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YASHPEH
International Folktales Collection

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Story No. 889


The Gentleman who kicked a Skull

Book Name:

Italian Popular Tales

Tradition: Italy

Translated from the dialect. (Venetian, Bernoni, Leggende, p. 19, De un signor che gà dà 'na peada a un cragno da morto)

There was once a youth who did nothing but eat, drink, and amuse himself, because he was immensely wealthy and had nothing to think about. He scoffed at every one; he dishonored all the young girls; he played all sorts of tricks, and was tired of everything. One day he took it into his head to give a grand banquet; and thereupon he invited all his friends and many women and all his acquaintances.

While they were preparing the banquet he took a walk, and passed through a street where there was a cemetery. While walking he noticed on the ground a skull. He gave it a kick, and then he went up to it and said to it in jest: "You, too, will come, will you not, to my banquet to-night?" Then he went his way, and returned home. At the house the banquet was ready and the guests had all arrived. They sat down to the table, and ate and drank to the sound of music, and diverted themselves joyfully.

Meanwhile midnight drew near, and when the clock was on the stroke a ringing of bells was heard. The servants went to see who it was, and beheld a great ghost, who said to them: "Tell Count Robert that I am the one he invited this morning to his banquet." They went to their master and told him what the ghost had said. The master said: "I? All those whom I invited are here, and I have invited no one else." They said: "If you should see him! It is a ghost that is terrifying." Then it came into the young man's mind that it might be that dead man; and he said to the servants: "Quick! quick! close the doors and balconies, so that he cannot enter!" The servants went to close everything; but hardly had they done so when the doors and balconies were thrown wide open and the ghost entered. He went up where they were feasting, and said: "Robert! Robert! was it not enough for you to profane everything? Have you wished to disturb the dead, also? The end has come!" All were terrified, and fled here and there, some concealing themselves, and some falling on their knees. Then the ghost seized Robert by the throat and strangled him and carried him away with him; and thus he has left this example, that it is not permitted to mock the poor dead.[31]

Comments:

[31] Bernoni, p. 19. There are prose versions of the closely related story of Don Juan in Busk, p. 202, "Don Giovanni," and in Nov. tosc. No. 21, "Don Giovanni." There are poetical versions of this legend in G. Ferraro, Canti popolari raccolti a Pontelagoscuro, No. 19; "La Testa di Morto," in Rivista di Filologia Romanza, vol. II. p. 204; Ive, Canti pop. istriani, Turin, 1877, cap. xxv. No. 6, "Lionzo;" Salomone-Marino, Leggende pop. sicil. XXVII. "Lionziu."

The ninth and last of Bernoni's legends is a story about Massariol, the domestic spirit of the Venetians. A man of family, whose business takes him out at night, finds in the street a basket containing an infant. The weather is very cold, so the good man carries the foundling home, and his wife, who already has a young child, makes the little stranger as comfortable as possible. He is cared for and put in the cradle by the side of the other child. The husband and wife have to leave the room a moment; when they return the foundling has disappeared. The husband asks in amazement: "What can it mean?" She answers: "I am sure I don't know; can it be Massariol?" Then he goes out on the balcony and sees at a distance one who seems like a man, but is not, who is clapping his hands and laughing and making all manner of fun of him, and then suddenly disappears.

The same mischievous spirit plays many other pranks. Sometimes he cheats the ferrymen out of their toll; sometimes he disguises himself like the baker's lad, and calls at the houses to take the bread to the oven, and then carries it away to some square or bridge; sometimes, when the washing is hung out, he carries it off to some distant place, and when the owners have at last found their property, Massariol laughs in their faces and disappears. The woman who related these stories to Bernoni added: "Massariol has never done anything bad; he likes to laugh and joke and fool people. He, too, has been shut up, I don't know where, by the Holy Office, the same as the witches, fairies, and magicians."

Pitrè's collection contains little that falls under the second heading of this chapter. The following story, however, is interesting from its English parallels:

72. The Gossips of St. John

Abstract:

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