Monday, September 3, 2018

Children of San Marino (Following folktales around the world 81. - San Marino)

Today I continue the blog series titled Following folktales around the world! If you would like to know what the series is all about, you can find the introduction post here. You can find all posts here, or you can follow the series on Facebook!

The most famous collection of San Marino folktales was written by Walter Anderson at the beginning of the 20th century. Unfortunately I could not locate the full book, but managed to find a short selection of 10 tales online.

Novelline Popolari Sammarinesi
Walter Anderson
Republica di San Marino 2000.

This short collection, much like the original book, presents the tales both in the San Marino dialect and in standard Italian. The original book contained 118 tales, gathered by Anderson in the 1920s with the help of schoolteachers and their students. Each tale is marked with the name of the original teller - since this was a school project, most "sources" were between 8 and 13 years old, which makes the tales short, to the point, and occasionally surprising. I used a combination of my sporadic Italian, my more confident Spanish, my college Latin, and Google Translate to read the tales online.


The legend of Saint Peter's mother was all kinds of interesting. She was portrayed as a greedy and cold-hearted woman, who only gave one leaf of celery to the poor all her life, and even that only because she accidentally dropped it. Even so, Peter tried to talk God into letting her into Heaven, on account of that one gift - but when she began bragging how she deserved to go to Heaven because her son was a saint, and she was better than everyone else, she got sent back to Hell.
The ending of Madonna's House was much nicer. The tale began exactly like Hansel and Gretel, with children being sent to the woods, and not finding the clues they left to go home. But here the small cottage they found belonged to the Virgin Mary, and they grew up there safe and happy.
I was reminded of Vasilisa's doll a little by the story of the poor girl who bought a doll instead of bread. Her sisters scolded her, but the next morning, while changing the doll, she found gold pieces in its diaper.


The local trickster seemed to be the fox (a female one) - for example, I found a version of the "sick carrying the healthy" story with her and a wolf. There was also a variant of the Three Little Pigs, where after a straw house and an iron house, miraculously a glass house protected all three. The tale of the Seven-headed wizard was also familiar, with a boy exchanging sheep for dogs, and the dogs helping him defeat evil in the end. And I even found a Thumbling story, where the tiny hero named Fagiuolo decided to become a thief, and made good money from it.

Where to next?


  1. Did you know today is San Marino Day? It is! September 3 celebrates the foundation of the Republic of San Marino. I discovered this in Wikipedia once when looking up “on this day” for my birthday.

  2. St. Peter's Mother sure sounds like a piece of work! LOL