Monday, July 14, 2014

Buffardello

Like a horned owl the Buffardello is a creature of the night, who has started finding ways to adapt to the presence of human cities by living in barns, trees in gardens, and occasionally even human homes. Though typically they prefer to live in nut trees, creeping into homes through windows, under the cover of darkness.

In lore their cunning and ability to become invisible has allowed them to thrive in the human world. Never the less, the buffardello doesn't entirely belong in the human world, they are liminal creatures caught between their wilderness home and the new habitat which humanity has created. Thus they appear as a humanoid with animal features. Some buffardello appear as having fox like features, others as cat like, or rat like or dog like features. And in Pianacci there are even some described as being like a bird with a mouse's head.

Wild and mischievous in their new homes they rush about at night bouncing on sleeping people's stomach's and chests, they'll put their hands over people's mouths, pull the covers off sleepers, hide and move objects, turn on and off lights, rip paper, cut beards, tie hair in knots, and generally cause chaos. Further they can also be mistaken for the wind which rattles windows, and occasionally gusts into house through open windows blowing things everywhere.

In addition to their pranks, Buffardello, like any wild animal, often take food from humans, drinking milk from cows, stealing wine, bread and on occasion they'll even attack and drink the blood from an animal like a weasel is said to do.

In addition to viewing them as animals, it's likely that Buffardello can also be viewed as somewhat akin to children with no parents and no real rules. This, however, also means that while they are often thoughtless if they are forced to confront their victims, to realize the impact their actions are having they can feel very bad about it. This is demonstrated by the following tale from Casola in Lunigina.

Casola in Lunigina


Folk Tale

The harvest had been poor that year, and the cow had grown sickly, so it was producing very little milk. With their meager rations about to run out the young widow Giovanna set out during the coldest part of winter in hopes of finding work in other people's fields, but there was far too much snow on the ground for anyone to be thinking of work, so the young woman began to worry that she and her children would starve to death. , she began to worry that she and her young child would starve to death.

When she opened the cupboard to get a bit of the last bread for her child to eat she found that the whole loaf was gone. She looked about the house in a panic, wondering how she could have lost it, but in the end could find nothing, so she prepared a watery soup with a few of the withered vegetables she had left.

That night, the hunger pains were so intense that Giovanna couldn't sleep so she got up to finish making a shirt, but as soon as she stepped out of her room she heard strange noises coming out of the kitchen. When she stepped in, her candle held high she saw three Buffardello, their eyes growing round with surprise for a moment before they smashed their hands over them.

"Put out the light," they cried. "It's too bright."

Once she'd done as the three fairies asked Giovanna began scolding the buffardello for stealing her bread. She told them about her child who would cry himself to sleep he was so hungry, and about how she was so worried she couldn't sleep.

Like little children the buffardello felt ashamed for what they'd done. They wanted to do the right thing. They promised her that if she left them alone at night she would find bread for her and her child in the morning. What's more her cow would be healthy and strong again.

So the woman left the buffardello alone in the dark, and the next morning, as promised she found a loaf of bread, and a healthy cow which gave her milk to get through the winter. That spring she had the largest harvest of vegetables and wheat she'd ever had.


More about the Buffardello

It's likely that the buffardello stole the loaf of bread they gave to the woman from a neighbors house. For like many fairies they want to do the right thing, they just have trouble understanding human morality. And it's common for many house fairies to get gifts for one person by stealing form another. The fairies of Ireland would steal luck from one persons field to give to another, the Domovoi of Russia would steal food from neighbors to give to the family they lived with, as would the Tomte and Nisse of Norway and Sweden.

As part of being childlike they have an odd relationship with children. On the one hand they enjoy scaring and playing pranks on children, but they also want to be with children and will fall asleep next to them, or at times kidnap and hypothetically raise them.

The same thing is true of their relationship with woman girls, while they will typically play pranks on a girl or woman, they'll at times seem to fall in love with them. In these cases they'll provide them with food, and potions which will make them beautiful. But as with most relationships with a fairy the girl must take care not to reveal that a buffardello is in love with her or the vindictive fairy will attack them, and on occasion kill them.

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