Crack and Crook

“Crack and Crook” is an Italian folktale of two thieves who find each other by trying to steal from each other. They then team up and break into the king’s treasury and make away with much of his riches. Flummoxed by this, the king consults a thief in his dungeon on how to best capture these rogues.


From here, the story starts getting weird. Attempts to capture the thieves start out simple enough: raising the price of meat so that only the thieves will be able to purchase it.  But then it moves on to the grim: setting out a pot of pitch at the bottom of the stairs in the treasury, so that when they steal again, they’ll fall into it and die. Crook does, indeed, fall in and die. The story then devolves into a decapitation, a dragging of the body through the streets, and a beating of Crook’s widow—two of which are committed by the surviving thief, Crack.


In a final attempt to capture Crack, the king decrees he will pardon the thief who robbed his treasury if he can steal the sheets out from under him at night. By employing ingenious–and gross–diversion skills of hanging a dead body outside the king’s window, Crack steals the king’s sheets and he is pardoned. Also, in true fairytale fashion, he gets to marry the king’s daughter (to keep him on the straight and narrow, you see).


I really, really love fairytales.


Source: Calvino, Italo, “Crack and Crook”, Italian Folktales, Penguin Books, 2002. Translated by George Martin.

Supernatural AtoZ


  1. Hot damn, this is a great story! Looks like Crack made out like a bandit!

  2. Now that is quite a fairytale 🙂 They always have such dark parts, don’t they. I’d not heard this one before, thank you for sharing.
    Tasha’s Thinkings

    • Sara C. Snider

      Fairytales usually do have a fair amount of darkness, but that’s part of their charm. 😉 Glad you liked it.

  3. Folk tales are indeed very incorrigble

  4. Good folk tales. Have you ever read “The Fantastic Mr. Fox?” My kids in my library classes loved to hear me tell that one to them. I retired 20 years ago. Best regards to you. Ruby

    • Sara C. Snider

      I haven’t read that story. Interestingly, though, I will be writing about foxes for F. 🙂

  5. Fairytales can be so horrifying!

  6. Oh wow, never heard this one before! That’s quite a story, and definitely worthy of the title ‘fairy tale’.

  7. Tarkabarka

    I love this fairy tale! And I love Italo Calvino. One of the best folktale collections out there, any storyteller should know it. My favorite is the Siren Wife. 🙂

    @TarkabarkaHolgy from
    Multicolored Diary – Tales of colors
    MopDog – The crazy thing about Hungarians…

    • Sara C. Snider

      I’m really enjoying the Italian tales so far. I haven’t read the Siren Wife yet though. Hmm a possible entry for S? (I haven’t planned that far :P)

  8. Wow, this one is a Crack!Fic about Crack 🙂 So much gore and death and still the wily anti-hero wins out.
    Sophie’s Thoughts & Fumbles – A to Z Ghosts
    Fantasy Boys XXX – A to Z Drabblerotic

    • Sara C. Snider

      Yeah, Crack’s a pretty big jerk in this story. And yet he totally wins the day! Good stuff. 🙂

  9. I love fairy tales, too! Enjoyed the read!

  10. I’m starting to think that “fairy tales” were the world’s first horror stories. There sure is a lot of death and mayhem in them, right?

    • Sara C. Snider

      Alan Garner kind of touches upon this in his introduction to Collected Folk Tales and discusses a bit about how we, as humans, “need to be scared.” It’s quite interesting.

  11. awesome! that was a gory as the grimms!

  12. Great story…I was thinking that because the King raised the prices of things, that the people supported the thieves. And that Crook wasn’t really dead, so when Crack attempted to steel the sheets, he was the distraction while Crook really did it.

    No one was the wiser.

    • Sara C. Snider

      Well, you can think that… but it’s not what happened. Crook was most certainly dead (having been decapitated and all that). 😛

  13. Poor princess having to marry the gory thief.

    • Sara C. Snider

      More like poor princess having to marry anyone at all not of her choosing. 😉

  14. Wow! That is one strange folktale. Not that that is unusual, for folktales: they frequently start out with a fairly conventional narrative and then swerve abruptly into crazy. There is one version of… Snow White? I think it is Snow White… involving a talking, severed horse’s head…
    Thanks for writing this one up! Great stuff!
    -Melanie Atherton Allen

    • Sara C. Snider

      I’ve never heard of that version, but it is pretty crazy. A talking, severed horses head seems like something that would happen if the Brothers Grimm and Martin Scorsese got together… 😛

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.