Help me find the (possibly Italian) origins of a story I was told in my childhood about a little boy who carried goods from his mother's to his grandmother's home and vice versa.
July 15, 2008 12:49 PM   Subscribe

I'm looking for a story (or folk tale) my grandfather used to tell me as a child. His parents came to the US from Italy when they were in their 20's, and had him shortly thereafter. So the story may have originated in Italy.

The story is about a young boy named E-pap-eh-nanas. (I have no idea how to spell it, so that's the best I can do phonetically). The boy was sent back and forth between his mother's and grandmother's homes carrying small gifts such as a puppy, loaves of bread, fresh eggs, etc. on each trip. He would always carry them in some objectionable way (like tying a string around the loaf of bread and dragging it on the ground). This would always lead his mother or grandmother to say to him "Epapananas, ain't you got the brains you was born with? That's no way to carry a loaf of bread. The way you carry a loaf of bread is you wrap it in paper and you walk with in your arms...." And each new thing he would have to carry (for example, a puppy), he would do so in the manner previously told to him (for example, holding the puppy like a loaf of bread wrapped up in paper). The words in quotes are written exactly as I remember my grandfather saying them (bad grammar and all) in a sing-songy voice. The story can also be improvised quite a bit- which perhaps explains why I am having trouble determining the origins. If anyone can lead me in the right direction I'd be very grateful.
posted by dm_nyc to Writing & Language (10 answers total)
Here's the story.
posted by ewagoner at 12:58 PM on July 15, 2008

Here's a full version of it.
posted by cerebus19 at 1:06 PM on July 15, 2008

Response by poster: awesome, thanks!
posted by dm_nyc at 1:09 PM on July 15, 2008

While it's not what you're looking for, I just thought I'd mention that it sounds like it has the same structure as Clever Hans, one of the stories in Grimm's Fairy Tales.
posted by bjrn at 1:41 PM on July 15, 2008

Thanks for asking this, I had never heard this story and now I'm going to tell it to my campers (maybe without the accent)
posted by rmless at 2:00 PM on July 15, 2008

Wow! ewagoner's link has brought up a memory from when I was six years old and our emergency teacher read us that story. I remember what she looked like, the look of the old stone building from our seats on the floor, and the 'learning' feeling while listening to her read. Thanks for the blast, people.
posted by Kerasia at 3:13 PM on July 15, 2008

It's a variation of Type 1696.
posted by Faint of Butt at 4:06 PM on July 15, 2008

Here's a link to a book retelling the story by a New Orleans author at Amazon. (She was my mother's Children's Lit teacher and used to do local kid's book readings.) The lady in the yellow hat is a drawing of the author, Colleen Salley. Actually, that's the outfit she wears at Mardi Gras, when she goes as a bag lady and rides around in a shopping cart. The book is less offensive than the more Black Sambo looking link above, because the dopey child is a possum. (Hence the different spelling of Epossumondas.
posted by artychoke at 7:15 PM on July 15, 2008

This is wild. I was told this as a child too, and only just remembered it now, more than three decades later. Now that I hear the title, I think we must have had this book, Stories to Tell To Children - Fifty-Four Stories With Some Suggestions For Telling.
posted by CunningLinguist at 8:10 PM on July 15, 2008 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Thanks, Cunninglinguist. That link is the most similar to the story I remember as I kid. I'm surprised my memory was that good w/ the loaf of bread and puppy etc. I wonder how my grandfather first came across it though. If his (Italian immigrant) parents told it to him, I guess the story found its way into children's books in Italy in the early 1900s? Either that or he heard it in his schools in the US.
posted by dm_nyc at 8:05 AM on July 16, 2008

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