Live With a Light Heart: Lessons From Italian Folk Tales

"Italian Folktales," compiled by Italo Calvino, republished by The Folio Society. (The Folio Society)

There’s a shared belief in many cultures, from ancient Europe to China, that a person’s fortunes and misfortunes in life are preordained. In ancient Greece and Rome, philosophy was the study of wisdom, and joy was synonymous with virtue.

A good life came from being a good person, while struggling and fighting to get ahead was seen in many cultures as only a path to short-term gain and long-term suffering.

These concepts are also embodied in some of the old Italian folktales. And before we go on, let me say briefly that folk and fairy tales weren’t always for kids. As author Hans Wilhelm said in his Life Explained video series, these stories, which existed in oral traditions, were only written down around 300 years ago by Charles Perrault, and close to 100 years after by the Brothers Grimm.