The Elf

Buffardello, Baffardello, Pappardello, Linchetto

These are just a few of the names in use in Garfagnana and in the surrounding areas to indicate a spiteful goblin and/or a sudden wind that sweeps up leaves and hay or else collects them neatly in piles.

It was said to be an invisible spirit, or a bird, or a black ball—or else, more frequently, a being wearing a little hat (and even, sometimes, spectacles) who comes from out of the woods, or from somewhere else outside, or who even resides under the eaves of the roof (see “ascpect of Buffardello“) .

Often he took an interest in horses and their manes, or else in cows, which he took to pasture, or fed with hay (or took it away), and he could pay similar attention to donkeys or mules or other animals.

He was particularly feared for playing tricks in the home, and above all when he leant on the chest of those sleeping, taking away their breath.

Women were his favourite victims; he could also try to suffocate infants in their cradles, but fortunately he had holes in his hands.

There were various ways to wear him out or scare him off; he couldn’t bear the colour red, or seeing someone eat while they were using the toilet. A set of scales at the end of the bed stopped him from climbing up onto it, as did the shirt of the man of the house.

At Sant’Anastasio he was known in the form of a spiteful wind, at Borsigliana people told of nightmares. At Vagli di Sotto he sucked milk from the cows; at Magnano he was a small gnome who brought good or bad luck to the cows in the stable; at Capoli he was again a weight that squashed your chest and immobilised you; at Chiozza he was identified with the sudden summer winds, and at Gorfigliano too. At Piazza al Serchio he was identified with a bird or a small being that made piles of leaves; at Pieve San Lorenzo he undid weaving; at Vagli Sotto he made his home in the ears of horses; at Cosina (Piazza al Serchio) he was a black ball; at Albiano he had holes in his hands. …

Umberto Bertolini
Translation by Linda Barwick, The University of Sydney, Australia