L'orco can change appearance and always to the detriment of humans whom he comes into contact with. He can become a big ball, capable of rolling after people to crush them. He can transform into a feral donkey which will seem placid and calm until a human comes close. Then, suddenly, he will start kicking with enormous feroucity, attempting to stomp someone to death.
When l'orco is in a more gentle mood, he will change the path so that a traveler will take the wrong path, which the wayfarer discovers when he is back at his starting point in the evening after walking all day.
In Friuli, it is said that a man is "sembra un orco" (seems an orco) if he is a bad sort, or is unpleasant, or simply if he has a rough, hoarse voice.
The people who live around the "Buca del Mare" (pit of the sea), which is a hole as deep and dark as the sea, have a story about l'orco.
The people of Corno di Rosazzo, in the Italian region of Friuli-Venezia Giulia, tell of a gentleman who was terribly stingy and would part with nothing without great profit, nor give any charity to the poor. This example of altruism had a heart that was as cold as the gold, which he loved far more than his own beautiful daughter, who was both good and kindhearted.
One day the miser learned of the arrival of l'orco to the area. He sought him out and told l'orco: "If I do get very rich, I'll give you my daughter in marriage."
L'orco led the miser into the woods, pointed to spot, and said: "Herein lies a great treasure, but it is burried very deep. I'll dig the hole to get down to it, while you bring your daughter on a cart pulled by two oxen to me. Arrive around midnight. I should be done by then." This poor example of a father eagerly agreed to the terms for his daughter.
The miser headed home and gave the order to his daughter to prepare for her wedding. The girl began to weep in despair, for she knew she was be married to l'orco.
Meanwhile, l'orco dug and dug and dug. Down, down deep, he dug the pit with his hands, which were as big as two shovels. Just before midnight, l'orco reached his goal. He extracted the treasure from the earth, hauled it bag after bag up to the side of the pit. Then, he sat down to await the arrival of his future father-in-law.
The mother of the girl attempted to disuade her cold hearted husband against this marriage. Her repeated protests fell on deaf ears, until the miser finally ordered the woman to be silent and leave his presence.
So the young girl was dresed in finery by servants and loaded onto a cart pulled by two oxen.
However, the girl's mother hurried from the home and appealed to the faeries of the Hill of San Biagio (fate del Colle di San Biagio) for help--as her daughter had often helped them in washing clothes in the stream. Upon hearing about the girl's plight and her mother's petition, the good faeries (buone fate) traveled swiftly through the woods.
When the man arrived with the cart, he spied the l'orco and several bags full of ancient gold coins. The two greeted one another heartily, as good friends and gentlemen. The miser clinked gold coins as he touched them fondly.
The girl sat miserable and silent, wrapped in her shawl, upon the cart seat, as her father and l'orco talked. Taking advantage of the dark, the faeries managed to seize the daughter so that her unnatural father and l'orco did not even realize that she had suddenly vanished without a sound.
The miser and l'orco had already started loading some of the bags of gold into the cart, when they both suddenly realized that the bride was no longer there.
Angrily, l'orco reached to take back the bags of gold which had already been set on the cart, snarling at the miser, "No bride! No gold!"
The miser, however, defiantly blocked l'orco, saying, "A bargan is a bargan." Clinking the gold coins with his hands, and glaring back at l'orco, the miser continued, "I brought my daughter here! See, her shawl is still in the cart! It is not my fault that she wandered off!"
L'orco again growled hoarsely, "NO bride! NO gold!"
"Look for your bride in the woods," said the miser. "I am leaving with my gold."
They had a tremendous argument and physical altercation.
Eventually both the miser and l'orco--along with the treasure, the cart and both oxen--tummbled clinging to the car and the gold, down into the depths of that pit which had been dug by the hands of l'orco. Neither hide nor hair of them was ever seen again.
The people who live around the "Buca del Mare" have said that during the quiet of winter, one can sometimes hear distant, though furious shouting, the clink of gold coins, as well as the plaintive lowing of oxen, from that deep abyss. It seems the miser and l'orco are still arguing over the treasure.
See huomo selvatico under "H" in the ABC of Aradia and Other Subjects
Retold from L'Orco, Fiabe e leggende, accessed 6/29/13.
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