The Monaciello (IPA: [monaˈʃjelːə]) or Munaciello (IPA: [munaˈʃjelːə]; meaning "little Monk" in Neapolitan) is a fairy of the tradition of Naples, Italy. He is usually depicted as a short thick kind of little man dressed in the long garments of a monk with a broad brimmed hat.
The tradition of the Monaciello seems to pertain exclusively to that portion of Southern Italy consisting of Naples and its surroundings. According to the tradition, the precise place where it dwells does not appear to be accurately known; but it is reasonably supposed to be in some of those remains of Abbeys and Monasteries that crown many of the hills of this area. He is an expert in the underground passages of Naples, and goes through them in order to attend old palaces and of course causes much annoyance. The Villa Gallo at Naples is said to be haunted by one of these gentlemen. He is also fond of playing tricks: to pull clothes off people, to steal quilts from bedrooms, to harass housewives.
The Monaciello is also thought to be a beneficent spirit; he appears to people always at the dead of night, only to those who are in sorest need, who themselves have done all that they could do to prevent or alleviate the distress that had befallen them, and after all human aid had failed. He mutely beckons to them to follow him. If they have courage to do so, he leads them to some place where treasure is concealed, stipulating no conditions for its expenditure, demanding no promise of repayment, exacting no duty or service in return; it is not known if this treasures are the fruits of ill-got gains or the fruits of peaceful industry treasured up for occasions of love and charity. Several are said to have made sudden fortunes through him, and hence when anyone has had a sudden increase of fortune they say "Forse avrà il Monaciello in casa" (perhaps he has had the little Monk in his house).
This beneficent household demon may also be propitiated by food which they expect to see converted into gold; but he must not boast of such supernatural gifts, else they vanish as they come. It is believed that treasure suffices for the requirements of those who received it.
The habits of this Monaciello are similar to those of the water carrier in ancient Naples. There were a lot of tunnels that connected all the wells in town and the water carriers had to be short people in order to pass through them. By mean of these tunnels, they had access to most houses, and also their overalls resembled the garments of the monks.
In popular culture
In the book The King of Mulberry Street by Donna Jo Napoli, the character Dom (Beniamino), as well as his mother and grandmother, mention the Monaciello, saying he is a kind trickster and protector of children.
- This article incorporates text from this source, which is in the public domain: Keightley, Thomas (1833). The fairy mythology: illustrative of the romance and superstition of various countries. 2. Whittaker, Treacher and co. pp. 236–238.
- This article incorporates text from this source, which is in the public domain: Maclaren, Archibald (1857). The fairy family: a series of ballads & metrical tales illustrating the fairy mythology of Europe. Longman, Brown, Green, Longmans, & Roberts. pp. 79–80.
- This article incorporates text from this source, which is in the public domain: Ramage, Craufurd Tait (1866). "Wanderings Through Italy In Search Of Its Ancient Remains". The New Monthly Magazine. Vol. 137. E. W. Allen. p. 200.
- The legend of the "Monaciello" in Napoli Sotterranea (Naples Underground).