Short Italian folktales – The Griffin’s Feather

reed_black_swamp

From the numerous short Italian folktales, we have selected this very interesting fable from the northwest region of Italy called Piedmont. Map_of_Italy_PiemonteThe name Piedmont means “at the foot of the mountains”. And this is one of the major characteristics of this region; it’s surrounded on three sides by the Alps. This includes Monviso (where the Po River rises) and Monte Rosa. The geography of Piedmont is mainly mountainous, along with extensive areas of hills. Only one-forth of the region could be considered plains. 

The story illustrates in an Italian context how ‘chickens come home to roost’. So, without further due, please enjoy this wonderful folktale.

Feather

The Griffin’s Feather

There was once a king who had three handsome brave sons.

The_Griffins_Feather_Royal_Family

One day he got ill and lost his sight in one eye. He called the doctors, but they did not find the cure. Then the king made his men go by sea and by land to find someone who might be able to cure him.
One day an old magician came before the king. He looked at the king’s eye for a long time and then said:

Griffin

– This eye will be cured if the griffin’s feather touches it.

– The griffin’s feather? Asked the king.

– Yes, one that grows below his beak, said the magician.

We need to know that the griffin was a terrible fowl that lived on the top of a very high mountain. It had steel claws and shot fire out of its beak.

– We are ready to leave, father! Said the three sons of the king. We will go up the mountain and tear off the griffin’s feather.

– Only you two go, you’re my older sons. Said the king who feared the dangers of the journey.

The_Griffins_Feather_Older_Bros_horses

The two older sons left and rode and rode. Their horses were very tired when they arrived in a huge meadow that was down below the mountain where the griffin lived.

In a hut that was on the edge of the meadow lived an old solitary man.

– Good old man, which is the shortest pathway to go up the mountain? They asked.

The old man showed them a straight and stony pathway and said:

– That one is the shortest, but you won’t make it to the top, good young men! You can’t defeat the griffin!

The_Griffins_Feather_Older_Bros_Old_Man

However, after a short rest the two set off taking the straight pathway. Up, up they went. Their feet hit the stones on the path. The noise woke up the griffin, it looked down with its terrible eyes, saw them, opened its tremendous wings and glided over them shooting fire out of its beak. The two of them fell dead.

Big_mountains

Meanwhile the king waited until finally he understood his sons would never return.

– I’ll go father. Said the youngest son.

– Don’t go! It’s better for me to have just one eye than to lose my only child left.

But the young lad did not listen and left.

He rode and rode. He arrived in the huge meadow below the mountain. He saw the hermit who was gathering forage and asked him:

– Good old man, which is the quietest pathway to go up the mountain?

The old man looked at him and showed him a path which went through the grass.

The_Griffins_Feather_Youngest_Bro_Old_Man

– That one over there, but you won’t get to the top because the griffin is a killer!

– I’ll do what I can, said the young man. Now I will give you a little help gathering forage because you seem a bit tired.

He gathered a big bundle then gave it to the old man who said:

– What strange stems you have gathered!

The young man looked. He saw that in the forage he had gathered there was a sword and a wand.

– Maybe that’s a sword to beat the griffin and the wand is to bring back to life whoever has been burnt to death, said the
old man and he set off carrying his bundle.

Before he was out of sight he turned around and shouted:

– One feather is beautiful, but beautiful as well is its sister!

Not understanding what those words meant the young man took the sword and the wand and started to climb the lengthy path. Up, up he went. His feet trampled on the grass but made no noise.

The sleeping griffin did not hear the young man until he was at the entrance of the cave. Then the griffin tried to open its wings and fly because it couldn’t shoot fire unless it was flying. But the young man charged at it and cut off its head. Then he saw that below the griffin’s beak there wasn’t only one feather, but two: a yellow one and a green one. In order to make no mistakes, he took all two of them. He put one in his right pocket and the other one in his left pocket.

Afterwards he took the stony pathway down and came across the burnt bodies of his brothers. He touched them with the wand and they came back to life safely and were healthy. They gave each other a lengthy hug and soon were on their way again.

But the two older sons were envious of their youngest brother’s success. While resting nearby a lost swamp, they took the griffin’s head, slipped their hand into their sleeping brother’s pocket, stole the yellow feather and left him there with no horse. They thought he would die of hunger and cold.

When they arrived home they said to their father:

– We have killed the griffin, here’s its head and here’s the feather which was below its beak.

– Have you seen your brother? Asked the king?

– Not even from a distance! They answered.

The king very sadly passed the yellow feather over his eye, but nothing happened.

– We see that the magician has deceived you. Said the two brothers. We have done as we ought to!

But the king didn’t care at all about his healing because his third son didn’t return.

When the young man at the swamp woke up and realized what had happened, he wept bitterly.

– Disloyal brothers! He said looking around. I wish I was a reed instead of a man!

And lo, he was transformed into a reed because the green feather in his left pocket was enchanted and it could make wishes come true.

Days went by. A shepherd saw the beautiful reed and cut it to make a flute. But when he began to play, instead of the sound of a flute he heard a beautiful voice that sang.

So Cruel was one of my brothers,

 Just like a sharp knife was he!

disloyal as no one, the other;

Deceitful and evil his dealings with me!

The shepherd was scared. After however, he thought that with the enchanted flute he could earn a fortune. So he took for touring and playing across countryside and nations.

The_Griffins_Feather_Shepherd_flute

The fame of the singing flute spread quickly and reached the king’s ears. In order to distract himself from his sorrow the king ordered the shepherd to be called and asked him to play. So the man played. When the flute sang the words which are above, the king recognized the voice of his son.

– Where did you get that reed? The king asked the shepherd.

– At the black swamp! He answered.

The black swamp was just below the pathway to the griffin’s mountain.

The king said:

– I want to buy it. Tell me the price.

The shepherd asked for the money and the king gave it to him. Subsequently the king went into his room and closed the door. Little by little, without anybody hearing, he began to play.

At first, only the words which have been mentioned, came out. But then playing and playing, the voice sang everything that had happened.

– Poor son of mine, said the king crying and caressing the flute. How I wish you were not a piece of wood. My heart’s desire is that you become flesh and bone!

All of a sudden, the reed became a young man of flesh and bone, the king’s son. They hugged each other gladly.

Griffin_Youngest_Bro_and_King_reunited

– Here’s the magic feather! Said the young man, who took it out of his left pocket and passed it gently over his father’s blind eye. He was instantly cured.

Imagine what a surprise when the two other sons saw their healed father and their youngest brother home again.

The king looked at the bad sons sternly, gestured to them and the two walked out the palace without saying a word. They were seen no more.

The_Griffins_Feather_Youngest_Bro_King

Whereas the youngest son stayed with his father and became king when the old monarch died.

Feather

The older brothers initially seemed to succeed in their selfish plan. They thought that universal law wouldn’t touch them. But we definitely reap what we sow.

As none of us can escape the Law of Gravity on this Earth, none can either escape the law of sowing and reaping. This is true in Italy, in the United States or anywhere else in the World. But there is this sweet special breeze you can only experience at the foot of the mountains in Italy. You can experience the aroma of the breeze at the foot of the mountains reading this story directly in Italian. Would you like to give it a try? If you would like to do so, click here.

60 thoughts on “Short Italian folktales – The Griffin’s Feather”

  1. Hi Henry. I absolutely love that you are taking a simple task which is learning a new language, and specifically Italian, to a whole new level. Reading this folktale made me feel so nostalgic which urged me to consider learning Italian and its tales. Well done on a great story and amazing learning technique!

    Marchelle

    1. Hello, Marchelle! Thank you very much for the kind words in your comment! Reading short tales in the target language will benefit you greatly! The doors of this site are always opened for you if you want to start learning Italian! 🙂

  2. Hello Henry,

    Loved the story.

    I have never heard this story before, so I read every word.

    The way you wrote made me want to finish the whole.

    It is a familiar fable told in a totally new way.

    I like the way you have links to other information. It’s kind of like having a journey with you already.

    Great job!

    Tim

    1. Hi Tim.

      I’m glad you enjoyed this story. Yeah, it has a familiar theme. But I’m happy you also found it engaging enough to read the whole folktale. Great care has been placed in bring this fable from Italian into English. Thank you very much for stopping by and for your comment.

  3. Dear Henry,

    Thanks a lot for the wonderful folktale and really enjoyed reading it.

    Story telling is an art and the way you said this story is awesome. And I felt like watching it in a movie while reading your story. Simple and easy to understand.

    Indeed We definitely reap what we sow. I am planning to share this story with my Sunday class students. I am learning Hebrew language at the moment and once its done planning to learn another language.

    Keep up the great work.

    Paul

    1. Hi Paul!

      Thank you very much for reading this story with us. I’m glad to hear you found it interesting!

      Yeah, “we reap what we sow”. That’s a universal principal. I’d be thrilled to know you shared this Italian folktale with your class.

      All the best! Keep toned for more interesting post.

  4. Great Post! Can you say ungrateful! The only thing mythical about this story is the magical elements. The Magic Griffin and the Magic Feather that grants wishes. Everything else is not only possible but very likely to happen. You can do everything within your power to help your family but sometimes they take you for granted and stab you in the back.

    I am sure not everyone is like that but from experience I know this to be true. Unlike this story though, the real world doesn’t always have such a happy ending. I think the moral of the story is very true that you reap what you sow. This is an important lesson for all of us to remember. I think we need more respect and decency for those around us.

    Thank for this!

    1. Hi! Thank you very much for your opinion about this story. Concernig our relationships with others, it’s a story that repeats over and over again: ” We reap what we sow.” I’m glad this folktale has made you think in your own relashionships. And thanks for sharing this reflexion with us. It encourages us to do the same.

      All the best! Have a nice day!

  5. Hi Henry,

    There are a couple of things I really like of this short folktale. And I’ll highlight one of them. The contrast between what the 2 older brothers asked the old man “Which is the shortest pathway to go up the mountain?” and what the youngest child asked “Which is the quietest pathway to go up the mountain?”

    The easiest and shortest pathway in life usually leads to disaster. To be wise is to foresee the outcome and take the best way.

    Regards,

    Sammy

    1. Hi Sammy!

      What a great point you have stated here in your comment. I totally agree with you! Thank you very much!

      “To be wise is to foresee the outcome and take the best way.”

  6. This is a beautiful story. In part, the story highlights that with risk comes reward. Greater the risk, greater the reward. The story also shows the king offset some of the personal risks to him by only sending two sons. Yet, the king failed to consider the personal foibles of his sons not knowing the level of greed within. Interestingly, the key element came to chance. The 2 brothers chose the wrong feather!

    1. Hi Glen! Thank you very much for stopping by my site. Yes, I like your approach to the story: with risk comes reward. It’s great to have all of you comment because it gives a very rich view of the lessons intended with this folktale. Back in the days when our grandmas told us these folktales, it was impossible to hear all these different points of view at once. Thank you very much!

  7. This was such a captivating story. It reminded me of stories my Great Grandmother told me in my childhood. She would teach me Foktales like this even when she was 94 years old. She was a sweet woman from Sicily. She would tell me the stories in English but had such a beautiful accent from her hometown.

    This is a great story to teach my children someday.

    Learning Italian has always been a goal of mine. I will continue to reference this site for inspiration. Thank you!

    1. Hi Eric! I’m glad this folktale connected you with your childhood and brought lovely family memories.

      And I’m very happy this humble site of mine can serve you as inspiration to pursue your goal. Connecting with your heritage has even a more powerful effect than simply learning a language. It helps you explore that side of your family and understand them better. And at the same time understand many of the things they transmitted to you. I say, go for it! Italian will be a pleasant ride for you!

  8. Hi Henry, your story is quite captivating and contains many lessons. I like the way you shared this Italian folktale to echo life’s simple instructions on selflessness. How I wish everyone would always allow the interest of others to supersede their own personal interests. It’s great to know that the Italian language has many folktales like this. It makes Italian even more attractive to me. This story has further re-ignited my resolution to learn the language.

    1. Hi Tolu! Thank you very much for sharing your thoughts concerning this folktale. They are of great value to all of us. I’m pleased to hear this story has elevated your appreciation of Italian. And I welcome you on board to this learning Italian adventure!

  9. I really loved the story and the lessons behind it. I will share this folktale on social media with my friends because they have much to learn from it, LOL. Honestly, we all have a lot to learn in this respect, me included.

    I am also looking forward to seeing more of these folktales in future posts. In fact, I would like to suggest: Why don’t you compile a book on Italian folktales? It would be a hit!

    1. Hi Charles! Thank you very much for showing your appreciation towards this work. And your suggestion is a huge encouragement. I’ll bear it in mind. I’m grateful I’ve received this type of response!

  10. As a child, folktales taught me how to imbibe moralistic, hardworking and positive behaviors. So, I love folktales because they teach us to be better behaved people.

    Like all folktales, this folktale, the Griffin’s Feather teaches a number of moral lessons:

    1. Ask for the best path, not the shortest, just like the youngest did.

    2. Be kind to all, strangers inclusive, like the kind youngest son that helped the old man.

    3. We always reap whatever we sow, no matter how long it takes. The youngest son reaped good because he sowed good; while the older sons reaped bad.

    4. Truth always prevails at the end, like we saw in the story.

    I thoroughly enjoyed this folktale. There are a lot of life good life lessons in it!

    1. Hello Peace! This is such a marvelous comment, just as your name! Thank you very much for outlining all these points! I greatly appreciate your review of this story. And I agree with all four points you have mentioned. Keep well! 🙂

  11. Very beautiful and touching story. There are many lessons in this folktale. The youngest prince helping the old man teaches us to help others even though we may think they cannot repay.

    The story also deals with betrayal and covetousness. And I personally take from this story the advice of never hesitating to do good despite the circumstances. We’ll definitely reap what we sow!

    1. Hi Mikay! Helping others and always having in mind that we’ll reap what we so are definitely good lessons. Thank you very much for your comment.

  12. Good evening Henry.

    Reading the About Me page I discover you like learning languages. When I was 15 my parents sent me to Switzerland to learn German. I studied there for half a year. Afterward I came to Germany for 1 year. Then 1 year in England in 2 different schools. And after that 7 months in France. My parents left Holland and went to live in Italy, so I followed. I spent 4 years there studying in Perugia, working on the Adriatic coast and also doing the round-trips as a tour guide for a German company. Later on I went to Spain.

    I enjoyed your folktale of The Griffin’s Feather.

    When I was small my mother used to read me stories like this. Similar stories you will find in many cultures. It is nice that in folk and fairy tales the good always wins in the end. It should be like that.

    Regards, Taetske

    1. Hi Taetske!

      You have really traveled a lot around Europe. That’s nice! Do you speak all those languages from the places where you have been?

      I believe that our limited appreciation of things around us may sometimes not permit us see how justice always wins in the end.

      Have a nice day! 🙂

      1. Good Morning Henry,

        In total, I should be able to speak 6 languages but when I came to Spain in 1975 I did not practice French or Italian. That makes you lose the ability to speak them after all these years. I understand still quite a bit but when I try to speak normally Spanish takes over.

        Regards, Taetske

        1. Hi, Taetske! That’s really cool you can understand 6 languages. And it’s natural that you may not be able to freely speak a language you don’t usually use. But I know that after of a couple of weeks refreshing French or Italian you’ll be able to communicate with them again.

          Muchas gracias por visitar mi sitio web. Es para mí un honor tenerte acá. Te invito a continuar visitándolo periódicamente. Quisiera que el contenido te inspire a continuar en contacto con Italiano. O al menos despertar recuerdos gratos de aquellos años en Perugia 🙂 Un fuerte abrazo.

  13. Hi Henry! I just loved the story. You write very well. Is the story originally in Italian and you translated it into English? Doing that is not easy because there are so many elements that could get lost in translation. But you did a magnificent job! It was easy reading from the beginning to the end. And I just could not stop.

    Also enjoyed the fact that it is not only a good story but there are quite a few moral teaching in it. Keep writing and I will keep following you!  

    1. Hi Martine! Thank you very much for your very kind words!

      Yes, this story was originally in Italian and was translated into English so it could be presented to all of you on this site.

  14. This is a fantastic story. Full of virtues and tenets for living. Disloyalty among brothers has always been common, especially when greed and envy is rife. I really liked this story and am even more excited about learning Italian, so I can enjoy it in its raw form. Thanks for the write up or should I say, grazie! 🙂

  15. I enjoyed the story and I recognize you did a marvelous job translating it into English. The illustrations are also engaging.

    We need more respect and decency for those around us. The story also shows that reward comes with risk. If the risk is greater, the reward is greater.

    Hoping to read from you again. Keep up the good work. 

    1. Hi! Thank you for your kind comment. It’s a pleasure.

      Treating everybody respectfully says a lot about ourselves.

      You’ll always be welcome at my site. All the best.

  16. Hello, Henry! I love to visit your blog. And I’m impressed with your suggestions because they are not what most teachers recommend. Reading folktales will help us and it’s also fun. No doubt about that. But getting acquainted with the cultural background of the language we’re learning gives us a completely different approach. I’m starting to benefit from it!

    1. Hi Adamu! Yes, the cultural background is important. I’m glad you found this story useful.

      Thank you for always coming back to my site. It’s an honour for me.

  17. Thanks for this wonderful story. I love reading fables and I think this is the first Italian one I have come across. Although I have never been to Italy I have had many Italian friends and they have, all along with their families, been wonderful people. I’m learning Chinese right now so I’ll check in after I have mastered a little of that. Learning a new language entails consistent hard work, but well worth the effort.

    Paul

    1. Hi Paul! Learning a language is well worth the effort. I wish you success learning both languages. It will be a wonderful journey.

      Thanks for stoping by my site and for your comment. All the best.

  18. Hello Henry! I really enjoyed the story. I commend your effort in helping others learn Italian. And I find your recommendations quite novel. I like reading short stories. And short stories can also help us when we’re learning a language.

    I’ll add this folktales book to my collection. I checked it on Amazon and the hardcover is available. I like that!

    1. Short stories are a great source of entertainment. And they also help us learning a language. I’m glad you have purchased this folktales book. Enjoy it!

  19. This story holds the reader throughout, and when it comes to learning a new language takes the story, like any that can be translated, to a new level. Reading it in English is one thing, but slowing it down to read it in Italian as a side-by-side from a tab standpoint allows for far easier learning than what is usually taught in schools, which for me was translating pictures and trust me, it was beyond boring.

    I’m currently learning Swedish through the Duolingo app and I’m loving it. But Italian is high on my radar simply because I’m a quarter Italian, so in a way I fell compelled to learn the language. My grandfather was fluent in it once upon a time when he was a kid growing up, being of full-blooded Italian descent.

    1. Hi Todd! Connecting with our ancestors language is a goal worth pursuing. I wish you all the best learning Swedish. And this site is open for you when you start with Italian.

      Thank you very much for sharing your impressions about learning a language with stories and for sharing part of your story with us. Keep well! 

  20. Hi Henry,

    You are a very good story teller indeed! I was worried that the tale was going to have the sad ending of the youngest son remaining a flute! He was rightfully due to take the throne! This is a wonderful way to teach Italian, it is so entertaining as people learn! I am taken in and will return often to read your stories and learn a new language. Thank you Henry!

    Chas

    1. Hi Chas! Thank you. It’s nice to have a good time while learning a language. And stories and folktales can help us with that.

      The doors of this humble site are open for whenever you want to visit again. Keep well!

  21. Henry,
    This was such an entertaining story to read and one I had never heard before. I like how short stories like this teach a hard lesson and typically have surprising conclusions. I think your quest to learn a new language is admirable, especially this one. Italian is a beautiful language but not an easy one to learn. I will be back to read more!

    1. Hi! Thank you! Yes, I really enjoy short stories. And they can help us learning a language. You’ll always be welcome here. I hope to see you back soon! 🙂

  22. Wow, I’ve always wanted to learn Italian. It’s a great language, and there is a lot of Italians in the area that I live. I loved this folktale as it was very interesting. It’s amazing to see how other cultures perceive things and what they do to help people understand some of it. I definitely will be looking through your site for more of your posts.

    Don

  23. Hi Henry, 

    This is a great post. I like the graphics you used. I have never heard or read this folktale before and I never knew where the term “chickens come home to roost” came from. This is a great lesson. Especially for kids. It’ll teach them a lot out being honest and to avoid jealousy. 

    Brian

    1. Hey Brian. Thank you for your comment. I’m glad you found this story interesting. You’re right, “chickens come home to roost.”

  24. Hi Henry,

    Yes, it is possible to learn many things online these days. And learning languages by fairy tale is a very good idea. I really enjoyed reading this one. One remembers words easier if they’re in the context of a story. And interesting stories even encourage us to continue learning. Thanks for sharing!

    1. Hello Stella! I’m glad you found this a good idea. And yes, you’re right, we learn words quicker if we learn them in their context and not isolated.

      Continue visiting us! Keep well! 🙂

  25. That was a wonderful folktale and yes you are right, I could feel myself as if I was in the base of the Italian Alps listening to a local tell the story with the mountains looming in the background and the smell of the many fine foods wafting around us as he spoke.

    Italy is one of my favorite places in Europe, right up there with Germany, and I have spent a lot of happy times there on vacation, working, touring, and visiting friends that live in various parts of the country. It is so full of tradition and things to see, and there are many stories to be heard…

    There is a lesson to be learned from this tale and it is true today as much as it was back when someone came up with the story…We will reap what we sow, and we must be aware of this and act accordingly. The other axiom that comes to mind is the “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you” [removed] my mother used to tell me this one often… Thanks for sharing!

    1. Hi Dave! It’s wonderful to be transported to those places where we have such good memories. Italy is a wonderful country and there are so many familiar flavors there that just remembering them brings a smile to our faces.

      “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you”

  26. Hi, Henry, I have really enjoyed reading this folktale from start to finish. The captivating way you have written it makes it hard to stop reading midway. That’s the way to go when it comes to writing stories, it kept me absorbed. I also like the moral side of the story. Indeed we reap what we sow. Its a lesson for us all and something we relate to and can apply to our lives. 

    1. Hello! Thank you very much for your comment. I’m glad you enjoyed the story. Please stay tuned for more interesting posts! Keep well! 🙂

  27. Wonderful story and graphics. Do you mind me asking whether you created the graphics or got them online?

    The story also reminds me of when I was reading a play in Spanish class (Don Quixote). One page was in English while the other was in Spanish. I wonder if this page can do the same where one can follow along in Italian, and if they get stuck on a particular part, they have the English version right beside them. Food for thought!

    1. Hey Adam. Thank you! I created the graphics for this story. I’m glad you liked them. 🙂

      Thank you for suggesting having an English and Italian version side by side. It could be coming up in the near future.

  28. Hello Henry!

    What an interesting story with so many twists.

    I can almost imagine myself in that meadow at the base of the mountain with the old man.

    I would love to visit Italy and see this place with my own eyes. The story has a very good moral to it. Indeed, you reap what you sow.

    Thanks for sharing!

    1. Hi! I’m glad the story transported you to those wonderful scenarios. Italy is indeed a great place to go and visit.

      Thanks for stopping by and for your comment. 🙂

  29. What a captivating folktale. From geography to leading the reader into having a desire to learn the Italian language just by sharing the simple, but meaningful and applicable, folktale was truly captivating. My attention was held throughout the entire post. I’m just wondering what hidden magic we each have inside of us that we don’t know about.  Maybe the Italian language! Love the post! Thanks for sharing.

    -Mike

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