Folktales and legends in Spain

Hello everyone,

Time to spark your imagination! Below is a list of questions to pique your interest in folktales and legends associated with Spain.

1. Name 3 popular legends that have been passed down from generation to generation in Spain.
2. Name 2 famous legendary, heroic characters part of Spanish folklore.
3. Which are the villains which feature in local folktales?
4. Have any legends/folktales led to common superstitious beliefs or practices observed today in Spain?
5. Have you come across any folktale with a message which has struck you as interesting?

Thanks for participating,

Not exactly what you asked for but, I think, in the same spirit.

I live in a small village called Culebrón. The village name is derived from one of the Spanish words for snake, culebra. At times words can be "made bigger" with the ending -ón so culebrón means big snake. I found out the other day that there is a legend about the big snakes.

So, the tradition says that big hairy snakes, culebrones, go about, generally by night. These wild hairy snakes would attack carters and walkers going so far as to eat some of them. The snakes were generally supposed to live in warrens. One of their principle tasks was to guard buried treasure. Carters and walkers were advised to stay away from places where warrens and treasure coincided.

In order to feed themselves the giant snakes, the culebrones, culebrón is the singular form, would attract and ensnare prey with their gaze. They could do this even at a distance. When a culebrón was hungry it was big enough to eat animals whole because it had such a huge gut. But it wasn't all about killing. Where there was a good supply of food the culebrones had another trick. They could attract cattle with their tail and then suckle on their milk; the culebrones were partial to a nice drop of milk. They also ate smaller animals like farmyard chickens and geese. This could, too, be an explanation for the disappearance of so many of our cats. When the snakes were satiated they'd often have a bit of a kip in the grassland or stubble before moving on, underground, to pastures new.

Culebrones were, as mentioned above, adept at guarding treasure. I don't think we're talking about Blackbeard type, X marks the spot treasure here but more about someone keeping their money safe by burying it in a clay pot in the back garden. Anyway, within forty days of burying their stash people could be reasonably sure that it would attract a culebrón. So, if the owner wanted to recover the hoard without ending up inside the snake's belly, the trick was to sprinkle the ground with the local version of potcheen or moonshine, called aguardiente. The drunken snakes were inept security guards.

Now in just the same way as wealth attracted the culebrones it was said that anyone who kept a culebrón would become rich and prosperous. Domesticating a culebrón wasn't that easy. First you had to pull the three longest hairs from a wild culebrón. That done the three hairs had to be placed in a tureen of milk. The hairs would come to life and grow. After a while, the strongest of the three would devour the other two. In time the victorious hair would grow to be a full blown culebrón. The owner had to keep a milk cow for the sole purpose of providing milk for the culebrón. What's more the owner had the annual obligation to kill an animal, or if the owner preferred a family member or relative, to feed to the snake. Whether it was a baa lamb or great uncle Edgar the blood had to be spilled in a place known only to the owner and the culebrón. These duties were sacrosanct, absolutely essential. If the culebrón keeper were to neglect this duty he or she could expect to fall into abject poverty and maybe end up as prey for the culebrón. There was another downside to this arrangement as a way of getting rich. It signalled to the devil that the owner was greedy and open to deals. Buying the soul of a culebrón breeder was easy meat for the devil. Anyone that keen to get rich would almost certainly be quick to sell his or her soul in return for earthly rewards at the risk of an eternity in purgatory.

I wrote about this for my blog. I know that admin won't allow links to blogs but it is hosted on this site and, reasonably enough, as I live in Culebrón, that word features in the title. Have a look in the latest blogs section.

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