Roman Legends: A Collection of the Fables and Folk-lore of Rome | Annotated Tale

COMPLETE! Entered into SurLaLune Database in October 2018 with all known ATU Classifications.



THERE was once a pleader [1] who sat writing in his room all day whenever he was not in court.

               One day as he so sat there came in at the window a large monkey, and began whisking about the room. The lawyer, pleased with the antics of the monkey, called it scimmia bellacuccia, [2] and caressed and fed it. By-and-by he had to go out on his business, and though he was in some fear of the pranks the monkey might be up to in his absence, he had taken such a fancy to it that he did not like to send it away, and at last left it alone in his apartment.

               When he came home, instead of the monkey having been at any mischievous pranks, the whole suite of rooms was put in beautiful order, and out of very scanty materials in the cupboard an excellent dinner was cooked and laid ready.

               'Scimmia bellacuccia! is this your doing!' said the lawyer, and the monkey nodded assent.

               'Then you are a precious monkey, indeed,' he replied, and he called it to him and fed it, and gave it part of the dinner.

               The next day the monkey did the work of the house, and the lawyer sent away his servant because he had no further need for one, the monkey did all much better and in a more intelligent way.

               All went well for a time, when one day the lawyer had occasion to visit a friar he knew at St. Nicolò da Tolentino, for in those days there were friars [3] there instead of nuns as now. He did not fail to tell him of the treasure he had found in his bellacuccia, as he called his monkey.

               'Don't let yourself be deceived, friend!' exclaimed the friar. 'This is no monkey; it is not in the nature of a monkey to do thus.'

               'Come and see it yourself,' said the lawyer. 'You will find I have over-stated nothing of what it can do and does every day.'

               Some days after this the friar came, having taken care to provide himself with his stole and a stoup of holy water. Directly he came into the lawyer's apartment he put on his stole and sprinkled the holy water.

               The monkey no sooner saw the shadow of his habit than it took to flight, and, after scrambling all round the room to get away from the sight of him, finally hid itself under the bed.

               'You see!' said the friar to the lawyer.

               But the lawyer cried, 'Here bellacuccia; come here!' and as the monkey was by habit very docile and obedient, when he had said 'bellacuccia' a great many times, it at last forced itself to come to him, but stealthily and warily, showing great fear of the monk.

               When it had got quite close to the lawyer, and he was holding it, the friar once more put on his stole, sprinkled it with holy water and exorcised it.

               Instantly bellacuccia burst away from the lawyer, and, clambering up to the window, broke away through the upper panes and disappeared, leaving a smoke and a smell of brimstone behind. But it was really a man who had been put under a spell by evil arts, [4] and when thus released by the monk's exorcism he went and became a monk, I forget in what order, but I know it was one of those who dress in white.



[1] 'Curiale,' a lawyer, a pleader.

[2] 'Scimmia,' a monkey. In England we usually speak of a cat as of feminine gender, and in Germany the custom is so strong that the well-known riddle pronounces the 'Kater' (tom cat) 'keine Katze' (no cat), while in France, Spain and Italy the normal cat is masculine. In Italian, on the other hand, the monkey is always spoken of in the feminine gender; it becomes noteworthy in this instance when we consider the termination of the story. 'Bellacuccia,' 'dear little pretty one.'

[3] I do not know at what period the transfer took place, but in the edition of 1725, of Panciroli's book on Rome, the church is named as built and served by the 'Eremiti scalsi di S. Agostino,' corroborating this part of the story.

[4] 'Fatato.'

Bibliographic Information

Tale Title: Bellacuccia
Tale Author/Editor: Busk, Rachel Harriette
Book Title: Roman Legends: A Collection of the Fables and Folk-lore of Rome
Book Author/Editor: Busk, Rachel Harriette
Publisher: Estes and Lauriat
Publication City: Boston
Year of Publication: 1877
Country of Origin: Italy
Classification: unclassified

Back to Top