Italian Popular Tales | Annotated Tale

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Godmother Fox

The following story from Sicily (Pitrè, No. 132) belongs also to a class of tales very popular and having only animals for its actors. It is called:


ONCE upon a time there was Godmother Fox and Godmother Goat. [2] The former had a little bit of a house adorned with little chairs, cups, and dishes; in short, it was well furnished. One day Godmother Goat went out and carried away the little house. Godmother Fox began to lament, when along came a dog, barking, that said to her: "What are you crying about?" She answered: "Godmother Goat has carried off my house!" "Be quiet. I will make her give it back to you." So the dog went and said to Godmother Goat: "Give the house back to Godmother Fox." The goat answered: "I am Godmother Goat. I have a sword at my side, and with my horns I will tear you in pieces." When the dog heard that, he went away.

               Then a sheep passed by and said to the little fox: "What are you crying about?" and she told her the same thing. Then the sheep went to Godmother Goat and began to reprove her. The goat made the same answer she had made the dog, and the sheep went away in fright.

               In short, all sorts of animals went to the goat, with the same result. Among others the mouse went and said to the little fox: "What are you crying about?" "Godmother Goat has carried off my house." "Be still. I will make her give it back to you." So the mouse went and said to Godmother Goat: "Give Godmother Fox her house back right away." The goat answered: "I am Godmother Goat. I have a sword at my side, and with my fist and with my horns I will smash you!" The mouse answered at once: "I am Godfather Mouse. By my side I have a spit. I will heat it in the fire and stick it in your tail."

*  *  *  *  *

               The inference of course is that Godmother Goat gave back the house. The story does not say so, but ends with the usual formula:

Story told, story written,     
Tell me yours, for mine is said.

               Pitrè (No. 133) gives another version in which a goat gets under a nun's bed and she calls on her neighbors, a dog, pig, and cricket, to put the goat out. The cricket alone succeeds, with a threat similar to that in the last story.

               In the Neapolitan version (Imbriani, Dodici Conti Pomiglianesi, p. 273) an old woman, in sweeping the church, found a piece of money and, like the sexton in the story of "The Sexton's Nose," did not know what to buy with it. At last she bought some flour and made a hasty-pudding of it. She left it on the table and went again to church, but forgot to close the window. While she was gone a herd of goats came along, and one smelled the pudding, climbed in at the window, and ate it up. When the old woman came back and tried to open the door, she could not, for the goat was behind it. Then she began to weep and various animals came along and tried to enter the house. The goat answered them all: "I am the goat, with three horns on my head and three in my belly, and if you don't run away I will eat you up." The mouse at last replied: "I am Godfather Mouse, with the halter, and if you don't run away, I will tear your eyes out." The goat ran away and the old woman went in with Godfather Mouse, whom she married, and they both lived there together.

               The Florentine version (Nov. fior. p. 556) is called "The Iron Goat." In it a widow goes out to wash and leaves her son at home, with orders not to leave the door open so that the Iron Goat, with the iron mouth and the sword tongue, can enter. The boy after a time wanted to go after his mother, and when he had gone half way he remembered that he had left the door open and went back. When he was going to enter he saw there the Iron Goat. "Who is there?" "It is I; I am the Iron Goat, with the iron mouth and the sword tongue. If you enter I will slice you like a turnip." The poor boy sat down on the steps and wept. A little old woman passed by and asked the cause of his tears; he told her and she said she would send the goat away for three bushels of grain. The old woman tried, with the usual result, and finally said to the boy: "Listen, my child. I don't care for those three bushels of grain; but I really cannot send the goat away." Then an old man tried his luck, with no better success. At last a little bird came by and promised for three bushels of millet to drive the goat away. When the goat made its usual declaration, the little bird replied: "And I with my beak will peck your brains out." The goat was frightened and ran away, and the boy had to pay the little bird three bushels of millet. [3]


[1] Cummari Vurpidda (diminutive of Fox).

[2] Cummari Crapazza (diminutive of Goat).

[3] A version of this story is found in Morosi's Studi sui Dialetti greci, Lecce, 1870.


ONCE upon a time a goat entered the den of the fox while the latter was absent. At night the fox returned home, and finding the goat fled because frightened by the horns. A wolf passed by, and was also terrified. Then came a hedgehog and entered the den, and pricked the goat with its quills. The goat came out, and the wolf killed it, and the fox ate it.

Bibliographic Information

Tale Title: Godmother Fox
Tale Author/Editor: Crane, Thomas
Book Title: Italian Popular Tales
Book Author/Editor: Crane, Thomas Frederick
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin and Company
Publication City: Boston
Year of Publication: 1885
Country of Origin: Italy
Classification: ATU 2029: Chains of Events

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