Today I’m working with one of my all-time favourite folktales, and my favourite Palestinian folktale. Like all Palestinian folktales, it doesn’t have a traditional name and so I call it the Story of Francesco or Francesco and the Carpenter-Rabbi. It has a sequel: Francesco and Azrael, the Angel of Death. That brings us to the image for today’s post. Francesco is a Roman gambler, a kind soul who gets thrown out of the Legion because of his hobby (which was very taboo at the time).
Anyway, Francesco is a charming example of a picaresque hero: children love him, he becomes a bandit who wins his loot fair and square in dice games. The twist in his tale comes when thirteen men come along the road–a very odd number… After entertaining Jesus and the Apostles, whom Francesco recognizes, Jesus offers him a wish (well, this is a fairy tale, after all!).
This is where the sequel begins. Francesco helps himself to a whopping four wishes, all of them just so he can play pranks on Azrael. Jesus patiently points out the childishness of his request but agrees to grant them with a fifth wish thrown in, gratis, once he realizes how silly he is being.
It’s such a delight! What are some of your favourite fairy tales or folk tales? Let me know in the comments below! I’d love to hear about them.