Spanish Folklore – Ancient myths and legends

Every country has its fair share of folktales and legends with Spain certainly not being the exception. This ancient country is a land filled with many traditional Spanish myths and legends, filled to the brim with rich history. 

Spanish mythology has evolved over many thousands of years into what it is today. However, many legends are incredibly old and have withstood the test of time still being told and celebrated to this day. Many of the legends were created from the different cultures Spain interacted with in the past, combining into unique tales. 

These stories have been passed down from generation to generation becoming a solid part of the Spanish culture over time. These are some of our favourite myths and legends in Spain.

Traditional Spanish folktales

Spanish folktales cover almost everything from the origin of saints and cities to monsters and other various impish creatures. 

How Barcelona Got Its Name

One of the more famous stories involves the origin of Barcelona. Collectively, many Spaniards agree that the premise of this story involves the famous Greek hero Hercules. It is said that he journeyed from Greece with a fleet of nine ships on an expedition around the Mediterranian. However, during his journey the ninth ship of his fleet was lost at sea, vanishing without a trace.

The remaining vessels set off on a quest to try to discover the whereabouts of the ship that had mysteriously disappeared. Eventually, after deciding to continue the search on the surrounding coastline they found the ship which was wrecked at the base of a large hill. 

The crew of the other ships and Hercules himself found the area to be of great beauty and decided to name it Barca (Meaning boat) Nona (Which stood for ninth). Commemorating the lost ship and its sailors. 

Of course, there is no evidence to aid the legitimacy of this story but it still remains a famous tale to this day. 

The Legend of Saint George and His Princess

Another famous myth in Spain is that of the legend of Saint George, who is known as San Jorge in Spain. 

It is said that many hundreds of years ago there lived a dragon in the region of Montblanc who extorted tribute from the villages that surrounded the area. 

As time went on, the villagers eventually ran out of livestock and trinkets to give as tribute to the dragon. As a result, the dragon flew into a rage and threatened to destroy all the villages. 

The villagers of these small hamlets decided it would be best for them to instead offer a sacrifice at random to the dragon at certain times of the year. This became widely accepted as the norm, until one unfortunate occasion when the princess of the land was chosen to be the next sacrifice. 

She was well-loved by the people and many offered to take her place. She, however, refused and took responsibility for the fate that was bestowed upon her.

The princess was sent to the dragon but before she could be eaten a gallant knight appeared to fight the monstrous serpent. Ultimately the knight won the battle. From the ground where the dragon’s blood was spilled a single rose blossomed which the knight (who was Saint George) plucked and presented to the princess. 

This story gave rise to the celebrations that take place every year on the 23rd of April where Spaniards dance and celebrate in the streets of the cities. It is traditional for the men to present roses to the women that they love on this day.

This celebration is widely adored by the public even to this day, as it has been for hundreds of years.

Tales of Spanish monsters

Cultures around the world almost always contain certain myths and legends that inspire fear and terror into those that hear it. More often than not these stories were created from unexplained events that over time grew into beliefs about terrifying monsters. 

The legend of El Coco

Arguably, the most infamous of these myths is that of El Coco. This story is synonymous with those of the boogeyman. The exploits and tales of this monster are often told to naughty and misbehaving children. 

It is said that El Coco would kidnap or eat children that were troublemakers and disobeyed their parents’ wishes, snatching them from their beds while they were asleep.

Spaniards often say that El Coco stalks the city streets in the twilight hours of the night with a large blackened bag looking for his next victims. 

Many agree that the story was actually given rise by a man known as Francesco Ortega who lived a few centuries back. This man was convinced to drink the blood of children after a folk healer told him it would cure him of his tuberculosis. Truly a very creepy legend!

The El Duende legend

Another myth is that of the Duendes, which are known to look like little imp-like beings. Many believe that they are mischievous and malevolent spirits that infiltrate the homes of people and revel in wreaking havoc and chaos. 

However, there are also many Spaniards and Central Americans who believe that they are also capable of spontaneous and random acts of kindness such as leading lost hikers or children to safety. Many people believe to this day that Duendes actually exist and excel at hiding from the general population.

Other traditional myths in Spain

Out of the many Spanish myths, there are a few that correlate with other myths from around the world, such as the belief in Ratoncito Perez. This myth is also referred to as the Perez Mouse. It was created by a writer back in the late 1800s for a child prince, the son of the King of Spain at the time. 

The story was about a small mouse who lived in a large box of biscuits with his entire family in the city of Madrid. They used the pipes and tunnels in the city to reach the bedrooms of children who had recently lost their teeth. This was a story very similar to that of the tooth fairy and has since been adapted into many other novels, literature and movies. 

The original story was so popular that the city council of Madrid commissioned a plaque to be made and placed in the city that states Ratoncito Perez lived there.

In conclusion

Spain is a truly vibrant country with a rich culture absolutely filled with stories that range from gallant heroes and helpful sprites to spooky monsters and formidable dragons. There is always something new and exciting to learn about this wonderful place. 

We recommend that you take the time to explore the country and learn about its colourful past and traditional folktales!

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