“Cipollino” is a special story where the author shows us the life of different animals but the main characters come from the world of plants and we can say that this is a fable.
Here we keep up with the life of Cipollino (onion in Italian) and his friends Zucchini, Pear, Blueberry, Parsley, Strawberry and other who struggle with the tyrant Lemon, countesses Chery and the manager of the castle Tomato.
The whole story, like many fables, is allegoric and actually talks about people. The story is actually about the relation between the rich and the poor, the rulers and the ones being ruled and freedom and justice.
The story is written in a cheerful tone so that even the evil characters are funnier than mean. The story is adapted for children and the author tried to explain important life question to them with the language that kids understand. With the help of Cipollino he tries to talk about the freedom and how we must cherish it because it could be soon gone.
The plot is settled in a village of wolves and everything is actually placed in a made-up land where every character is related to fruit or vegetables. The time is also invented because castles, railways, bicycles and carriages exist at the same time.
The king Lemon was about to arrive at the city so there was a big parade. The old Cipolone was in the mass of people that was expecting the arrival of the king but somebody accidentally pushed him and he stepped onto the king’s leg. He was arrested and sent to jail for the rest of his life.
His son Cipollino came to visit him. He found out that the jail was made so that murderers and robbers would be locked up in it but now all of them were at the parade while innocent and honest people were in jail.
Cipollino learned a lot from his father and he decided to become one of the good guys. His father told him to go and live in this great world but to watch out for the bad guys and he also told him that he will learn something from everybody, even the bad guys.
The Cipollino decided to go and live. In the nearby village, he met Zucchini. He was abused by Tomato and Cipollino decided to defend him so he told Tomato that he is mean. Tomato wanted to get back at him because of it so he pulled his hair and pulled some out. When he did it the smell of onion started spreading around and Tomato’s eyes got watery and he ran away. Zucchini was amazed by Cipollino so he decided to hire him.
Tomato wanted revenge so he came back to the village with a few guards and he threw Zucchini out of his house. They also tied a dog in the house and his purpose was to scare away the children with his rough look. When Tomato left Cipollino put the dog to sleep and he carried him to his masters in the castle. Before Cipolliono left he petted him and disappeared. Zucchini was thrilled to be back in his house again.
All of the villagers were afraid of tomato so they decided to move into the forest. They’ve set their houses there and uncle Blueberry kept them safe. He placed bells on the doors and messages for the thieves. The thieves came and left and all encounters ended in friendships.
When Orange ate all of the money he had, he became poor. Orange decided to contact his cousin, the older countess Cherry to invite him into her castle. She accepted and in the same time the younger countess Cherry invited her cousin to stay. The cousins got the countesses angry and they took out they anger on their innocent nephew. His only consolation was the room keeper Strawberry.
Tomato got a notice that Zucchini’s house went missing. With the help of officers which he borrowed from the king, he arrested all man. Leek and Cipollino were the only ones who saved themselves.
Cipollino with the help of a girl named Radish decided to check out the situation in the castle so that they could come up with a plan to liberate the prisoners.
The next day Cipollino and Radish went to the castle and became friends with Cherrie’s nephew even though he was forbidden to talk to the villagers. He was so happy with his new friends and that was the first time in a long time that laughter could be heard in the castle.
The cheerful laughter was heard by Tomato who headed towards the garden to see what’s happening. He saw the three of them talking and he recognized Cipollino. He started to scream and they started to run. He yelled a lot at the nephew and he got very sad. Not because Tomato yelled but because he wasn’t as free as his friends were.
He got sick from all the sadness. Four doctors examined him but none of them knew what was happening to him. They decided to call Chestnut, the doctor in charge of the poor patients. Chestnut concluded that he was suffering from sadness and loneliness and the only medicine was to spend time with his friends. Everyone in the castle was repulsed by his diagnosis so they banished him from the castle.
When they arrested the villagers they threw them into the castle’s basement filled with mice. The mice made an attack on the prisoners and stole their candles so they were left in the dark. When the mice were getting ready for the next attack so were the prisoners. They started making cat noises and the frightened mice backed down.
In the meantime, they realized that walls had ears. The cell was a giant ear connected to Tomato so that he would hear everything the prisoners were saying.
Strawberry helped Cipollino by contacting the prisoners by a secret phone. She told them Cipollino’s message and gave them some candles and matches.
The mice decided to attack again but the prisoners defended themselves. The leader of the mice decided to punish their failure by killing every 10tht soldier-mouse.
Cipollino had a secret meeting with Radish and Strawberry when the dog attacked them. He went for Cipollino and called Tomato to tell him that he captured Cipollino. Tomato locked Cipollino in a secret hole.
Mole was digging and she accidentally got to Cipollino’s hole. When they met they had a friendly chat and the mole went on digging underground hallways. Cipollino went after her right when Tomato came to get him out of his hole and hang him.
Mole dug the hallways to other prisoners so Cipollino talked to them. He talked to Mole and she agreed to dig up another hallway so that the prisoners could get away. Somebody lit up a match and Mole got so scared that she ran away and the prisoners were stuck.
Strawberry told the Cherries nephew that Cipollino was in jail. He was really sad about that but finally, he stopped crying and helped his friend. They came up with a great solution. They sent Tomato a cake which contained sleeping powder. He was voracious and he ate the whole cake so he fell asleep immediately.
Strawberry took his keys and she decided to liberate the prisoners. In order to liberate them, Strawberry told the guards that the prisoners escaped and she sent them on a hunt for invented prisoners while the real ones actually ran away.
When Tomato woke up he saw the empty jail and decided to ask Lemon and his guards for help. The next day Lemon went into the village with his guard and they arrested Peas and Leek.
The guard went to the castle and started to vandalize everything. They abused all of the inhabitants of the castle and mostly Leek because Lemon wanted him to tell where the rest of his friends are and where they hid Zucchini’s house.
Leek kept his mouth shut so he ended up in the dungeon. They decided to interrogate his lawyer Peas. He had the same faith as Leek. Soon Tomato joined Peas because he was sentenced to death by hanging.
Peas got soft with Tomato so he told him too much information about the location of Zucchini’s house. Tomato wanted to use that to his benefit by saying everything to Lemon. He hoped he will save his life by doing that.
The gallows were set on the main square and everything was ready for Peas execution. They placed the noose around his neck and he was dragged into a hole. Soon he heard somebody saying to Cipollino that he should cut the rope.
The story behind it was that Strawberry told Radish, and then Radish told Cipollino about Peas executions. Cipollino found Mole and she started digging an underground hallway that led to the gallows.
Cipollino waited for Peas to fell into the hole so that he could cut the rope that was around his neck and save him. They ran to the underground cell where everybody was hidden. Peas told them everything about Tomato’s betrayal and Cipollino headed towards uncle Blueberry to try and save Zucchini’s house but unfortunately, he was too late.
Lemon and the rest of his group hired Carrot to help them find the escaped prisoners. Carrot imagined that he was searching for dangerous pirates when in reality he was following a dead end lead given to him by Radish that was trying to protect her friends.
In the end, Carrot and his dog fell into a trap and they were left hanging from a tree. In the meantime, Cipollino became friends bit Bear and he decided to pay a visit to his parents. When the sun went down Bear put Cipollino onto his back and they headed towards a city where Bear’s parents were trapped in a ZOO.
When they arrived there Elephant helped them and they met a lot of animals who spent their night thinking about their true homes.
When they set Bear’s parents free they got into some more trouble. A sea calf heard them and his hostility towards bears made him haul. The guards heard him and they locked the four of them into cages.
In the end, Cherry’s nephew liberated Cipollino and the two of them headed off. They were traveling by an unusual train that only had one wagon, the seats were windows and in the walls of the wagon, there were lumps for overweight people. The locomotive engineer was a strange man who stopped at every meadow to get some flowers. Right, when they were passing by a forest a lumberjack liberated Carrot and his dog after three days of captivity.
After that, the game was one. Everybody was looking for somebody. Carrot investigated, the guard were looking for him, Lemon was looking for his guards, Grapes and his pack was looking for Cipollino, Cipollino was looking for Grapes and Mole was looking for everybody.
Tangerine and Orange were in the castle with the servants. Tangerine decided to find the hidden treasure in the basement and he took Orange, who was a big wine lover, with him. They were greedy and they wanted to have a certain bottle that was actually a pole that opened a hidden door. When they pulled the bottle the door opened and Cipollino came out of it with his friends. They took over the castle, closed Tangerine in his room and they left Orange lying where he was because he was very drunk.
Some of Cipollino’s friends became scared because they had no weapons or strategy and they thought that those two were crucial for victory. They all went to bed and their enemies made a tent in the woods and also decided to relax. Tomato looked towards the castle and realized that somebody inside the castle was signalizing him. It was Tangerine. Tomato decided to check out what was happening and when he arrived near the fence the dog told him everything. Tomato told everything to Lemon and they decided to attack the castle early in the morning.
In the morning the fight began. Something huge and never seen before rolled down the hill from the castle and swiped away the army. It was actually Orange who managed to break free and he rolled down the hill. The rest of the army attacked again. The problem was that Peas told some valuable information to Tomato before so the army managed to enter the castle and arrest Cipollino. In jail Cipollino encountered his father who consoled him by saying that time spent in jail lets a man think about some stuff he had never thought before. Cipollino’s response to that was that he will get his father out of jail.
Thanks to the help of the mail deliverer Spider Cipollino made a sketch of the jail and he sent three letters. One of them was for his father, one for Mole and one for Cherry’s nephew. The spider was unable to deliver one of the letters and Cipollino started getting desperate.
Spider’s been through a lot of adventures on his way to the castle. He met one of his cousins who decided to escort him to the castle. The problem was that they crossed paths with a big chicken that swallowed Spider but he managed to throw the mailbag to his cousin and he delivered the last letter.
In jail, they had time to walk around but they had to walk in a circle. One of the prisoners took the chance and jumped into the Mole’s hole and kept running away with the help of underground tunnels. The guard that was supposed to look out for them wasn’t really good with math so he lost count of the prisoners. He didn’t even realize they went missing one by one. When they all disappeared the guard himself jumped and ran away.
King Lemon decided to host a horse race so he would distract the people from thinking about important questions. During the race Cipollino and Mole accidentally appeared because they went the wrong way. Cipollino took the chance, grabbed Lemon’s whip and hit him with it three times. Behind him, the ex-prisoners started running and Lemon got so frightened that while running away he ended up in the trash.
Tomato gathered the rest of the people in the meantime and declared a law by which the poor ones had to pay taxes for snow, rain, fog and everything else. He tried to make them believe that with the help of taxes they will be able to repair the financial status of the castle.
Lemon managed to escape from the trash and he went to the castle. The storm stopped but Lemon wanted for the storm to rage on so that he wouldn’t have to face the people.
Tomato sensed a revolution coming and no one believed no one. Everyone was caught up in something and they did not notice the flag that was set in the castle by Cipollino.
Tomato headed towards the castle to takedown the flag but he couldn’t pass through the door because he was overweight. He confronted Cipollino again and he pulled out some of his hair and started crying again. He would have drowned in a sea of his own tears if Cipollino didn’t rescue him.
When Lemon saw the flag he threw himself into the trash hoping that nobody will find him. Except for him, Tangerine and the countesses left the castle. A school and a kids playroom were opened in the castle.
Characters: Cipollino, Strawberry, Zucchini, Grape, Lemon, Tomato, Peas, Cherries, Orange, Chestnut, Carrot, Spider, Mole…
Cipollino – the main character of the fable. He is a little onion and when his father was arrested for no apparent reason and sent to a lifetime jail Cipollino was disappointed and decided to go on a journey. He gathered a lot of important advice about life from his father. His appearance is not described in the fable. He is cheerful, intelligent, and always ready to help. He was brave when it came to arguing with Tomato. His good will gives him strength to believe that every problem has a solution. He makes friends fast and he has a lot of accomplices who help them achieve justice. He is kind and well behaved towards the good people and he makes the bad ones cry.
Cherry’s Nephew – he lost his parents and the countesses took care of him, or better said took out their anger on him. He studied a lot and everything was forbidden to him so he craved friendship and freedom. When he met Cipollino and Radish he was overwhelmed with the feeling of friendship and wanted to be with them. He showed to be a very brave person because he always helped his friends in need.
Strawberry – the only friend of countesses nephew and she worked as a room keeper in the castle. She was noble, faithful, witty and one of the leaders of the struggle for justice.
Zucchini – an old man whose only wish when he was young was to build a house. He was building it his whole life and starved himself just to have enough supplies to build his house. It was small but it was enough for him. He did not crave big thing and he was happy with what he had.
Grape – he was a shoemaker and loved math. He admired Cipollino for standing up to Tomato.
Lemon – king of this invented land. He was yellow and on the top of his hat, he had a bell. He was a stuck up and always ready to fight. He believed himself to be a great leader. He treated animals badly and whipped them. Lemon always expected somebody else to do his work. Everybody tried to please him even though his requests were sometimes ridiculous.
Tomato – he was in charge of the castle where the countesses Cherries lived. He was mean and took out him problems on those weaker than him. His eyes radiate evil and he had a round, red face. When he ended up in the dungeon he realized how noble Cipollino was but that epiphany didn’t last long. Soon he became selfish again and did everything he could to get out of the dungeon.
Peas – he was a lawyer. He used as a cover up for Tomato to rule his way. When he realized that Tomato was only using him he turned his back on him. He always tried to be with people who suited him better.
Countesses Cherries – very rich and owned a lot of houses and almost the entire village. Both of them are widows and their cousins visited them often. They were mean and they frequently took out their anger on others.
Orange – he had a big stomach and loved to drink and eat a lot. He was left poor because he ate his own estates. Even though he only wanted good for everybody his true self couldn’t come to the surface because he always only thought about food.
Tangerine – unlike Orange that loved to eat, Tangerine loved to have different stuff and he was greedy. He would even say he will kill himself if he doesn’t get what he wants.
Mole – she had a problem with light but despite that she helped save the prisoners.
Carrot – he was a detective looking for the escaped prisoners.
Spider – he was the jailhouse mailman. He took his job very seriously and he had trouble walking due to some health issues but he never gave up his job.
Gianni Rodari Biography
Gianni Rodari was Italian writer, born in 1920 in Omegna, a small town in northern Italy.
Although he was most famous as children’s author, he started writing children’s books by accident. Most of the people consider him to be the most important children’s author in Italy.
First, he started working as a teacher in elementary school. But in the World War II, he decided to work as a journalist in the newspaper “L’Unita”. That was when he wrote his first children’s works
After 1950, he dedicated to keep writing children’s books that were translated into many foreign languages, but very few in English. His famous works are: “Cipollino”, “The book of children’s poems”, “The Blue Arrow”, “Gip in the Television”…
In 1953 he married Maria Teresa Feretti and has his first and only child – daughter Paola – in 1957. The same year he became professional journalist passing the exam.
In 1970, he received the Hans Christian Andersen Medal. This biennial award in literature is the highest recognition to any writer of children’s books.
His health declined after one trip to Russia. So, he dies in 1980 upon his return to Rome.
Book reports from Gianni Rodari