A to Z Reflections


I was glad to see my blog got more traffic for A to Z than last year, when this blog was still fairly new. It still has a ways to go in becoming more visible, but I’m hopeful it’ll continue to gradually gain new readers. I’ve also put a button on the top of my main blog’s sidebar, linking over here. Many of the regular readers of my primary blog simply haven’t known I have another blog, nor where to find it.

Writing, scheduling, and editing all my posts in advance was essential to successfully completing the Challenge. With the amount of planning and research which went into my posts, I never could’ve written them on the fly, in real time. It seems like a lot of people who drop out early, or never start in spite of having signed up, don’t understand the importance of doing this. All it takes is a little time each day, not hours and hours.

It’s always really disappointing to click on a link to a neat-sounding blog, and discover that person either never started the Challenge, or quit participating without an explanation or later attempt to make up for it. I’d guess many of these people never read the A to Z blog for advice and encouragement on how to stay on top of the Challenge and win.

I understand life gets in the way, but if you’re not really serious about seeing this through to the end, it seems pointless to sign up. You should bring your A game, and if you’re unable to finish, at least write your readers an explanation and/or apology. People want to know why you’ve stopped posting. It also seems kind of weird to announce your awesome theme, and then quit only a few posts in. How much planning and thought really went into this theme if you abandoned it so quickly?

People really want to help you! It pays to visit the A to Z blog, and the blogs of the co-hosts, so you can see how it’s done. It really doesn’t take much to write a post every day. You don’t need an elaborate theme requiring lots of research and 700-word posts. All you need is a good idea and lots of determination.

Recap of my A to Z posts:

Arrighetto and Ambruogia (29 views)
Beltramo and Beatrice (16 views)
Cassandrea and Cipolla (14 views)
Dioneo and Dianora (19 views)
Emilia and Ercolano (18 views)
Fiammetta and Filostrato (18 views)
Ghismunda and Gabriotto (17 views)
Hadrian and Hippolyta (12 views)
Isotta and Ishmael (7 views)
Jarogniew, Jezebel, and Jancofiore (12 views)
Kohinoor and Keith (16 views)
Lisetta and Landolfo (11 views)
Mithridanes and Mita (9 views)
Neifile and Nicostrato (8 views)
Oretta and Osbech (14 views)
Panfilo and Pampinea (14 views)
Qadir and Quadressa (11 views)
Rustico and Restituta (12 views)
Sismonda and Saladin (10 views)
Tedaldo and Teudelinga (8 views)
Usimbalda and Ughetto (11 views)
Violante and Vieri (11 views)
Wulfric and Wafiya (8 views)
Xiomara and Xochipilli (14 views)
Yumiko and Yaron (12 views)
Zinevra and Zima (16 views)

I have an idea for next year’s theme, though if it’s the theme I’m thinking ahead to, I’ll probably once again have to have a couple of wild card days.

Zinevra and Zima


Zinevra seems like an old Italian form of Genevra, a name which also appears in The Decameron as Ginevra (sixth story of the tenth day). It’s the Italian form of Guinevere, which is combined from the elements “fair, white” (gwen) and “smooth” (hwyfar). It may also be related to the Italian word ginepro, “juniper.”

Zinevra appears in the ninth story of the second day, as the unfairly accused wife of the foolish Bernabò da Genoa. Bernabò agrees to a ridiculous bet with his so-called friend Ambruogiuolo da Piacenza, and loses all his money when Ambruogiuolo tricks him into believing Zinevra has been unfaithful. Ambruogiuolo creeps into Zinevra’s bedroom when she’s sleeping naked, and finds a mole under her left breast, with six soft golden hairs around it. He takes some of Zinevra’s belongings before sneaking off.

Bernabò really was setting himself up to be a victim, the way he was so overly trusting of Ambruogiuolo and insistent about Zinevra’s absolute loyalty. Full of shame over losing his money and hearing the lie about Zinevra’s unfaithfulness, he orders a servant to murder her. The servant has pity on Zinevra and leaves her to escape with his clothes. Eventually, Zinevra finds her way to Alexandria and enters the service of the Sultan, under the male identity Sicurano da Finale.

Ambruogiuolo later comes to the city and makes friends with Sicurano/Zinevra, and she finally discovers just why Bernabò was so angry at her. She arranges for her poverty-stricken husband to come to Alexandria, and in the presence of the Sultan, Bernabò, and Ambruogiuolo, she reveals herself as a woman and exposes Ambruogiuolo as the liar and scoundrel he is. A very macabre just desserts are meted out, and the story closes with the awesome line, “And thus it was that the deceiver lay at the mercy of the deceived.”

Zima appears to be derived from Simon, whose original form is the Hebrew Shimon and which means “he has heard.” Though the word zima means “winter” in the Slavic languages, it doesn’t seem likely an Italian name in the Middle Ages would be derived from a Slavic root. However, in The Decameron, Zima’s real name is Ricciardo, with a nickname derived from azzimato, “ornately dressed; decked out in one’s best clothes.”

Zima appears in the fifth story of the third day, as he lusts after the wife of Messer Francesco Vergellesi, a knight of Pistoia. He’s unsuccessfully been courting the lady for quite some time, until one day he agrees to sell Francesco his prize horse from Tuscany. Zima only agrees to part with this precious horse on condition he be allowed some words with Francesco’s wife in Francesco’s presence. They’re sitting far enough away from Francesco to not be overheard, and though the lady doesn’t say a word, Zima sees a certain glint in her eyes and speaks what he believes is on her mind, as though she’s the one speaking.

Francesco is soon going to Milan to serve as podestà, and Zima tells the lady of a sign to let him know when the house will be empty. Once Francesco is gone, believing he’s got a true-blue wife, the lady realises Zima can sexually satisfy her far more than her husband, who won’t be back for a good six months. They finally become lovers, and even after Francesco returns, they continue discreetly enjoying themselves.

Violante and Vieri


Violante may be an alternate Italian form of Yolanda. The name is also found in Spanish and Portuguese. I’ve never personally cared for it, since it sounds too much like “violent,” but there was little choice as to my female V name, seeing as how near-impossible it is to find them in The Decameron. There are two Violantes, in the seventh story of the fifth day and the eighth story of the second day. I’m focusing on the Violante of the fifth day, whose theme is love stories which took an unhappy turn but then ended happily.

She’s the daughter of Messer Amerigo Abate da Trapani, a Sicilian nobleman. Among Messer Amerigo’s servants is Pietro, who came into his household as a young boy captured in Armenia by Genoese pirates. Among the Turkish peasant boys, Pietro (then called Teodoro) stands out because of his noble, handsome appearance, and is believed to have another origin. Baptised with the name Pietro, he grows up in Messer Amerigo’s household with his own children, entrusted with all Messer Amerigo’s most important affairs.

Messer Amerigo has a daughter named Violante, whom he hasn’t been in any hurry to marry off.  Naturally, Violante and Pietro fall in love and eventually reveal their feelings. While seeking shelter from a rainstorm one day, they consummate their love, and arrange to have many other rendezvous. They’re both horrified when Violante becomes pregnant, and is unable to succeed in numerous attempts to miscarry.

Violante confesses to her mother when her condition becomes impossible to hide, and makes up a story to avoid implicating Pietro. Her mother gives her a good tongue-lashing, but agrees to hide her in one of their country estates. As luck would have it, Messer Amerigo stops by after a hawking trip, right as Violante is giving birth. He’s completely incensed, and tells her she’ll die if she doesn’t name the father. Once the truth is out, Messer Amerigo orders Pietro put to death, and gives Violante the choice of suicide by dagger or poisoned wine. After this is done, he plans to smash his infant grandson’s head against a wall and then throw him to the dogs.

While Pietro is half-naked and being whipped on his way to the gallows, an important older man named Fineo notices a large, bright red birthmark on his chest, and is immediately reminded of a son whom he lost to kidnappers over 15 years ago. Fineo calls him Teodoro and speaks to him in Armenian, and the soldiers stop whipping Pietro out of respect for Fineo. Of course, Pietro says he’s Armenian and the son of a a man named Fineo. Once the story reaches Messer Amerigo, he regrets his cruel, unfatherly behaviour, and arranges with Fineo for the couple to be married.

Vieri is derived from Oliviero, the Italian form of Oliver. In spite of the Latinate meaning “olive tree,” the name may actually ultimately be derived from the Germanic name Alfher (elf army or elf warrior) or the Old Norse name Áleifr (ancestor’s descendant).

Vieri was the only male V name I could find in The Decameron, which was kind of a surprise, seeing as how it’s not the most rare letter for Italian names. There are no characters named Vittorio, Vincenzo, Vittore, Virgilio, nothing. As it turns out, he’s only mentioned in passing in the eighth story of the ninth day, and doesn’t even appear as a character.

Biondello is at the fish market, buying two huge lampreys for Messer Vieri de’ Cerchi, when an infamous glutton named Ciacco spies him and inquires into his business. Biondello lies he’s buying the fish for Messer Corso Donati, who already has a lot of other huge fish for a banquet but still doesn’t have enough to feed everyone. He then invites Ciacco to dinner, which is a big surprise to Messer Corso.

Dinner consists of chickpeas, tuna bellies, and fried fish from the Arno River. Ciacco is really pissed, but doesn’t let on to Biondello. Instead, he starts planning his own trick, which earns poor Biondello a good thrashing.

Usimbalda and Ughetto


Usimbalda is a name I can’t seem to find the etymology for, but my educated guess is that it might be an Italian feminine form of the Ancient Celtic name Cunobelinus. Most people are more familiar with the feminine form of the name as Cymbeline, though of course, Decameron author Giovanni Boccaccio predated Shakespeare by several centuries. Then again, Usimbalda could have a completely different etymology.

Abbess Usimbalda appears in the second story of the ninth day of The Decameron, one of numerous people of the cloth violating their vow of chastity in these 100 stories. The Abbess is in bed with a priest when some of her nuns come running to tell her they caught Sister Isabetta in bed with a man. Usimbalda has frequently had her priest brought into her bedroom in a chest, and is terrified he might be discovered because her nuns are beating on the door so violently.

In her haste and in the dark, Usimbalda mistakes the priest’s trousers for her psalters (a type of veil), and goes off to catch the guilty party. Isabetta is dragged off to the convent’s meeting hall, and Abbess Usimbalda excoriates her. During this tongue-lashing, Isabetta sees the trousers on the Mother Superior’s head, and repeatedly tells her to tie up her wimple before saying anything more. The other nuns then notice it too, and Usimbalda realises she’s busted. She then begins to talk much more sweetly, saying no one can resist the temptations of the flesh, but that it must be done discreetly.

Ughetto may possibly be a diminutive of Ugo, the Italian form of Hugo/Hugh, a Germanic name meaning “mind/spirit/heart.” He appears in the third story of the fourth day, whose theme is love stories which ended tragically.

N’Arnald Civada, a wealthy Marseille merchant of humble origins, has three daughters, 15-year-old twins Ninetta and Magdalena, and 14-year-old Bertella. Their arranged marriages have been delayed because N’Arnald is away on business, and in the interim, a young, poor nobleman named Restagnone falls in love with Ninetta. Restagnone has two wealthy friends, Ughetto and Folco, who fall in love with the other two sisters.

Restagnone schemes to get rich through them, and convinces them to go with the ladies to Crete. They live like royalty in Crete, but eventually Restagnone bores of Ninetta, and sets his sights on another woman. Ninetta’s depression turns to fury, and she poisons Restagnone. She’s discovered as a murderer and arrested, and later Ughetto and Folco are detained overnight by police, as a pretext for the Duke of Crete to secretly spend the night with Magdalena.

Ninetta has been released in exchange for this night with her sister, but Ughetto and Folco have been led to believe she was tied in a sack and thrown in the sea. While they’re trying to console their wives for the believed loss of their sister, Folco discovers Ninetta and refuses to believe Magdalena’s story. (It wasn’t previously stated which of the other two men marries which of the other sisters, but this makes it obvious Folco has married Magdalena, and thus Ughetto has married Bertella.) Folco is so furious over her adultery, he stabs Magdalena with his sword. He then flees with Ninetta.

The next morning, the murder is discovered, and the Duke of Crete has Ughetto and Bertella arrested. He forces them to make a false confession about how they, not just Folco, murdered Magdalena. Fearing for their lives, they escape by ship to Rhodes at night, living the rest of their short lives in poverty and misery.

Tedaldo and Teudelinga


Tedaldo appears to be an old form of Teobaldo, the Italian form of Theobald, an Ancient Germanic name meaning “bold people.” There are two Tedaldos in The Decameron, featuring in the third story of the second day and the seventh story of the third day. The Tedaldo in the latter story is the one I’m choosing to focus on, since he does so much more than the other Tedaldo.

Tedaldo degli Elisei of Florence has a lover, Madonna Ermellina, the wife of Aldobrandido Palermini. Their happiness comes to an unexplained halt one day, when, out of the blue, Ermellina argues with him and cuts off the affair. Tedaldo is very depressed for awhile, but when it becomes clear the affair is really over, he secretly moves to Ancona and assumes the name Filippo di San Lodeccio. In just a few years, he becomes a prosperous merchant.

Tedaldo is eventually seized by a strong desire to see Ermellina again, and so goes to Florence disguised as a pilgrim. He’s shocked to see all four of his brothers dressed in black, and discovers a man believed to be himself was recently murdered. Aldobrandido is awaiting the death penalty for the crime, which was supposedly committed after Aldobrandido discovered Tedaldo’s affair with Ermellina. Telaldo succeeds in discovering who the real criminals are, and frees Aldobrandido from Death. In so doing, he more than convinces Aldobrandido there’s no affair, though Tedaldo continues to enjoy himself with Ermellina. While Aldobrandido is still in jail, Tedaldo learns Ermellina spurned him because some friar excoriated her when she confessed her adultery.

Teudelinga is the Italian form of Theudelinda, which in turn is the Old Germanic form of Dietlinde and derived from the elements “people” (theud) and “tender/soft” (linde). Queen Theudelinda was a real person, the wife of King Agilulf of the Lombards and the daughter of Duke Garibald I of Bavaria. She lived from circa 570–628 CE.

In The Decameron, she features in the second story of the third day, one of my all-time favourites. One of King Agilulf’s grooms falls in love with Queen Teudelinga, and reaches the point where he feels he either must commit suicide for the sake of love, or risk Death by lying with the Queen. Never does he ever betray his burning lust, even during all the times they have close contact while riding.

This groom may be of low birth, but he’s tall, handsome, and intelligent. Thus, he’s able to figure out how to get away with impersonating the King by frequently hiding in one of the great halls of the palace. He observes how King Agilulf dresses and acts when he goes to the Queen’s bedchamber. After he finally realises his dream, he reluctantly takes his leave so he won’t tempt Fate too much.

Soon afterwards, as luck would have it, the King arrives at the Queen’s bedchamber, and she’s very much surprised to see him back so soon. Taking courage from his amiable mood, she asks what kind of novelty this is. The King immediately realises, based on what she says, that she’s been tricked by a man of similar appearance and build. However, being a very wise man, he says nothing. Instead, he goes to the servants’ quarters and feels everyone’s heartbeat. Once he finds the guilty party, he shears a lock of the groom’s hair. After the King leaves, the groom shears all the others. In the morning, it’s impossible to find the guilty party, so the King lets them off with a cryptic warning. He’s determined not to acquire great shame at the expense of trivial revenge by airing such personal business. The groom never tempts Fate again.