The Uncanny Walnut Tree in Benevento

Charles Godfrey Leland in Etruscan Roman Remains in Popular Tradition (1892) p.192-193, recorded a version of the Italian folktale of a hunchback loosing his hump at the "Walnut-Tree of Benevento." He gives the name of the man as Lambertus Alutarius and he is so changed that his wife does not recognize him upon his return home. There is no mention of a brother in Leland's version.
"There was a man named Lambertus Alutarius, who was a hunch-back, gay and cheerful, popular with everybody. One night, returning home by the light of the moon, he passed near the great Walnut-Tree of Benevento. There he saw a great assembly of people, men and women, in fine array, dancing and singing, jolly as sand-boys--but their song was strange and somewhat monotonous, for it was merely:--
"'Ben venga it Giovedi e Venerdi.'
("'Welcome Thursday and Friday!')
Thinking they were a party of reapers--putans esse messores--by way of helping them on, Lambert, catching the tune, sang in rhythm:--
"'E lo Sabato, e la Domenica.'
("'And Saturday-Sunday too.')
Which was so well done that the dancers all burst out laughing, and feeling respect for such an admirable poet, pulled him out, made him dance and feast with them. And then a merry devil" (PIPERNUS calls him a diabolus, but he must have been a jolly one) "jumped up behind, and with one tremendous jerk, which was like drawing a tooth, causing great but momentary pain--intenso sed molnentaneo dolore--took away his hump. At which Lambert screamed out, O JESU, Virgo MARIA! when the whole spuk, or enchantment, vanished--lights, plate, dishes, all the splendour and glory of the festival had gone. Still Lambert had not exactly the feeling of one who treads alone some banquet hall deserted--for the hump had gone too with all the witches, and he found himself a magnificently tall, straight figure;--when witches do do a thing, they 'does it handsome,' as a certain 'unfortunate nobleman ' was in the habit of saying.

"He went home and knocked in the early dawn, while it was three-quarters dark, and la signora Lambert looking out bade him begone. Quis est iste temerarius?--'Who is that cheeky vagabond?' was her indignant cry. Lambertus tuus--"Thy Lambert!' he replied. 'The voice indeed is Lambert's,' she answered, 'but you're not the man.' And then alia voce proclamans--raising a row--she called in all the neighbours and relations, who, after duly examining him and listening with awe and delight to his tale of the adventure by the great Walnut-Tree, passed him on as all right...."

--exerted from CHAPTER X of Charles Godfrey Leland's Etruscan Roman Remains in Popular Tradition (1892).

For a different version of this tale see "The Two Hunchbacks and the Walnut Tree."

Charles Godfrey Leland, in Etruscan Roman Remains in Popular Tradition (1892) p.191, also recorded this tale about the enspelled walnut tree in Benevento.

"The country of Benevento is in the Romagna, and that is the real posto delle streghe, or witch meeting place. One evening a gentleman went to walk with his daughter whom he adored. And as they passed under a walnut-tree, and there were so many fine nuts, she desired to eat of them. But hardly had she eaten one when she felt herself ill, alla stomaco, and went at once home, and to bed. And all her family were in despair, because they loved her tenderly.

"Nor was it long before they saw her body increasing in size, and thought she was incinta, or with child, and began to treat her harshly, till at the end of nine months she gave birth to a little lamb; it was very beautiful, and her parents knew not what to think of this phenomenon. And they questioned her closely as to whether she had ever had a lover, but she swore this had never been the case, and knew nothing beyond this--that she felt ill after having eaten the walnut.

"Then the father took his daughter to the tree, and she ate another nut; when all at once the tree vanished, and there appeared an old witch, who touched the lamb, when it became a handsome young man, and the witch said, 'This is the lover whom you would not permit your daughter to marry. I by my sorcery made him enter and leave her (sortire dalle sue viscere), and so shall she be compelled to wed him.'"

--exerted from CHAPTER X of Charles Godfrey Leland's Etruscan Roman Remains in Popular Tradition (1892).

The Two Hunchbacks and the Walnut Tree
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