Saturday, 14 April 2012

Fairy Tale Review: 'Fanta-Ghiro the Beautiful'

The Italian fairy tale Fanta-Ghiro the Beautiful was one of the few fairy tales I came across on the small screen prior to the written page. I was instantly fascinated by the fantasy film Fantaghiro (also known as The Cave of the Golden Rose) when it first aired on local TV, and I caught reruns of the show ever since with that kind of avid fanaticism reserved only for true fans of fairy tales and fantasy:)

The Cave of the Golden Rose is one movie I hope to blog about very soon. The reason I mention it today however is because it did more than spark my imagination on quiet evenings; it also made me seek out the original tale which inspired Lamberto Bava's enchanting adaptation:) Sometime last year, I was delighted to finally hold in my hands a copy of Italo Calvino's Italian Folktales. His version of Fanta-Ghiro the Beautiful (Montale Pistoiese) was one I'd been searching for forever. The story turned out to be pretty short, but was surprisingly effective nonetheless.

Fanta-Ghiro opens with the heroine's father-King receiving a declaration of war from an enemy kingdom. The King has no sons, only three daughters, and he's very old himself, so each of his daughters decide to try lead his army into battle in his place; the twist is, they must relinquish control of the army if they mention "women's work" at any point along the way to battle.

The first two daughters immediately fail this test. Fanta-Ghiro on the other hand, the youngest of the three, disproves all gender conventions very easily by not only passing her father's test but also that of the enemy King's mother. Hmmm, all right, I'm getting a bit ahead of myself there. You see, the  handsome enemy King guesses that Fanta-Ghiro is a woman - perhaps falling in love with her was a powerful clue?:) But he does not know how to prove she's a woman, which means he can't call off the battle and ask her to marry him.

What does our confused and frustrated hero do? He asks his mother for help:) Don't you just love these stories?:)

So, the King's mother promptly helps him by trying to trick Fanta-Ghiro into revealing her gender. But Fanta-Ghiro isn't your typical princess, and by the time the story is through, she has successfully hung on to her position as General of her father's armies, gained a truce between the kingdoms and finally revealed who she is on her own terms before agreeing to marry the besotted enemy King.

Despite the remarkably short length of this tale, let me tell you that I was pleasantly surprised by its tenor. The misogyny apparent in that bit about "women's work" was soon swept aside by the portrayal of Fanta-Ghiro as intelligent, feisty and resourceful; and her actions throughout the tale certainly allowed the reader to see her as an individual rather than merely a gender. The enemy King's obvious quandary provided some delightful moments of amusement, especially the bit where he was left cold and alone and quite naked in a fishpond while his nemesis, beautiful Fanta-Ghiro, made her mischievous escape.

And of course, how could I forget my favourite part of this story: the proposal:) I have to say, this was the first time I'd read a proposal quite like this... From the enemy King to a very pleased Fanta-Ghiro: "General, will you marry me?"

Ha, what's not to like!:) I only wish the story had been longer:)

I do hope you enjoyed this review. I should be back soon with more wonderful features for your reading pleasure. Ciaos and happy reading to all:)

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Sara Hill said...

Fanta-Ghiro and Calvino's book sound like things I would like. I grew up on the fairy tales in the Book House series: East of the Sun, Briar Rose, etc., etc.

Christine said...

What a thorough review, thank you! It sounds very interesting.

Don't give up on the challenge- you obviously have some fabulous things to write about!

Coffee in the Garden
In the Care of the Great Physician

Laura Marcella said...

Hello, Isabella! I'm not familiar with this story but it sounds awesome. I love it that the General daughter saved the day AND got married by her own choice and on her own terms!

Have a great week and happy A to Z!!

Isabella Amaris said...

Thanks for the comments, everyone:)

Sara, I cannot say enough good things about Fanta-Ghiro and Calvino's book. I do hope you give it a try.

Christine - thanks for the encouragement! I'm obviously bombed re the challenge, but have discovered how much I enjoy exploring fairy tales, so more reviews will be coming soon:)

Laura - Yes, it really is a cool tale, something a bit different from the rest! Am so glad I got to know about it, and got hold of Calvino's book too (bit hard to find where I'm at). Cheers:)