The Italians are well-known for the folklore in their culture and they have many legends that are shared and passed between each generation. One of these is Il Gatto Mammone or the Italian legend of the cat demon.

There was once a woman who had two daughters; one beautiful and one ugly. The woman loved the ugly daughter much more and both she and the ugly daughter were jealous of the beautiful young girl. Their envy and spite lead them to send the beautiful daughter to the fairies to ask for a sieve. They knew that the fairies enjoyed trickery and they were known for their curses.

The beautiful girl met an old man as she traveled to the castle of the fairies. The old man gives the girl guidance on how to behave and the rules of etiquette that would allow her to get what she wanted from the fairies.

The most important rule he tells her is that she must help the castle cats to do the housework. The Gatto Mammone is the king of the cats and is also known as the cat demon. When the girl has finished the housework, she meets the Gatto Mammone and he gives her what she wanted. He warns her not to turn at the call of the donkey on the way home but to turn if she hears a rooster. The girl does as she is told and is rewarded with a star on her forehead.

On her return home, the mother decides to also send the ugly daughter to see if she too is rewarded. The ugly daughter is given the same advice by the old man but she ignores this as her pride won’t allow her to do the housework with the cats. As a result, she is shunned by the cats and also turns at the bray of the donkey on her way home. Rather than a magical star, the ugly daughter is given a donkey’s tail on her forehead.

There are several morals embedded into this simple Italian legend. One is that jealousy and envy will only lead to bad. The other is about people being ugly or beautiful on the inside rather than about the external appearance of either of the daughters. 


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