The Baron’s Ghost or The Castle of Galtellì

I received another rejection from a prospect agent, and I have another tale for you. It’s an original translation from one of the folktales collected by Grazia Deledda, and this time is free for everybody. You can read it here or on the Patreon. Enjoy! The Castle of Galtellì One night last December I spent […]

I received another rejection from a prospect agent, and I have another tale for you. It’s an original translation from one of the folktales collected by Grazia Deledda, and this time is free for everybody. You can read it here or on the Patreon.


The Castle of Galtellì

One night last December I spent more than two hours listening attentively to a woman from Orosei telling me the legends of the Castle of Galtellì.

Her passion was so sincere and her conviction so ingrained that I often stared at her with an indefinable thrill, wondering if, by any chance, these bizarre supernatural stories from peoples’ cottages might not have a foundation, something true beneath them.

The Castle of Galtellì – the Civitas Galtellina, at other times so flourishing and populated, now decayed into a miserable village – is entirely destroyed; only the black and desolate ruins remain, dominating the sad village, mute and severe in the mysterious landscape.

Legend surrounds those gloomy ruins with a magical aura of strange beliefs, among which the main one is that the last Baron, or rather his spirit, watches over the castle’s ruins day and night, guarding its hidden treasures.

In the daytime he is invisible, but in the night, whether calm or stormy, those who venture to visit the ruins see the Baron wandering slowly, around and around, roaming through the brambles and boulders, or skirting the black walls, reminiscing the lavish days of his existence. He is young still, sad in the face, dressed according to the mediaeval fashion, with the sword at his side and his neck encircled by the fluffy collar of quilted lettuce. What fate has doomed him to wander thus, for centuries and centuries, among the ruins of his superb manor, which once had seen days of gladness and splendid power? It is not known; perhaps an excommunication of the pope, perhaps a particular curse. Besides him, it is believed that other spirits, still in human form, exist in the castle, wander in subterranean rooms, but never come out.

It is the family of the last Baron: his wife, daughter, son-in-law and a grandson born, the latter, in the strange way I will tell later.

As in Castel Doria, it is said that here too there is an underground tunnel; however, this leads very far, as far as the castles in the south of the island, as far as Cagliari indeed, crossing great ranges of mountains, rivers and plains.

The Baron’s spirit is meek and generous. He has never harmed anyone; on the contrary, he has often benefited the poor.

Once, a wretched village peasant was returning from the countryside with a bundle of wood on his shoulders, night overtook him while he was on his way, and he stopped for a moment at the foot of the castle ruins. The night was very cold, but the moon was shining brightly, and the farmer could make out a gentleman walking on the nearby heights. Curious and brave, the farmer climbed a little higher and looked at this bizarre gentleman who walked so quietly in such a place and while the night was so cold.

The gentleman then noticed him and stopped. He was blond and suave of face, with two large glassy, misty eyes, bathed in the pain of an eternal sadness. “Who are you?” asked the traveller softly. Evading to answer, he looked fixedly at the bundle of wood the farmer had laid in the path, and said, “My daughter and wife are so cold, so cold! Will you give me your wood?…”

“And why not?” exclaimed the other, conquered by the fine manners of the mysterious gentleman. And he carried the bundle to the ruins, and did not want to accept the small reward the lord wanted to give him.

But a short time later everyone in the village saw a surprising thing. The poor peasant was buying land, houses, pastures and spending money like a rich man. In a short time he became the wealthiest man in the village, and to get rid of the reputation of being a thief, he had to reveal the truth. After the first night he had returned many times to the castle and had provided wood throughout all winter for the invisible spirits inhabiting those ruins. In return the Baron had given him many and many bags full of gold.

The legend or the tradition of the Baron’s grandson, which seems very recent, is narrated as follows.

One night a woman of the village heard knocking at her door, and opening it she saw a knight magnificently dressed, who said to her, “Quick, come with me. You are needed!”

She, who was very poor and found very few opportunities to try her luck, didn’t need to be told twice. She dressed in her tunic and followed the knight, who walked quickly ahead of her without making the slightest noise. They went through the village and out into the countryside. The woman, growing restless, asked:

“Where are you leading me, Monsignor?”

“Come and fear nothing!” he replied. His voice was so gentle and suave that the woman was reassured and continued to follow him in silence. The knight led her to the ruins of the castle and, taking her by the hand, he ushered her into the underground halls of the legend.

These halls were a splendour of luxury and magnificence. Covered with tapestries and curtains of brocade, furnished as Heaven must be furnished, they were illuminated by large candelabra of gold and precious pearls. In one of them was a very rich bed, and on it lay a very pale and beautiful young lady, in cruel suffering. Another lady, older, beautiful and suave as well, attended her, and a young knight went desperately from one end of the hall to the other.

Later, the woman presented a beautiful little son, sunk among ribbons and lace, saying to the elder lady:

“Here is a gracious gift!”

But the lady, having kissed the child, smiled sadly and replied, “But he is not of your world, good woman!…”

Having finished everything, the old knight took the woman by the hand again, led her outside and accompanied her back to her house. Left alone, she marvelled at how she had not been rewarded by those strange people, but the next morning, opening the door, she found on the threshold a large bag full of golden coins.

“For that,” concluded the woman who told me the legends of the castle of Galtellì, “for that now that woman’s descendants are among the richest in the country.”

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