Thursday, October 10, 2013

Zezolla, the Italian Cinderella

Thomas_Sully_XX__Cinderella_at_the_Kitchen_Fire_1843 
Thomas Sully - Cinderella at the Kitchen Fire

Continuing with Giambattista Basile's Il Pentamerone fairy tale collection, I present to you the Italian Cinderella, "The Cat Cinderella," whose main character is named Zezolla. Zezolla is not a name that has been used in the U.S. (and pretty much everywhere else). This Cinderella story, one of the first - if not the first recorded on paper, is about a child who is miserable and abused by her stepmother. Zezolla's governess, who is kind and nurturing, urges her to kill her spiteful and mean stepmother, which Zezolla does, and then the governess marries Zezolla's father (an unnamed prince), bringing along her six cruel daughters. (In the story, it is more to the discredit of the governess, and she is mainly considered "tempted by Satan," rather than the murder being Zezolla's fault.) Her father is made to believe these new daughters are gracious girls and begins focusing so much on them that Zezolla is made to work like a servant, and her new mother's treatment becomes neglectful and superior. They all begin calling Zezolla the "Cat Cinderella." There are many differences between Basile's story and the Cinderella story we know today - Zezolla's father does not die, and the fairy who dresses Zezolla for the ball actually lives in a date tree her father brought back from Sardinia. At the ball, the one who falls in love with her is actually a king, and although she escapes him twice, he finally finds out who she is on their third meeting, when her fairy-given slipper jumps from his hand back to her foot, where it belonged. The king declares her his queen, the governess and her daughters and Zezolla's father are shamed. Happily ever after.

FYI: the other daughters are named Mperia (from the name Imperia), Calamita (which could be from the word calamity or the plant Calamint, but Calamita is Italian for magnet), Sciorella, Diamante (meaning "indomitable" and given as a name meaning diamond, Colommina (probably from Columba), and Pascarella (from Pascal). All of these names are similar to Italian word/location names as well - the Sciora di Dentro mountain, the provence of Imperia, a hill called the Calamita, Diamante in Calabria and Diamante citron is a type of fruit in Italy, and possibly the province of Pescare. There might be something I'm missing, but I'm sure in the time Basile was compiling these stories it was probably not a coincidence the sisters were given these names. I cannot find the meaning of Zezolla. In other/later versions Cinderella is equivalent to Cenerentola in Italian, meaning "little ashes/cinders."

There was a TV movie called Cinderella in 2000 in which the main character was named Zezolla, undoubtedly due to the Zezolla from Basile's story.

1 comment:

  1. Here some info & drawings about Italian's Cinderella by Basile:
    https://danielaberia.wordpress.com/lavori/concept/cenerentola/
    Artist: Daniela Beria, from Italy, Teacher, philologist and artist

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