Italian Folktales

Italo Calvino

Illustrated by Gérard DuBois

Introduced by Italo Calvino

Preface by Guillermo del Toro

Translated by George Martin

Fantastical monsters, daredevil youths and evil witches bound across every page of this beautiful new Folio edition of Calvino’s comprehensive collection.


’An exquisite presentation. Layout, design, typeface, illustrations - an heirloom for any library, a prized set... Proud to be a part of it!’

  1. Guillermo del Toro

Storytelling is intrinsically linked to cultural identity, and for Italy this means Italo Calvino. To rectify the country’s lack of a written history of its folkloric traditions, the writer was commissioned to search the length and breadth of the land, to collate and retell the treasured tales that have shaped Italy’ folk heritage. Calvino’ collection is held in such high regard that, despite its relatively recent compilation, it is fondly – and justifiably – compared to those of his Northern European counterparts, such as the Brothers Grimm and Hans Christian Andersen.

Calvino’s 200 tales are presented across two spectacular volumes featuring gold-blocked bindings and printed map endpapers that show each story’s provenance. With illustrations drawing on Goya’s Los Caprichos prints and an imitation snakeskin slipcase inspired by the shape-changing serpents in many of Calvino’s tales, this is a truly exceptional collector’s edition. 

Bound in blocked cloth

Set in Jenson

Vol 1: 552 pages; Vol 2: 560 pages

Frontispiece and 7 colour illustrations (including 1 double-page spread) in each volume

16 black & white tailpieces in total

Printed endpapers

Ribbon markers

Textured vinyl-coated paper slipcase

10˝ x 6¾˝

As Guillermo del Toro (director of Pan’s Labyrinth and other highly acclaimed films) writes of the tales in a preface inspired by years of immersion: ‘They lend both solace and understanding of the mysteries within us all.’ His own work is heavily influenced by the mythic and fantastical and, like his films, these Italian tales are full of omens and teachings – warnings, perhaps, transmitted by the original storytellers. Whether they were intended to ward off evil, scare children into obedience or show the price to be paid for the sins of gluttony, avarice and pride, these folktales kept people both rapt and fearful.

However, the tales also speak of bravery, strength and cunning, and there is a great deal of humour and farce, with comedic characters and situations that transcend centuries: lazy women who snare rich partners; couples who wed hastily and then uncover each other’s secrets; and the sheer abundance of farcical situations and seemingly impossible quests that underline life’s absurdities.

As with folktales the world over, Calvino’s collection abounds with natural and cosmic references, as well as kings, princesses, poor suitors, evil stepmothers and talking animals. These tales are not new; we recognise them instantly. But the beauty of Calvino’s collection is the turn of phrase, the geographical specificities – such as the hunt for a girl with skin as creamy white as ricotta – and cultural nuances that make them distinctly and uniquely Italian.

About Italo Calvino

Italo Calvino was an Italian journalist and writer of short stories and novels. His best-known works include the Our Ancestors trilogy (1952–9), the Cosmicomics short stories collection (1965), and the novels Invisible Cities (1972; Folio 2023) and If on a winter’s night a traveller (1979). Calvino was originally engaged by his publisher, Einaudi, to select and retell stories from the Italian oral tradition to demonstrate Italy’s wealth of folk and fairy tales compared with the better-known traditions of Northern Europe. This work was published in 1956 as Fiabe italiane (Italian Folktales, Folio 2019), and it established Calvino as a worthy rival to the monumental Brothers Grimm, Perrault, et al. Calvino was the most translated contemporary Italian writer at the time of his death in 1985.

About Guillermo del Toro

Guillermo del Toro is a Mexican film director, screenwriter, producer and novelist. As a film-maker, he tends to alternate between Spanish-language dark fantasy pieces, such as Pan’s Labyrinth (2006), and more mainstream American action films such as Hellboy (2004) and the science-fiction film Pacific Rim (2013). His 2017 fantasy film The Shape of Water was critically acclaimed and won a Golden Lion at the 74th Venice International Film Festival, as well as the Academy Award for Best Picture in 2018. His new novel, Pan’s Labyrinth: The Labyrinth of the Faun, written in collaboration with Cornelia Funke, was published in 2019, with illustrations by artist Allen Williams. All of his work is characterised by a strong connection to fairy tales, political context and horror, and he attests to a lifelong fascination with the symbolic power of monsters.

About George Martin

George Martin worked closely with Italo Calvino and with Helen Wolff, their editor at Harcourt Brace, on his translation of the Fiabe italiane. First published in 1980 and since reprinted many times, his Italian Folktales was the first complete translation to be published including all the 200 tales in the original collection, and is generally considered the most faithful to Calvino’s style and rendering. It has been praised by reviewers including Anthony Burgess, John Updike and Ursula K. Le Guin. Burgess admired the writing for its ‘unfolksy elegance’.

About Gérard DuBois

Gérard DuBois was born in France in 1968, studied graphic design in Paris and then crossed the Atlantic to live in Montreal. His illustrations have appeared in major North American and European publications, among them the New York Times, Time, Newsweek, GQ, Rolling Stone, New Yorker and Playboy, as well as in more than 20 books. His acrylic pieces are to be found in many private collections, including those of Stephen King and Guillermo del Toro, and Canada Post included his artwork in its 2018 Great Canadian Illustrators stamp series. His work for the Folio Society includes illustrations for Italo Calvino’s Italian Folktales (2019), and Cormac McCarthy’s The Road (2021), Blood Meridian (2022) and No Country for Old Men (2023). DuBois’s many garlands include the Hamilton King Award, four gold medals from the Society of Illustrators and the Moira Gemmel Illustrator of the Year prize at the 2022 V&A Illustration Awards for his work on the Folio Society edition of The Road.


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