During his time in Spain, Prosper Mérimée was introduced to a number of current superstitions by his traveling companion Vicente. This worthy Valencian informed him of certain animalitos, “little animals”, available for purchase in France from unscrupulous sorcerers.
Nobody knows what they look like save that they are tiny animals that live in reeds. The notorious embellisher Dubois gives them dog mouths and lizard heads. The reed an animalito lives in is sold with a knot in one end and a sturdy cork in the other.
Animalitos are magical beings, capable of granting their owners any wish, any request they desire. Napoleon had one of these imps with him, which prevented him from being killed while in Spain. Only silver bullets can harm those protected by an animalito.
In return for their services, the animalitos request a steep price. They have to be fed every 24 hours. They crave the flesh of unbaptized children, and if that is not available (as is often the case), their master has to cut a piece of flesh from his or her own body. Vicente recounts the tale of an old friend, Romero the footman, who cured his lung disease with the help of animalitos. Now he can run from Valencia to Murcia without breaking a sweat, but his bones show through his skin, his eyes are sunken…
The animalitos are eating him alive.
Dubois, P.; Sabatier, C.; and Sabatier, R. (1992) La Grande Encyclopédie des Lutins. Hoëbeke, Paris.
Mérimée, P. Les Sorcières Espagnoles. In Mérimée, P. (1873) Dernières Nouvelles de Prosper Mérimée. Michel Lévy Frères, Paris.