Sun, Moon, and Talia (An Italian Tale)

Basile, Giambattista. The Pentamerone. Benedetto Croce, translator. New York: Dutton, 1932., Day 5, Tale 5.

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This is the second known version of the Sleeping Beauty tale, after Perceforst, which is thought to be the earliest. In Sun, Moon, and Talia, a king is told by fortune tellers that his daughter will suffer greatly as the result of flax. Upon hearing this, the king announces that no flax is to be brought into his castle, hoping that by doing so Talia will be safe. However, this does not solve the problem, as years later Talia sees a woman spinning and becomes intrigued; she must know how to do this thing! As predicted, some flax gets under the girl’s finger nail and she falls to the ground. The king has her placed in a castle in the country and never goes to see her again.

Some time later, a king happens by this castle, discovers Talia inside, and sees she will not wake up. The tale goes, “So, after admiring her beauty awhile, the king returned home to his kingdom, where for a long time he forgot all that had happened.” Evidentially, he raped Talia, as the next sentence reads, “Meanwhile Talia gave birth to two little twins…” As they are hungry for food, they accidentally suck on her finger, thus removing the splinter and waking Talia. Eventually the king remembers what happened and is thrilled to find Talia awake and to meet his children. Talia is happy to meet him and apparently has no problem with the fact that she was raped in her sleep: “…they formed a great league and friendship, and he remained there for several days, promising as he took leave to return and fetch her.”

Back at home, the king’s wife has grown suspicious and demands the king’s secretary tell her what is going on. He tells the queen of Talia, she sends for the children, and orders the cook to kill and prepare them for her husband to eat. The cook instead kills and cooks two young goats and puts the children in hiding. Later, the queen sends for Talia and upon her arrival orders her to be burned to death. Buying time, Talia begs that she at least be able to remove her clothing before going into the flames, which she does one article at a time, and the king arrives just as she is being dragged away. When the king sees this and realizes it is his wife who is behind it, he orders her to be burned in the flames instead, along with his secretary. The cook’s life is spared when he reveals that he had in fact saved and hidden the children, who at this point are brought out of hiding by the cook’s wife. The cook is rewarded for his good deed, the king marries Talia, and they live happily with their children Sun and Moon for a long time. The tale ends: "He who has luck may go to bed, and bliss will rain upon his head.”

Obviously, I find the rape aspect troubling. It is understandable that the king's wife would be jealous and very angry, but I don't understand why the children would have to be eaten. Also, doesn't Talia mind that the father of her children is already married? And I am really at a loss for this "moral" at the end. What does that mean?

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