Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Explore Italy's Alpine Fairylands

2-Snippets of Fairy Tales

If you wake up to the smell of amazing bread, fresh alpine forests, and the weight of a little mischievous fairy bouncing on your stomach you'll know the spirits have carried you away to Italy.

The mountains in Northern Italy team with the ancient fairies from the time before the Romans, as well as the spirits of the later Empire and the German invaders.

The Italian Tourism website describes the artists of Northern Italy as "Straddling Reason and Insanity." Perhaps this happened because, of all the fairies which team in this ancient land.
Fantastic mountain villages dot the land, isolated during the Once Upon a time, the tales of this land feature lonely hunters, and villages on which the fairies can descend. In one fairy tale nymph like water fairies known as Anguana, grow jealous of a village, because the women there have discovered the secret to being eternally beautiful. So in the dark of night, while the men are out hunting, the Anguana descend on the lonely village and slaughter all the women and girls there. They then burn the village to the ground.


Yet as was the case with all fairies, the Anguana's nature isn't fixed in stone because they can also be good and kindly fairies. They taught humans how to produce sugar, glass, salt, and more. In essence they created the civilization in parts of Northern Italian lore.

Like everything in this mountainous region, the Anguana come from the clash of many cultures. They are nymphs, perfect nearly every way, yet they always have some flaw. A gooses foot, a hollow moss filled back, the lower half of a reptile, just as the Germanic Nature Spirits are said to have. (A similar Italian fairy, including some from the Mountains of the North spend half their time in snake form, and half their time as beautiful women).

While the passes are filled with Orco (Ogres) that must be bribed to have safe passage along the mountain roads. In addition to waylaying travelers they could use their magic make people dance for an entire night, sometimes making people dance themselves to death. Only the morning light could save a person from this curse.

From WikiCommons
This then is a land filled with fairies. Most of these fairies are neither good nor bad, but take care of the land, often the lakes. Keeping the water pure and clean, while helping to insure that the surrounding land remains fertile and beautiful.

Here in the mountains the song of the 
fairies could be heard drifting over the 
land, its sweet sound filling the valleys. 

The Waterways were clear and the meadows beautiful, thanks to the fairies
Image from Wikicommons

Snippets of Tales

In Piedmont an elegantly dressed silver nosed fairy came to a poor washer woman's home and asked to hire the woman's daughters for a job. The eldest daughter went first, and after walking for an exhasting number of days they came to a massive castle with hundreds of rooms, one of which the girl could not enter. She does so, however, and as punishment Silver Nose throws her into the fire in the room. The second daughter does the same. The third daughter manages to free her eldest daughters, and tricks the silver nosed fairy into carrying them back home to her mother.

Here too humanity is defended by the fairy folk. One form of fairy would undo the evil spells of witches, and defend people against the monsters that haunted the night. These tended to live in Oak trees in people's yards, in chimney's or at times in haystacks. They worked especially hard to protect new born babies. And would travel about on Christmas, when people would, at one time, celebrate them.

There is also a Northern Italian version of "The Elves and the Shoemakers" the resembles the Germanic one very closely.

A young carpenter encountered some water fairies at Lake Subiolo in Valstagna. They tried to lure him into dancing with them, but he continually refused. At last they gave him the gift of being one of the greatest carpenters in teh world, yet of always being poor. So it was that he made many of the wonderful wooden works in churches throughout Italy, but he never had money.

Fairies in this land often live in snake as well as human form. In one tale a young man falls in love with a fairy, and she with him, but he doesn't realize that she spends half her time in snake form.

Once two shepherds were resting between some rocks when they heard a such a beautiful song that they held their breath, for fear of breaking the spell of the sound. Slowly the song came closer to them, until at last they saw a beautiful fairy women, wrapped in a mantle, her long golden hair gleaming in the sunlight.
"It's the fairy of the lake," One Whispered.
"Shhhhh" the other silenced him.
At the last moment the fairy noticed them, and suddenly ashamed to be seen she covered her face with her long blond hair and fled back towards the lake. The grass didn't even bend under her feet.
On impulse one if the shepherds chased her, but he could not catch her.
Later the two shepherds saw a giant golden snake, and fled from it in fear.

Later a hunter would encounter this same golden snake, and shoot it. The snake died and with it so did the lake which dried up soon after.

From Wikicommons

A Few Fairies of Italy

Basadone (Italy)
The Personification of the wind. They are good nature spirits which appear as nimble humans and float up on breezes.. They often protect children during a storm. He is attended by funny and somewhat ugly servents with whom he roams through fields.

Buffardello (Italy)
A one and a half foot tall anthropomorphic goblin like creature. They dress in red clothes, or just a red cap and pointed shoes. Some appear as children other appear as old with beards. They often sit in trees or the hay, although they are typically invisible. They live in nut trees and on occasion buildings.
The buffardello loves to tease people and animals, and spends much of it's time teasing peoples pets. They also like to bounce and play on peoples chests while they are asleep which causes the people to feel like they are suffocating. They may also hold people down and put their hand in peoples mouths in order to scare them. Additional mischief included hiding or moving objects, turniff of lights, tearing wall paper, cutting peoples hair and beards into patches, undoing bundles of cloth. Further they can be heard scampering around the houses at night, especially running up and down stairs.
In addition to mischief they often also steal from mankind, including  wine, hay, laundry, milk (including that directly from cows). They may also suck the blood of animals, ultimately killing them. At times they may also take the beauty of girls.
They have many magical properties associated with them including the power to control the wind.

Folletto (Italy)
Small trickster figureswho are very agile, elusive and able to fly and become invisible. They live in burrows in the woods, especially near conifers. Or at times they can live in  human homes, backyards, and barns. They almost ever only come out at night to have fun and tease the animals in the stables, mess up their hair of women, and create clutter among the farm tools and in the house. Although they are tiny normally they can change their hight, sometimes their shape, and so forth.

Gnefro (Italy)
A small fairy which appears like a child, but only shows themselves at night. They like to play pranks on solitary wonderers though they rarely do anything serious. On occasion they will live in a human house which they will protect and aid.

Lauru (Italy)
Little people who cause mischief such as riding animals (dogs, sheep, etc) until they are exhasted. They also tie the hair of animals and people into knots. Though oddly enough they have a sense of fair play, protecting the poor (especially farmers) from their bosses, etc. They are every intelegent.
Being internally duelistic they both steal from people but also help people to find money. They have huge stashes of treasure and so often a farmer or boy will catch them and try to force them to tell the farmer where it is, but the Lauru almost always outsmarts the human in the end. Though if you can manage to steal the Lauru's hat yor scarf you'll become rich.

Lenghelo (Italy)
Often spiteful but not evil this fairy loves to tell dirty jokes, jump on stomachs of sleeping people and so forth. They may also provide people with luck, however, such as by providing them with winning lottery numbers.

Mazarol (Italy)
They are old men with a sturdy build which dress in red, with a turquise jacket  and a large hat. He is vindictive against those who betray trust. In one tale a girl trampled over his path, angering him so that he breathed in her face causing her to forget her previous life. He than brought her back to serve him, teaching her how to make butter and cheese while promising to teach her how to make wax. Before this could happen a hunter recoginized her and brought her home, they tried to revive her memory but failed until at last an old lady gave her milk form a white goat at which point her memories returned. She was the one who taught her people how to make butter and cheese.

Monachicchio (Italy)
Said to be the spirits of children who died before they were baptized they are handsome with a gentle character (They also wear a red cap like most fairies). They usually appear to children with whom they spend a lot of time playing. They often play childish pranks on adults such as tickling thier feet, pulling off their covers, or sitting on them while they sleep. They tie the hair of animals into knots.
They will whisper sweet words into the ears of beautiful girls and lick or pinch their cheeks.
They can vanish at will  by clapping their hands in order to return to their home in a cave ful of treasure.

Munaciello (Italy)
A form of house fairy, they often aid people in a house bringing them luck or money. They also blow in the ears of sleepers to wake them when danger is coming. They can be problematic however for they like to touch beautiful women in their invisable state. You can get them to be beneficial with food, in return for their gifts. Though they will curse any who reveal that they live in a house. They tend ot come out at night to give people the treasures. Its unknown if these treasures come from the Munaciello themselves or if they are stolen from other people.

Scazzamurrieddhru (Italy)
A little old man who dresses in tobacco colored clothing and always wears a hat on his head. He sits on the chests of those who are sleeping makeing them sleep restlessly. They repay kindnesses done to them with gold coins or by pointing their benefactor to a hidden treasure. If you can steal his hat he mut also point you to treasure.
The Scazzamurrieddhru will appear to those going into the cemetery at night. Those doing so however are attacked by the Scazzamurrieddhru who will jump on the persons chest causing them to laugh uncontrollably until they die.

Squasc (Italy)
Small, hairy and reddish much like a squirral without a tale and an anthropomorphic face. They are boogie man type creatures which loves to frighten children, especially young girls.


Follow Wandering Folklorist's board Alpine Italy Food and Region on Pinterest.