Azorean Folktales: The Legend of Lagoa das Furnas

The Legend of Lagoa das Furnas

The Azores are a Group of Portuguese islands situated roughly in the middle of the North Atlantic Ocean. Over the centuries the people evolved their own folklore and traditions that explain certain aspects and features of volcanic landscape.  Lagoa das Furnas (Pond or lake fire) is an volcanic crater, or caldera where local people use natural geothermal steam vents, mud pots, geysers and earth ovens to cook food and for health and recreational purposes.  Dishes such as Cozido das Furnas or Furnace Stew are offered in local restaurants. Presented here is a legend that tells of the disappearance of a village at Lagoa das Furnas on the island of São Migue and explains the origin of these geothermal features.

The Village

The legend tells that there was once a beautiful village where the people were very happy.  Life was so good that they needed to spend little time in working to make a living so they spent most of their hours celebrating and holding big parties.

One glorious morning when the sun was shining and the skies were blue one of the boys of the village went to a nearby lake to draw water for the family household tasks and to give to their animals.  When he had drew some he drank some himself to quench his own thirst but noticed that the water had an unusual salty taste when it normally was fresh and clean.  The boy then experienced a terrifying vision of disaster. This worried him greatly and ran home to tell the villagers and seek their advice.  When he ran into the village waving and shouting about the water the villagers were in the middle of another celebration and were in no mood to listen to him.  Instead they told him he must be having a fit of some kind and carried on with their fun dismissing him as being wrong in the head.

Indeed, no disaster materialized and a few days later the boy returned to the well once again.   Going to the east end of the lake where he normally drew water he dipped his buckets into the lake but to his surprise fish began to jump out of the lake to lay gasping and dying on its shores.  The shocked boy was now fully convinced that something dreadful was going to happen so he ran back home to warn his family and the villagers about what he had seen.  Again the people were busy celebrating and no one took any notice of him, but this time, his grandfather who knew the boy very well did.

His grandfather warned the villagers to stop their celebrations.  He wanted to send the fastest runners in the village to the highest peaks to look all about to see if anything unusual was happening.  From the heights they could look to the north over the sea to see if it was calm or rough or if any bad weather was approaching. They could also look inland over the hills to see if anything was amiss.  The villagers laughed at the old man and carried on with their celebrations and the runners were not sent. As no one would listen the old man decided he would go himself to the highest mountain to see what he would see and along with his grandson he climbed the very highest peak.

The Island of the Seven Cities

At the top the old man and his grandson looked out over the sea and could see great mists on the horizon and emerging from the mists a new land could be seen rising from the sea.  The old man knew this was the Island of the Seven Cities. This frightened him greatly and he and his grandson hurried back to the village to warn the villagers shouting at them to take shelter in the church.  The villagers were still busy having fun and celebrating and the music was so loud no one hear them. Those that did laughed at him or just ignored him.

Two days passed and no disaster came and nothing untoward at all happened. Nevertheless, the boy and his grandfather still remembered what they had seen on the mountaintop as they looked out over the sea.  The old man decided they would take their animals to the market at a nearby town. So they drove their animals to town and spent a few days bargaining and negotiating good prices.  With all business complete they decided to return to their home to the village.

As they approached the village along the same path they had left by they became aware that things were different.  The landscape had changed. There were new hills and mountains and when they reached the place where their village should have been they were shocked and frightened to see that it had gone.  In its place was a lagoon of clear water that bubbled volcanic gas.

Cooking Cornbread

Today the local people will tell you that the people of the lost village continue to live underneath the waters of the lagoon.  The bubbles in the lagoon are when the people are doing their cooking under the lake and the smoke that rises at times from the water is from the cooking pans of the people.  The smell is when they are cooking cornbread in the hidden crevices of the lagoon.

© 02/05/2018 zteve t evans

References, Attributions and Further Reading

Copyright 2nd May 2018 zteve t evans

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In Search of Five Fabled Islands

Published on  #FolkloreThursday.com under the title Five Legendary Islands in Folklore by zteve t evans

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Theatrum Orbis Terrarum – By Abraham Ortelius (1527 – 1598) – Public Domain

Five Fabled Islands

Hy-Brasil, Buyan, Saint Brendan’s Isle, the Island of Antillia, and the Isle of Avalon are five fabled islands that were once believed to have existed by many people through the ages.  All had their own magical qualities and characteristics that were given to them by the human culture they appeared in. 

From the elusive island of Hy Brasil, King Breasal had a safe place to rule the world ensuring the natural order was kept. The Slavic people gave Buyan magical qualities to keep safe important concepts such as the Alytar and the Sacred Oak Tree and it was safe enough for Koschei the Deathless to keep his soul there.
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St Brendan’s Voyage – By Unknown mediaeval scribe. (University of Augsburg, Germany (image)) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

For Saint Brendan, although he found many islands,  the Land of Promise,  which he really sought may have been more of a goal of spiritual attainment. The seven Visigoth bishops found a distant island where a way of life they believed in and cherished could continue untroubled and in safety out of reach of their enemy.  The Isle of Avalon holds a special place in the mythology of the British Isles as the place where their King awaits the call to return and save his people. Of course, there are many other ideas concerning these mythical places, but what really matters is what each person makes – or is made, from these five islands of fable.

Azorean Folktales: The Girl of Oranges

A folktale from the Azores tells how there was once a Girl of Oranges who lived a solitary and lonely life in a world full of sorrow and dreams.  You see there was once a time when she had been in love with a handsome prince.  They had loved each other with all their hearts and had believed they had been made for each other and were full of happiness and hope for their future together.  Sadly he was taken from her by unfortunate circumstances beyond either his or her control and although life went on for the Girl of Oranges it was never as it had once been.

This had a devastating effect on her and she came to believe that she could never love again.  She looked around and saw lovers walking and holding hands, getting married and raising children and she worried about being on her own for the rest of her life.  It seemed to her the door to happiness had been forever slammed shut and she became anxious and depressed.

She dreamed many dreams and in those dreams created many wonderful scenes of love and came to live in a fantasy world but she could not escape the real world. The strange thing was that the real world she imagined became gray and sad but the beautiful world she dreamed in her dream world never materialized and hope began to fade in her heart.

All around her, she saw many open doors that led into magical realms and many people entered these realms and were happy but as soon as she even thought about entering they were slammed shut.  Despair and despondency fell upon her and she sank into a dark and lonely place keeping herself alive purely by her dreams but she came to no longer believe in love.

Seeing her sadness the gods came to her in one of her dreams and suggested that she go to the oracle to ask her for advice.  She thought that she had nothing to lose and so went to see the oracle seeking her aid.   The oracle was a kindly old woman who had been born with the gift of foresight which she used to help the people.

The girl talked to the oracle about her problem.  The oracle listened to what the girl said and was greatly touched.  She offered her all her sympathy and tenderness and by counseling her wisely and cleverly she succeeded in lifting the spirits of the girl.  Indeed she took her to  another place that was beautiful beyond compare and full of light.  In this place the Girl of Oranges was reborn and she was able to begin to recreate her life again like a beautiful work of art.

The Girl of Oranges looked again at all the doors that had slammed shut and realized that none of those doors had locks and that when she approached one it would open up on its own, or only needed a push.  With this discovery, she began to open the doors and explored the paths beyond and found new and magical places she had never heard of or dreamed about.

One day she opened a door and walked down a narrow path between beautiful flowers and amazing trees and to her wonder she saw lying in the middle of the path a big beautiful orange covered all in gold.  The girl was astounded and ran to the golden orange and excitedly looked at it admiring its beauty.  She looked around but could not find the orangery that it had come from so she went back to the oracle to asked her advice.  The oracle told her that there was a magical and wonderful orangery that the golden orange had come from and that it was a long way down the path from where she had found it.

So she went back through the door and down the path carrying the golden orange in her hand.  She walked and walked and walked along that path and eventually she found the wonderful orangery.  When she found it she discovered that she was suddenly free and knew she was safe.  Looking at the golden orange she carried in her hand she saw that it glowed gently and emitted  a glorious light.  In that light, she saw the face of her beloved and his lips whispered,

                              “Believe!”

© 30/08/2016 zteve t evans

References and Attributions

Copyright August 30th, 2016 zteve t evans

Legends of lost worlds and mythical cities

All around the globe legends abound of mythical cities, lands and islands that have been lost for some reason. Some, such as the mythical cities of El Dorado and Shambala are lost in jungles or impenetrable mountains.

Depiction of Thule – Public Domain

Others such as Lyonness, Cantre’r Gwaelod, or Atlantis, were drowned by the seas. Others such as Thule were rumored to exist on the edge of the ancient world their locations disputed, or like the legendary island of Antillia, also known as the Isle of Seven Cities, faded from view when approached by ships. Still others just could not be rediscovered or were located in inaccessible places like Agartha said to be located at the Earth’s core.  Read more