At our last meeting we had a viewing of Fantaghirò (aka Cave of the Golden Rose), an adaptation of Italo Calvino’s tale “Fanta-Ghirò the Beautiful” directed by Lamberto Bava. Fantaghirò consists of five television movies, and though we only had time for the first one, we enjoyed it immensely.
Italo Calvino’s “Fanta-Ghirò the Beautiful” from his collection Italian Folktales (1956) is a rather short tale about a king who doesn’t have any sons, only daughters. When the king receives a declaration of war from a neighbouring kingdom, his youngest daughter – Fanta-Ghirò – ends up going to war as head of the army – dressed as man!
But of course, the head of the enemy army is a strapping young prince, who suspects that Fanta-Ghirò may in fact be a woman, and falls head over heels in love.
Throughout the tale he speaks this refrain to his mother:
With eyes so black and speech soft and low;
She’s a maiden, I know, I know!”
Catchy isn’t it? Eventually, Fanta-Ghirò is found out and the prince asks for her hand in marriage.
The tale of the cross-dressing heroine who goes to war for her father and ends up marrying a prince has always been very popular in European fairy tale history. In fact, it dates all the way back to the sixteenth century with Giovan Francesco Straparola’s Italian tale “Costanza/Costanzo.” Several of the conteuses, a group of women writers, also published versions during the seventeenth-century French fairy tale vogue, and I highly recommend reading Marie-Catherine d’Aulnoy’s “Belle-Belle ou Le Chevalier Fortuné” and Marie-Jeanne Lhéritier’s “Marmoisan.”
Lamberto Bava’s television adaptation takes Calvino’s short tale and turns it into a five-movie extravaganza! The actress who plays Fantaghirò, Alessandra Martines, brings a lot of spark to the character and imbues her with a cheekiness that is absent from Calvino’s tale. You can definitely sense the 90s girl-power vibe in this series (alla Buffy and Xena) with the heroine frequently challenging patriarchal expectations of women with her witty quips.
So if you’ve ever got a free weekend and are looking to immerse yourself in an entertaining fairy tale saga, Fantaghirò is the one to go… with. My awful rhymes only add to my charm, no?
And I shall leave you with this little teaser trailer: