In an indefinite time and place in history, lived - and lives - a boy with red hair and red freckly face. Everyone calls him Little Boy Red. He is so poor that working in a mine is the only way of earning his bread. One unlucky day his father dies in the mine crushed by a landslide and Little Boy Red is alone. His mother remarries and leaves to live elsewhere. Then his sister leaves with her boyfriend, too. At this point the family home is barred. Back at the mine, among the many child-workers, there is one in particular to whom Boy Red relates to better, Ranocchio (Froggy). Unfortunately, Ranocchio is not used to working in such harsh conditions and therefore falls ill. Boy Red, who has a soft centre, carries him home to his mother. Now he is completely alone and when the owner of the mine decides to send him off to work in a distant and dangerous place, he agrees immediately. He is convinced that if something should happen to him no one would notice or care for he is Little Boy Red.
From the novel by Giovanni Verga, with the same name