Valvasone’s literary prey
Famous Italian writer Pier Paolo Pasolini, born in Casarsa, Friuli-Venezia Giulia, once made up an interesting fable set in Valvasone (known as Valvasone Arzene since 2015), in the province of Pordenone, to explain the second Latin declension – the one ending in -us, -er, -um – to the middle-school pupils he taught between 1947 and 1949.
“’Once upon a time, there was a monster called Userum’… The monster demanded human victims from the village (girls and boys) to devour, until a knight (a generous young man) confronted and killed it. He had a hard time because the monster split into three: Us dived into the lake; Er hid in the forest; and Um climbed up the rocks. I mixed the legend of Saint George, Ariosto, the duel between the Horatii and the Curiatii: it was some piece of machinery. But it was useful, because quickly and without adding further expressiveness (since I had already been “acting” in telling the story) I declared that Us was ‘amicus’, Er ‘puer’, and Um ‘donum’. The whole monster was the second declension, and I was the young man who would save them, boys and girls, from any sacrifice” (P.P. Pasolini, “Dal diario di un insegnante”, published in “Il Mattino del Popolo”, February 29, 1948).
The beautiful village of Valvasone had been home to another man of letters, born there four centuries before Pasolini’s time: Erasmo of Valvasone, mostly known for two short poems, the “Angeleide” (which Milton consulted feverishly when writing his “Paradise Lost”) and “La caccia”, dedicated to the art of hunting.
From terrible monsters to simple game, we can say Valvasone has had its share of literary prey.