NEW YORK FOLKLORE QUARTERLY
Vol. XVIII, No. 1, Spring 1962
OLD TALES AND NEW TONGUES
A benevolent fate has made me a teller of tales. After all,
it was too much to escape, for I was too deeply involved
with a genetic fatality. My grandfather, Padre Gilardi
(Grandfather Gerard) was the village story teller in the hill town
of Poggio Reale, Sicily.
My grandfather was a splendid human being. Mother never
tired of talking about him. Slim, blue-eyed, and fair, he was born
in the lovely Greek town of Agrigento, Sicily. His life had a fairy-tale
quality about it. His father, a small merchant and a widower,
remarried. This second marriage proved unwise because, like
the stepmother in Cinderella, she had two daughters whom she
pampered and favored at the expense of Padre Gilardi. When my
grandfather (at age 18) could stand her injustices no longer, he
gave his stepmother a sound thrashing, packed his clothes, and
left Agrigento for Poggio Reale, a village in the north-western
part of the golden isle. Family history relates that my great-grandfather
rued his marriage and died neglected and impoverished by
the exploitation of his second wife.
Padre Gilardi’s fortunes, on the other hand, prospered in Poggio
Reale. Here he not only met and married Mamma Pippina
(my grandmother) but entered into one successful enterprise after
another. Here he raised a family of five sons and one daughter. And here he was to live to see all his children, as leaves fall in
autumn, depart to seek their fortunes overseas (one as far as Australia
where he is today a prosperous merchant in Sydney).
My mother never stopped talking about her father. He was the
village story teller....
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