This is an analysis of all the folkloric genres that comprise the repertoire of the marionette theatre in Sicily. Here, epic, farce, saints' lives, bandits' lives, fairytales, Christian myth and city legend offer the vehicles by which puppeteers comment upon, inform about - perhaps even negotiate - the relationships among the major classes of Sicilian society: the aristocracy, the people, the clerics and the Mafia. The lynchpin of the repertoire is the Carolingian Cycle and, in particular, a contemporary version of The Song of Roland known in Sicily as The Death of the Paladins, a text which illustrates the means by which the Carolingian heroes - Charlemagne, Roland, Renaud, Ganelon and Angelica - augment saints, bandits, Biblical figures and Sicilian folk heroes to provide the marionette theatre its rhetorical function: the provision and dissemination of the tools of Sicilian identity.
Michael Buonanno is professor of English and Anthropology at the State College of Florida: Manatee/Sarasota. His previous publications have appeared in The Journal of American Folklore and New York Folklore. He lives in St. Petersburg, Florida.