Azorean Legends: The Origin of the Lagoon of the Seven Cities

 

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Lagoon of the Seven Cities – Image by Abspires40 – CC BY 2.0

On the island of São Miguel in the archipelago of the Azores there are two lakes known as the Lagoon of the Seven Cities, or Lagoa das Sete Cidades,  in Portuguese,  They are an important source of fresh water and the largest body of water on the islands.  These two lakes are situated in the crater of a dormant volcano and are connected to each other by a natural narrow channel that today has a bridge over it.  Despite the connection, the twin lakes are ecologically different and a natural feature of the island landscape that have evolved a number of myths and legends to explain their origin.

Princess Antilia

A local legend tells that there was once a bad-tempered King whose wife had died and had been left to bring up his daughter named Antilia alone.  The King had greatly loved her mother and he doted upon his daughter.  When his wife had died he had almost exclusively taken on the care and upbringing of his daughter aided only by an elderly nurse.  He loved his daughter dearly and she was the source of all his pleasure and the pride and joy of his life and he wanted to keep her all for himself and kept her separate from other children and people.  Sadly, he would not let her speak or play with anyone else but him, or her nurse, who thought it a shame she could not mix and play with other children her own age.

Nevertheless, years passed by as years will do and the young princess grew into a beautiful young woman.  As a beautiful young woman, Antilia attracted the attention of many handsome young men, as beautiful young women will do.  Her father was jealous of their interest towards his daughter and seeking to keep her solely for himself banned her entirely from leaving the limits of his castle and grounds.  Antilia was disappointed with this ban because she was at an age when she wanted to be out and about exploring the world and making friends with young men and women of her own age.

Every day after his dinner at midday the King would fall asleep and spend rest of the afternoon snoring until evening came and it was time for tea. Every now and then, with the help of her old nurse, Antilia would escape the confines of the castle and its grounds and go and explore the towns and villages that surrounded the castle.  She loved these times of escape and each one seemed like an exciting adventure to her.

The Shepherd on the Hill

One day while she was venturing out along the country lanes she heard the most wonderful music and she followed the sound to see who was making it.  On a small hill, she discovered a young shepherd about her own age sat playing a flute.  Not wanting to disturb the music and perhaps because she was just a tiny bit shy of the handsome young man she hid behind a bush to listen to him play.  For many weeks after Antilia would continue to sneak out of the castle, but now she always made her way to the hill to hear the young man play upon his flute.  There she would hide in the bushes and listen enchanted to the wonderful music he made.

One day he caught her as she hid behind the bush and she feared he would be angry.  Instead, the young man had fallen head over heels in love with her at first sight and he told her so and they became friends and lovers.  From then on whenever Antilia escaped from the castle she made her way to the hill where the shepherd was waiting for her.  There he would play his flute and they would laugh and chat happily together.  In that happy place, they blossomed in the company of each other and one day the shepherd proposed marriage and she readily agreed.

The next day with the help of the old nurse, Antilia escaped the castle early in the morning and met up with her lover.  Together they went to the castle door and knocked loudly upon it.  A servant answered and when he saw who was there quickly went to fetch the King.  The King came to the door to see what was going on and found his beloved Antilia stood blushing and holding hands with a young man.  As the King glowered at him the young man summoned up his courage and nervously, but politely, asked him for his daughter’s hand in marriage.

The face of the glowering King turned red and then purple with rage pulling his daughter indoors and angrily ordering the young man off the castle grounds while slamming the door.  Once inside he berated Antilia and strictly forbade her ever to see or talk to him again threatening terrible retribution if she disobeyed.  Heartbroken, Antilia sobbed all through the rest of the day and all through the night.  In the morning the old nurse went to her and Antilia begged her to help her see her lover for one last time.  Together they went to the King and begged that Antilia may have one last meeting with her love to say goodbye.  After much begging and pleading the King reluctantly agreed.

River of Tears

The heartbroken couple met for the last time on the hill where she had found him playing his flute.  They sat down together and cried two rivers of bitter tears.  The rivers flowed down the hill and formed two beautiful lakes which reached out and connected with each other.  The tears from the green eyes of Princess Antilia formed a green lake and the tears from the blue eyes of her lover formed a blue lake.  The two lakes were united by a narrow channel of water, and are today known as Lagoon of the Seven Cities, or Lagoa das Sete Cidades and although the two lovers could not be together on earth their tears remained together so the world would not forget them.

© 21/09/2016 zteve t evans

References, Attributions and Further Reading

Copyright September 21st, 2016 zteve t evans

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2 thoughts on “Azorean Legends: The Origin of the Lagoon of the Seven Cities

  1. Where have you not been, at least figuratively speaking, Zteve? Do you have a Tardis or something? Thanks, as always, for broadening my perspective; I love how every culture has its stories, myths, and tales. And, more often than not, they express many, if not all, of the same ideals: truth, love, friendship, wonderment, and so on. If I could, I’d make everybody read all these legends on your site (and hope that they ‘got’ the interconnections of humanity)!

    • Hi Leigh, Well I have not actually been to the Azores but while I was researching another topic, I stumbled across a bunch of old folktales from there which I had never come across before and thought they deserved to be read. Thanks for commenting, appreciated!

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