SeeStan ChapLee

Saturday, January 24, 2015

The Ecumenism of Fairy Tales




During the Late Middle Ages and the Renaissance, in Egypt, the definitive version of the Arabian Nights took shape after having originated in India more or less in the 8th century, and then developed in Persia. What is specifically striking for this blog devoted to Renaissance culture is that many episodes recounted in these tales can be found, nearly identical, in Ariosto's and Tasso's poems. For example, in Gerusalemme Conquistata Armida is the daughter of a man and a mermaid basically like King Badr Basim in the tale of Julnar the Sea-Born; not to speak of the tricks of love, especially in Orlando Furioso. So, apparently, Hindus, Jews, Christians, and Muslims can disagree on almost everything, but they all love to listen to the same fairy tales.

The book shown here (Rome: Donzelli Editore, 2011) includes four tales chosen by Marc Chagall; it was first published in 1948 in the USA by Pantheon Books. The only small imperfection of this recent Italian edition is that some captions are wrong. The texts, wonderfully translated by Fulvia De Luca, are -- on purpose -- not philologically accurate since they follow the classic English version, i.e. Richard Burton's, of the late 19th century; but they deserve to enter the universe of Great Literature simply because they were 'adopted' by Chagall himself, who saw his own story symbolized in them and created some of his most beautiful and significant works to illustrate them.