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I was reading through the Decameron looking for a new story to tell. I’m partial to the Buffamaco / Caladrino / Bruno tales and hit the one where Buffamaco convinces Caladrino that he’s pregnant. (Day 9 Story 3) Now, I’m not the sort of storyteller who memorizes each piece of the story, I like to have a little flexibility and so, to use a fellow bard’s name (He’s Skamp Widegrin and does not appear to be in this group as I cannot link him), I’m a “story post” storyteller- I memorize what I consider the important pieces of the story, and walk down the path to the destination. Ok. moving along.

I’m listing out the important pieces and I come across this little tidbit. (and I’m paraphrasing because like I said, story post). Buffamaco tells Caladrino to “send a maid with his water” to their physician friend “who has that sign of a pumpkin.” And I’m thinking .. ok, urine sample to physician … physician comes back… Why a pumpkin? Is that important? Hmm, no … not really….

A quick google search later (something like “pumpkin symbolism decameron or italian renaissance”) and I find out that pumpkins, gourds and squashes are all italian renaissance symbols of fertility (probably all the seeds). So, Boccacio was foreshadowing to his audience with this reference, and yes, dangit, it really is an important element of the story.

But if I tell the story to a modern SCA audience, they will completely miss this reference. Do I give them an aside? Or do I skip it (to a modern listener, it’s an additional detail that detracts from the story)? Or do I substitute it with some other modern-recognized symbol of fertility? (“… the physician with the symbol of the rabbit… the physician with the symbol of the suburban…”)

I’m kind of leaning towards stopping the story, and giving an aside (because I’m Irish … something like “and ye may not know that in renaissance italy, that pumpkin meant fertility, it sure was being a surprise to meself! “)

Somethiing funny about that physician (Master Simone), {or maybe I skimmed too fast), but in other stories he’s called a melon head and his shop is on cucumber street. … He’s got all the melons and fertilities sewn up!

Anyway – how do you treat important signals to the medieval audience, that would go unnoticed by modern audiences?


Fern: the easiest way is “if you know what I mean wink”

Liz Cember: move your hands like you’re caressing your pregnant belly

Fern: and hip thrusts

Vince Conaway: “Send your water to the midwife”

Csenge: aside, maybe with a suggestive hand gesture and a wink

Michelle Hertz: Trust your audience

David Friedman: a pumpkin in context suggests the contours of a pregnant woman. Also note that pumpkins are new-world and this is a bad translation. They probably meant the white-flowered gourd.

Fern: “Composition in the moment”

Liz: “just say gourd.”

Vince: “original has mellone which is melon.”

Lynette Nusbacher: Melons, gourds and cucumbers are all Cucurbitaceae. The further back in history you go, the more interchangeable they become.