Step 6 of 6
The role of the crane
In the remainder of this tour, let us focus on the crane. Birds recur several times in this novella, as they do in the entire cycle of the Decameron: from falcons and cranes to Chichibio's own name, which is a Venetian word for the sound of a songbird.
Cranes are mentioned in many medieval sources, and many of the bones of the birds can be found in archaeological sites known to have been estates or castles in the past.
Eating cranes is not very common in our time. Adult cranes are not very tasty. They are tough, coarse and wiry, although young cranes are much more tender and edible. However, the birds were generally difficult to eat and required a lot of attention to prepare.
In addition, they were very expensive. For this reason, they were mainly consumed in high society, mainly in castles. The birds were not eaten because they were found to be so very tasty, but because they were expensive and difficult to obtain, and thus they were an important symbol of status and wealth.
Boccaccio was clever in having the crane play such a symbolic role in making visible two completely different social statuses: on the one hand the master of the higher class and on the other the cook of the lower class.
In the end, Boccaccio used the crane as a symbolic prop once again. By using the one-leggedness of the crane in a quick and smart response, the cook avoids the anger and punishment of his master. This attribution of quick wit to a low-society character is a striking aspect in Boccaccio’s novella. Chichibio's ability to counter his master's anger with humor and his clever response indicates a cook who, regardless of social status, can still rely on his intellect.