 16th-century Neapolitan poet and scholar Giambattista Basile.”

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