In the classic rags-to-riches fairy tale a penniless heroine (or
hero), with some magic help, marries a royal prince (or princess)
and rises to wealth. Received opinion has long been that stories
like these originated among peasants, who passed them along by word
of mouth from one place to another over the course of centuries. In
a bold departure from conventional fairy tale scholarship, Ruth B.
Bottigheimer asserts that city life and a single individual played
a central role in the creation and transmission of many of these
familiar tales. According to her, a provincial boy, Zoan Francesco
Straparola, went to Venice to seek his fortune and found it by
inventing the modern fairy tale, including the long beloved Puss in
Boots, and by selling its many versions to the hopeful inhabitants
of that colorful and commercially bustling city.
With innovative literary sleuthing, Bottigheimer has reconstructed
the actual composition of Straparola's collection of tales.
Grounding her work in social history of the Renaissance Venice,
Bottigheimer has created a possible biography for Straparola, a man
about whom hardly anything is known. This is the first book-length
study of Straparola in any language.
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