One of the things I love about Italy and the Italian language is that there are so many ways to describe emotions… particularly when you feel out of sorts…stranito to mean “feeling a little off” or “weird” is one of my favorites. Of course, Trieste not only has a word, but a whole character and story to describe that feeling. When you happen to be in a bad mood, tense, grumpy, or annoyed during the day or, when you can’t sleep at night, in Trieste they say “Cos’te ga, el cinciut?” (did the Cinciùt get to you?) Thanks to my Triestine friend and unofficial guide, Tiziana Bizjak, I was pointed to Cristina Marsi’s blog which talks briefly about the now out-of-print children’s book “FIABE E LEGGENDE TRADIZIONALI DI TRIESTE PER I PIU’ PICCOLI” (Traditional Fairytales and myths of Trieste for Youngsters) in which there is a story featuring El Cinciùt (el cheen-choot). Here below, is my translation of this straight-up terrifying children’s tale (it’s remarkable that anyone, least of all children, get any sleep after hearing this story)!
In Trieste, the nightmare is personified by El Cinciùt, a mean spirited elf who adores disturbing our sleep. The Cinciùt is half man, half beast with a hunched back. He has long claw-like fingers and a long pointed nose and enormous feet. He silently sneaks into your room at night and then, without warning, jumps onto the bed stomping his feet on your stomach, pressing down on your chest with his terrible claws and pressing his long feet around your throat.
Needless to say, if you are visited by the Cinciùt you will dream that you are dying, or choking — you will feel as though someone has thrown you to the ground and is trying to squeeze the life out of you or that you are trapped under an enormous weight. And if you are lucky, that feeling of suffocation will subside when you awaken and only then will you be able to draw a breath…
It is said that if you are able to quickly throw your covers over the Cinciùt, he will then be magically transformed into something tiny, like a match or a ruby or some other small object and he will start crying and begging for mercy. But don’t be fooled! You need to beat him up because that’s how you will discover who sent you the Cinciùt; for that person will carry the bruises of the beating and that’s how you’ll know who sent you this terrible beast. Or you can spare the Cinciùt but you MUST order him to return the next day and to ask to borrow your broom. It is certain that the person who sent the Cinciùt will show up to ask to borrow your broom and that’s when you can deliver him (or her) the well-deserved beating.
I often hear, especially in the summer months, when the heat is oppressive, people saying that they had a sleepless night or are in a foul mood and they blame the Cinciùt – if it’s anything like the story says, then certainly, an encounter of this kind would leave anyone feeling out of sorts!!