The birth of Guerino

The light of the sun and the moon both touched the earth the moment Guerino, the guardian of the city walls of Verona kept his head above water to gaze at the city walls.

Guerino was a strange creature, half animal, half water spirit. His pinkish white furry head and neck were comparable with the one of an Aries. His mermaidlike tail changed color depending on Guerino’s state of mind. Guerino was a peaceful, but lonely creature. No human had ever seen him, but several had heard him sing while crossing the river Adige via the ‘Ponte Pietra’. Guerino was a legend and said to have saved the city from all kinds of harm. Off course, one could only guess what he really looked like.

Guerino was born ages ago at a moment, just like this one. When the light of both the sun and the moon touched the earth simultaneously. A ray of moonshine touched the water surface of the river Adige and uncountable shades of color tones comingled with the liquid, thus creating Guerino.

When he was born, Verona was but a concept in his mind, a vision so clear that only reality, hundreds of years later could match it. At the time of his birth, there was only dry land alongside the river banks until the humans came to make Guerino’s dream come true and built the city, matching his vision.

Guerino however had to pay a high price for his dream as with humanity did not only come progress, but also misfortune and pain. Nevertheless, the love Guerino felt for them was endless and unconditional. Despite his old age and misfortunes, his heart remained pure and untouched. Guerino felt responsible and compelled to provide them with as many solutions as he possibly could.

The time had come for Guerino to search an ally amongst the humans living in Verona. He needed someone as pure as he was. He needed a child with an open mind and a pure heart for he could not possibly show himself to anyone not matching these conditions.

Leonardo walked alongside the river banks. His heart was heavy and his mind full of worries. Why couldn’t his parents understand that what they were doing was wrong? His father always told him Leonardo was too young to understand, but what was there to understand? Leonardo sighed as he looked at the death fish floating in the river. His father, who owned the factory responsible for the waste water pollution always told him that there was no other way, but Leonardo was convinced that there was.

While looking at the river, the colors of the water seemed to change.

Leonardo gasped for breath as he witnessed the changes. The water in the river turned to pink, yellow, blue, red, white…

Then, suddenly out of the blue, a colorful, friendly creature appeared and gazed at him curiously. Leonardo stuck out his hand and said.

‘Hello, I’m Leonardo, who are you?’

The creature looked at him. It didn’t say anything, but somehow, very mysteriously, Leonardo knew the answer in his head.

‘Are you Guerino, the guardian of the city walls of Verona?’

The creature kept looking at him and nodded slightly.

Leonardo gazed at Guerino, his eyes wide open.

‘But you are a legend. You are not real!’ he gasped, even though he wanted to believe.

The answer formed itself in his head.

‘I am real to you. That’s enough.’

Leonardo smiled at him.

‘I need your help!’ the creature said.

‘How can I help you?’ Leonardo said in a sad voice.

‘I’m only just a little boy.’

‘I see your heart is heavy, and so is mine.’

‘Is it because of the pollution?’

Guerino nodded.

Leonardo smiled sadly.

‘I’m sorry, but there is nothing I can do. My father won’t listen to me.’

‘But he might want to listen to me.’ Guerino answered.

A glimpse of hope appeared into Leonardo’s eyes.

‘Could you talk to him?’ he asked.

‘I could try. With your help.’

Leonardo cheered.

‘Come back with your father tomorrow, by nightfall. I will try to talk some sense into him.’

Leonardo nodded cheerfully and ran away from the place, only to come back hours later with

Gianluigi, his father. He had to come up with an excuse to drag his father along.

Gianluigi was reluctant at first but finally conceded to join him. He could guess what this was about, but there was no way back. The damage had been done and they had no choice but to make the best of it.

It didn’t take long before Guerino showed himself after Leonardo and Gianluigi both arrived at the outer banks of the river.

Gianluigi was shocked by the appearance of Guerino and stepped back. Leonardo however knew what was coming and introduced them.

‘Guerino?’ Gianluigi asked.

‘This can’t be. No one has ever seen him. He’s a legend. He’s not real.’ He blinked in order to convince himself that his eyes mislead him. But they did not. The creature everyone called Guerino was as real as anything else.

He looked at his son. ‘How have you…?’

‘I met him yesterday. Leonardo answered in a proud voice. Isn’t he amazing?’

His father nodded reluctantly, looking at Guerino. He was still not convinced.

‘Guerino wants to ask you something.’ Leonardo said.

‘Your father can’t hear me.’ Guerino said to Leonardo.

‘You will need to translate for me.’

Leonardo nodded.

‘I want to beg you to stop polluting the water.’

Leonardo’s father shrugged pitiful.

‘I can start filtering the waste water but there’s no way back. Harm has been done.’

‘Guerino can undo the harm,’ Leonardo said.

‘If you promise to stop polluting.’

Leonardo’s father smiled, a heavy weight seemed to have been lift off his shoulders.

‘Are you sure? Can you undo it?’

Guerino nodded.

‘Then I will have the filters installed as quickly as possible.  They will not cost me a fraction of the price for cleaning the polluted water. My business was in big trouble because of that.’

Leonardo smiled proudly for having found the solution to the problem.

As promised, Leonardo’s father installed the filters, Guerino cleaned the water and the business thrived again.


After that day, no human being ever saw Guerino again, but when you’re lucky and you cross the river Adige via the Ponte Pietra by nightfall, you can sometimes hear him sing…


(Story written by Johanna Dursin and based on ‘Veronafantasyriver’, an artwork by Vincent Messelier)