Tale of Tales Explained: What’s Up With the Ending?

Tale of Tales (2015): meaning, plot summary, explanation of the ending, similar movies.

Princesses, cannibals, knights: the symbolism and philosophy of the film Tale of Tales.

Country: Italy, France, UK

Genre: fairy tale, adaptation

Year of production: 2015

Directed by: Matteo Garrone

Cast: Salma Hayek, Vincent Cassel, Toby Jones

tagline: “A feast for the imagination”

Awards and nominations: In 2015, the film presented at the Cannes Film Festival received a nomination for the Palme d’Or.

If you look a little more closely, you can understand that Matteo Garrone’s painting is not just a European psychedelic or an author’s fantasy on the theme of folklore. It is filled with interesting symbols and images, and the main point of the film Tale of Tales (Il racconto dei racconti) is the danger of obsessions and wrongly made desires.

What is the movie about

The picture consists of three short stories, and the events unfold in three magical kingdoms. The plot lines intersect with each other only at the beginning and at the end of the film.

Brief description of the content of the movie Tale of Tales.

Salma HayekSalma Hayek as the Queen of the Valley of the Mists, John C. Reilly as the King of the Valley of the Mists. Frame from the film.

First novella

The wife of the king of the Valley of the Mists is suffering from the fact that she cannot conceive a child. After talking with the necromancer, she learns that only the heart of a sea monster can help her get pregnant. The king goes to battle and extracts the heart, but he himself dies from his wounds. The king of the Wild Mountains and the king of the Lonely Cliff come to the funeral.

After eating the monster’s heart, the queen conceives that same night. At the same time, the cook who cooked the heart and inhaled the steam becomes pregnant. Both women give birth to boys who are like two drops of water similar to each other. The prince’s name is Elias, and his named brother is Iona.

Growing up together, the young men love each other, and the prince promises Jonah that when the time comes, he will share the throne with him. The queen does not like this very much and one day her jealousy reaches such an extent that she gives the order to kill the cook’s son. Upon learning of this, Jonah decides to leave. But first, he creates a magical stream and asks his brother-friend to look at the water more often: if it remains light and transparent, then everything is in order with him. But if it darkens, it means that trouble happened to Jonah.

One day, looking at the water in the stream, the prince is horrified: it has acquired an ominous bloody hue. Elias immediately went in search of his brother. Unable to stop her son, the queen, in desperation, turned to the same sorcerer who told her 16 years ago how she could conceive. He just threw up his hands: you can’t try to separate the indivisible. It is possible to return Elias back, but it will only be very expensive to pay.

It soon becomes clear what happened to Jonah. While hunting in the mountains, the young man fell into a rocky cave and injured his leg. But this is not so bad – a monster suddenly attacks him. He is saved from certain death by the appearance of Elias. The prince kills the monster and helps his brother get out. The dead monster takes the form of a queen.

Second novella

The events of the second short story take place in the Wild Mountains. The ruler of this place is more interested in science than in affairs of state. In particular, he is obsessed with the idea of ​​growing a huge flea. Against this background, he does not seem to notice at all that his daughter Violetta has already grown up … However, the girl, immersed in the world of chivalric novels, does not suffer from this.

The flea, to the delight of the king, is growing by leaps and bounds. However, having reached the size of a boar, she suddenly dies.

The frustrated king orders to remove the skin from the insect. Then he suddenly announces that whoever guesses which animal she was taken from will get a princess as his wife. Solving this riddle is only possible for a terrible cannibal giant: he recognized the flea by its smell. The king is not happy with the prospect of giving his daughter as a wife to a cannibal, but he is forced to keep his word. The heartbroken Violetta is taken by her new husband to the rocks. From now on, the princess will have to live in a gloomy cave filled with human bones.

The ogre tries to treat the princess with care, but the unfortunate girl is still afraid of him. One day, seeing a woman gathering herbs on the slope of a nearby rock, Violetta asks her to help. The next day, the whole family of the woman comes to save her – almost all of her members are wandering acrobats. One of the woman’s sons carries Violetta along the rope to the other side of the gorge.

Meanwhile, the princess’s monstrous consort, discovering that she has fled, gives chase. Seeing this, one of the rescuers cuts the rope, and the ogre falls into the abyss. However, he does not die: miraculously holding on to the ledge, the giant gets out of the abyss, easily overtakes the fugitives and kills everyone except the princess. He puts her on his back, but the girl, seizing the moment, cuts the cannibal’s throat with a dagger, which she found in the wagon of acrobats. Violetta brings the severed head of the giant to her native castle and places it at her father’s feet. In the finale, having repented for all his deeds, the king on his knees asks his daughter for forgiveness.

Vincent CasselVincent Cassel as King of the Lonely Cliff, Stacy Martin as Dora. Frame from the film.

Third novella

The third short story tells about the king of the Lonely Cliff. He is pursued by one of the most condemned passions – lust. However, the monarch thinks little about this and does not deny himself anything.

One day, a marvelous singing reaches his ears. Fascinated by the stunningly beautiful voice of the mysterious singer, the king sets off towards a poor suburb. Confident that such a voice belongs to a beautiful young girl, he persistently knocks on the door of the house. But only two old sisters, Dora and Imma, live there. Having received a jewel as a gift and wanting to have even more, they decide on a risky adventure.

They assure the king that they know a wonderful singer and his excitement increases. He becomes almost insane, and the sisters, realizing that the game is becoming dangerous, decide to take even more risks. Imma carefully “makes up” Dora as a young girl and informs the king that she agrees to spend the night with him. But only on condition that everything will take place in complete darkness. Burning with impatience, the monarch agrees to everything. In the morning, the king nevertheless decides to examine his beloved and, seeing an old woman instead of a young girl, is horrified.

In a rage, he orders the “witch” to be thrown out the window along with the coverlet, but Dora is miraculously saved. A little later, the sorceress finds her and, filled with sympathy, allows her to drink some magic milk. After that, the old Dora turns into a beautiful young girl. Completely naked, covered with her long red hair, the rejuvenated Dora goes wherever her eyes look and unexpectedly meets the hunting king.

Stacy MartinThe role of young Dora was played by Stacy Martin. Frame from the film.

Having instantly fallen in love, the ardent monarch decides to marry her. The girl invites her sister to the wedding and insistently asks her to keep their relationship a secret. However, Imma recklessly gives out a secret and asks Dora to tell her how she regained her youth … Annoyed at her sister, wanting her to leave her alone, Dora says that she simply tore off her old skin. She takes the mockery seriously, goes to her room and asks one of the artisans to remove her skin. Of course, no rejuvenation occurs and the disfigured, exhausted Imma returns to her sister.

Tale of Tales Ending explanation

Explanation of the ending of the movie Tale of Tales. The most interesting thing is that none of the stories are told to the end. The true ending remained behind the scenes – however, we intuitively understand the further fate of the heroes.

At the end of the picture, the old and sick king of the Wild Mountains passes the throne to his daughter. Neighbors come to her coronation – the king of the Lonely Cliff with his beautiful wife and Elias. In the midst of the celebration, Dora notices that the youth returned to her by witchcraft is disappearing – and runs away from the castle.

Violetta, once a romantic girl who loved chivalric romances, who returned home a strong woman, raises her eyes to the sky during the coronation. There she sees one of the acrobats who tried to save her. Recognizing the young man, the queen smiles. The answer here is very simple: having survived a terrible ordeal, she defended her right to choose her husband on her own. And she probably chose him.

How did it all end for both twins? Elias became king. Whether he shared the throne with his brother, as promised, is unknown – one can only hope for the word of honor of the young man, who showed himself to be a fearless and noble person.

Toby JonesToby Jones played the role of the King of the Wild Mountains, and Bebe Cave starred as Violet. Frame from the film.

Imma probably died. Dora’s fate is vague, although most viewers in their analysis of Tale of Tales are inclined to the only interpretation: the king will find her and execute her as a witch, or she will drag out a miserable existence somewhere and go crazy with horror and despair.

The final scene is the coronation. The meaning of Tale of Tales ending is probably that, unlike the possessed queen and her frail husband, her own father and the overactive king of the Lonely Cliff, Violetta is a worthy ruler: she is a woman who can. It is impossible to say exactly what kind of queen it will be: the meaning of her transformation lies in the fact that now she personifies both good and evil at the same time.

All those present at the coronation see how a tightrope walker with a pole walks between the towers of the castle on a burning rope, trying to maintain balance. It probably symbolizes that the balance between good and evil is very fragile.

The meaning of the film

The painting by Matteo Garrone is a free cinematic presentation of rural folklore, which was collected and processed in the Baroque style by the Neapolitan Giambatista Basile. However, unlike the funny, and at times very obscene source, it carries something else.

Shirley HendersonThe role of Imma was played by Shirley Henderson, Hayley Carmichael played the role of old Dora. Frame from the film.

There was a special meaning in the fact that Garrone made a serious, almost philosophical film out of his Tale of Tales. His picture is a vivid statement on the topic of most modern problems: here there is domestic violence, and incest, and the desire to regain youth. However, they cannot be called exclusively modern problems – they were familiar to both Basile’s contemporaries and those who lived much earlier than him.

There is a hidden meaning in the story about the princess and the ogre. At the very beginning of the story, we see a teenage girl – pretty, spoiled, somewhat infantile. Reading chivalric novels, she dreams of being in the place of fairy princesses. What happened to them?.. They were all “damsels in distress” who were rescued by the knights. Violetta found herself in the same situation: as if in mockery, fate sent her a meeting with the cannibal. Wanted – get it.

To understand the meaning of the story, one must turn to the study of the Jungian psychoanalyst Clarissa Pinkola Estes, “Running with the Wolves. Female archetype in myths and legends”. In short, the catalyst for Violetta’s dark adventures was not her father at all, but herself. You can make a timid assumption that the cannibal is part of Violetta. And the meaning of all that is happening is that she must grow up. Until that happens, everyone around her will suffer – especially those who are trying to help her.

Tale of Tales Garrone – three stories, almost unrelated to each other. Of the fifty tales of Giambattista Basile, the director chose them. Why? One of the main themes of the picture is obsession, obsession. Parental obsession, insane love for the son in the first tale is mirrored by the obsession-obsession of the king to the flea: it makes him a bad ruler and a bad father, indifferent to the happiness of his daughter. Beauty and youth became the same obsession for the two sisters from the third fairy tale. It turns out that all the novels are closely intertwined with each other? So it is, and they are related not only by the idea, but also by the lack of a happy way out of the current situations.

Christian LisChristian Lis as Prince Elliot and Salma Hayek as the Queen of the Valley of the Mists. Frame from the film.

Garrone constantly plays on contrasts. Here is the queen obsessed with her son, and here is the ugly debauchery of the king of a neighboring state. The necromancer from the first tale easily finds a mirror match for himself in a monstrous, truly Hoffmanian (or Kafkaesque?) flea. However, the duet easily turns into a trio when the witch from the third novel appears. By the way, Violetta’s unhappy married life rhymes perfectly with the synthetic happiness of the heroine in the tale of two old women.

Yes, the essence of the film is in constant contrast, in a mockery of the notorious “norm”, in its deformation. In “normal” tales (which are tidy and very well adapted scary, archaic folk tales) the endings are normal, often happy. In baroque fairy tales, broken, affected, tense, this is not and cannot be – this is such an era (in the jargon of Mediterranean sailors, the word “baroque” means “ugly pearl”), in which everything is excessive, everything is too much. For a man of modern times, who has a history of religious wars, the Inquisition, witch hunts and two plagues, it could not be otherwise.

Tale of Tales begins and ends with images of wandering circus performers, dreaming, free, creative, but at the same time eternally sad. Like Shakespeare, who compared the world to a theater, Garrone draws another, also sad analogy: life is a circus arena, where everyone balances on his tightrope, where everyone decides his fate and writes his story.

Another name for the painting is Tale of Tales. This is the story of lives, the story of stories. But to a greater extent, this is a story about the greatness of innocence in hell, which has no end and edge. However, it can be assumed that hell is a kind of metaphor for human life in general …

queen in redFrame from the film.


Similar films

Tale of Tales is an original and unusual tape. But there are still a few pictures similar to her in meaning:

  • “Bouquet” (Czech Republic, 2000). The painting is based on 7 Moravian tales collected and artistically processed by Jaromir Erben.
  • “Outland” (USA, South Africa, India, 2006). Hollywood stuntman Roy writes fairy tales that miraculously become reality.
  • “The further into the forest…” (USA, 2014). In the plot of the picture there are heroes of famous fairy tales. It just turns out to be a completely different story.

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