January 20, 2022 5:37 pm

From Santa Compaña to Coco: this is how fantastic creatures are in danger of extinction (oblivion) ​​in Spain

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That we know so much about elves, pixies or trolls, but so little about gamusinos, the mice colored or of fish man of Liérganes It has a lot to do with the books that Spanish children have read for generations and with the preponderance of Anglo-Saxon culture over Iberian even in Spain. “Perhaps our popular traditions have not been given so much value and recognition, although not everything is the fault of the Anglo-Saxon world, which is true that it has managed to sell its own legendary bestiary very well thanks to its literature and cinema. The mythical creatures that have had the greatest prestige in Spain have been above all those that come from classical mythology, and against them the popular legendary beings have been in second place ”, explains the Gestas de España team.

This group of historical publishers is formed by Manuel Angel Cuenca Lopez, Fermín Valenzuela Sánchez and Gloria Cuenca López, who were born in Granada, attended the same school and lived their entire childhood a few streets away. Each of them followed a different professional trajectory (Fermín is a historian, Manuel Ángel is an officer of the Air Force and Gloria has a degree in Tourism and a degree in Fine Arts), but years later they met again in history, in a project aimed at the younger. His latest work is titled ‘Mythical creatures of Spain: field notebook’ (Edaf) and seeks to illuminate the darkest and most magical corners of the Peninsula. “We are fortunate that, despite everything, the stories of so many mythical beings of our own have survived,” says Manuel Ángel Cuenca López.

The team that makes up Gestas de España.
The team that makes up Gestas de España.

On the mountain, in the sea, in the grove, day or night, magical creatures like the Holy Company, El Niño Blanco, El Macho Lanú, El Tío del Bronze, El Descabezado, La Pantaruja or La Estadea add to the collective memory of Spain with legends based on real lines. “A good part of the creatures usually have a real base that has been forgotten over the centuries,” says Cuenca López, who puts for example the case of Aisha, the wife of Muley Hacen and mother of Boabdil the Boy who passed from history to legends. In the ‘Field Notebook’ it is noted that nowadays “if you meet her and you are a man, look away and never look at her, because you can lose your mind.”

In danger of oblivion

Book cover.
Book cover.

The legend of Aisha As a supernatural creature, it has survived in the oral memory of Andalusia, although most of these mythological beings orbit in the north of Spain, in that world with a Celtic aftertaste that Asturias, Galicia and Cantabria make up. “This may be because they have strongly preserved their popular traditions, and it would not be surprising if the landscape itself with its forests, mountains and coasts is a constant source of inspiration and a reminder of how mysterious nature continues to be”, this official of the Air Force. In this northern universe, beings like Anjana, a celestial lady of the typical Santander forest, shine (or darken, depending on the case); the Basajaun, a rural-looking Cyclops from the Basque region or the Busgosu, a kind of Asturian faun enemy of hunters.

The bestiary of forty creatures and legends has been compiled by the Gestas team from Spain after difficult research work, where there is no clear documentation and there is a lot of data from oral stories. “We have had to resort both to the stories they told us as children and to the stories that other people have collected. In addition, you had to be careful with the information because of a creature you could find several versions depending on who told it; or the other way around, that several creatures had a very similar history and it was necessary to look for the differences “, explains Cuenca López.

Given the forgetfulness of the homeland, the predominance of foreign literatures and the enormous dependence of these legends on oral history, it can be said that all these mythical creatures are in danger of extinction. «There are some that have managed to gain a foothold and are well known such as the coconut and the gamusinos at the national or even regional level, but in the great major they are already being totally relegated, such as the malismos or the Trentis, as the people who he was in charge of keeping his memory and transmitting it to the new generations ”, he assures.

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