The Indomitable Giuseppe Pitre
Giuseppe Pitre (1841-1916), who was a medical doctor, professor, and senator in Sicily, was one of the most gifted and significant folklorists of the nineteenth century. However, very little is known about his life and works. This essay is an endeavour to explore the significance of Pitre's vast production as a collector of Sicilian dialect tales and a scholar of Sicilian customs and traditions. In many respects, Pitre's major work, Fiabe, novelle e racconti popolari siciliani [Sicilian Fairy Tales, Folktales and Stories] of 1875, is the culmination of the great European folklore scholarship that began earlier in the nineteenth century. In fact, Sicily was a haven for folktales that stemmed from both the European and Middle Eastern cultures. Against the cultural grain of his times, Pitre dedicated himself to the Sicilian people and their customs and produced volumes of folktales that shed more light on the oral tradition of folktales than the works of the Brothers Grimm or any other collectors in the nineteenth century.
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