The Night the Animals Talked / La Serata gli Animali Hanno Parlato

November 16, 2022

Here is a charming Italian version of a Norwegian folktale that celebrates the miracle of Christmas.

The Night the Animals Talked

Near the town of Bethlehem lived a farmer named Guido and his wife, Giulia, who could not speak. Their few possessions consisted of an ox, a donkey, and two sheep. Their small house was made from mud and straw and they slept on a dirt floor. To keep warm at night, Guido would make a small fire from bits of twisted olive tree branches, then heat stones near the fire, which radiated  warmth  while  he  and  Giulia  slept.  During  the  day.  Guido  took  care  of  feeding  the animals, while Giulia spun the wool from the sheep and then wove it into cloaks and blankets to be sold in the town.

One day as they were making their way to town, Guido and Giulia saw a man leading a donkey on which a young woman rode. As they approached the man, Guido said good morning and Giulia nodded.

“Kind sir,” said the man, “do you have any water with you? My wife is very thirsty.”

Guido reached over to the side of his own donkey for a. leather pouch full of water and handed it to the man.

The man took the water and gave it to his wife to drink. Afterward he took a drink himself and handed what was left to Guido.

Then he asked, “How far is it to Bethlehem?”

Guido told him it was a half’ a day’s journey ahead. “Come, follow me,” offered Guido. “We are on our way there now to sell our blankets and cloaks.”

“Thank you,” said the man, “my wife and I are looking for a place to stay for the night in

Bethlehem.” So together they continued their journey to town.

Finally,  as the sky was  darkening,  they  reached  Bethlehem  and  they  parted  company. Guido and Giulia went to their usual spot in the town, outside a traveler’s inn, and set out their blankets and cloaks on the ground for people to see. Each time someone made a purchase, Giulia clapped her hands. It was getting late now, and Guido and Giulia packed up their things to make the journey home. The money they had made was needed to buy food and seeds.

As they were leaving, Guido saw the man he had guided into town earlier. Approaching him again, he said, “Did you find what you came here for?”

The man looked at him, shaking his head, and said, “Kind sir, I needed a room in the inn, but they are all taken, and my wife Mary is ‘with child.”

Guido could see that the man was very worried. “Wait here,” he said, “I will be right back,” and he quickly turned toward the inn. Meanwhile, Giulia, who had overheard this, felt sorry for the young woman. Unable to speak, she walked over and handed her a blanket to keep warm. The woman smiled and took the blanket, and Giulia thought that she was the most beautiful woman she had ever seen.

Guido returned and said, “The innkeeper is a friend of mine, he will let you stay in the stable behind the inn for the night.”

The man took Guido’s hand and said, “How can I ever thank you?”

“There is no need,” replied Guido, and he motioned them toward the stable.

The stable was as cold as a tomb. The man helped Mary off the donkey and with Giulia’s blanket over her shoulders guided her into the stable. Guido rushed about trying to find a few twigs and stones to make a fire. Giulia took the two donkeys into the stable, then she went outside to help Guido. They were so busy gathering twigs and stones that they did not realize how much time had passed.

As they made their way back to the stable, they noticed a bright star overhead, casting a warm glow below. It seemed to light up the stable. When they reached the stable door, their bundles fell from their arms as they stood in amazement. Before them knelt the beautiful woman, her face ringed with light. The man stood beside her. He too was bathed in soft light, and at his feet  lay a magnificent  child  wrapped  in Giulia’s  blanket.  Even  the donkeys seemed to glow in light, and their warm breath kept the stable warm.

Guido and Giulia slowly came closer. The Child seemed to smile at them, reaching out to touch them with His tiny hand. Then a strange thing happened. The donkeys raised their heads and spoke: “This is Jesus, the son of’ God. Do not fear, for He has come to do great things for all mankind.”

Guido was so taken aback by the animals talking that he was, for the moment, speechless, but then Giulia began to speak, saying, “Welcome, blessed Child.” When Guido heard his wife speak for the first time, he was overcome with joy, and both he and Giulia fell to their knees in prayer.

Then the donkeys spoke again: “Because of your kindness to Mary and Joseph, the Lord blesses you.”

Then Giulia and Guido understood why Giulia could now speak. “Go out and tell your neighbors that the Lord has come.”

Guido and Giulia did as the donkeys said, praising the Lord to everyone they met. In fact, for the rest of their lives, Guido and Giulia never stopped talking about the Christ Child.

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