Cicciariello’s Kiss

Coat of Arms of Gaeta Coat of Arms of Gaeta The first in what should be a fair number of translations of folk tales from my mother’s home town of Gaeta.

Intorno al Braciere

This version comes from a book by Nicola Magliocca, titled Intorno al Braciere. I received the book as a gift from his grandson, Nicola Tarallo. The stories are great! If you ever find a copy of the book and you can read Italian, I’d encourage you to read it!

There once was a boy named Cicciariello who found a safety pin and brought it to his mother.

“What a good boy!” she exclaimed. “Look at that!” she added to her friends. “He found a safety pin and brought it to me.”

From time to time thereafter, Cicciariello would bring his mother whatever he managed to put his hands on. His mother never asked where he obtained it, not even after she realized that Cicciariello had become a thief.

He slowly acquired a taste for it, and every occasion became an opportunity for a theft. Once he became a young man, his risks increased with age. But if you want to leap over many hurdles, then sooner or later one of them will hit your ass, and indeed, it happened one day that he was caught in the act. To avoid capture, he stabbed someone with a knife and left him for dead on the ground.

Those who laugh on Friday weep on Saturday: he escaped, but in due course the carabinieri caught him and the court condemned him.

Having set up everything needed to hang him at Montesecco, they asked him, “What is your last wish?” Cicciariello answered, “I want to see my mother, to give her a final kiss.”

They went to call his mother, and escorted her to her boy. Weeping and disheveled, she drew near Cicciariello, but instead of a kiss he seized her nose with his teeth and bit off a piece.

Pushing herself away from her son, the mother cried out from pain and asked, “My son, what have you done to your mother!”

“Oh mamma, I have given you what you deserved. You are the cause of my death: from childhood I robbed from others and instead of beating me you told me I was a good boy.”

My mother’s version (?)

The version I remember my mother telling was a little different, though that may be the fault of my memory.

There once was a rascal named Cicciariello who frequently got himself into trouble. He had little respect for rules or for the law, and when someone would ask his mother to intervene, she would scold that person instead of her boy.

“He’s a good boy!” she would exclaim. She would defend him, saying, “You just don’t like him,” or perhaps accuse the accuser, asking, “Why do you have it in for him?”

Eventually Cicciariello fell into a life of crime. He ended up killing someone, and was caught and condemned to death by public hanging.

When they asked him on the gallows for his last wish, Cicciariello answered, “I want to see my mother, to give her a final kiss.” This moved the crowd greatly, so they waited sympathetically as the police brought her forward, saying among each other, “He can’t be all bad; look at how he loves his mother.”

Weeping and disheveled, Cicciariello’s mother draw near. He raised his hands to her face, but instead of giving her a kiss, he slapped her across the cheek, then turned away and walked toward the noose.

Dumbstruck, the crowd began to murmur against him, and an outraged official berated Cicciariello for treating his own mother disrespectfully.

“To the contrary,” answered the condemned man, “All my life she praised me and blamed others for my misdeeds. Had she but once given me what I have just now given her, I would not stand here before you today.”