Azorean folklore is the folklore of the people of the Azores group of islands in the North Atlantic Ocean. Although an Autonomous Region of Portugal, the people of the Azores have evolved their own folklore, traditions and have many wonderful folktales and legends. Some of these explain how natural features of the landscape came to be. There is a tradition in Azorean folklore that says the islands of the Azores were once the tops of the mountains of Atlantis before it was drowned below the sea. The following folktale is a version of “Princess Bluegreen and the Seven Cities,” collected by Elsie Spicer Eels which explains how two interlinked lakes known as the Lagoon of the Seven Cities on São Miguel Island originated and how the great catastrophe came about that doomed the legendary Atlantis.
The King and Queen of Atlantis
Once there was a great kingdom called Atlantis which was ruled by a king by the name of Brancopardo who was married to the beautiful, Queen Brancaroza. Although they were the rulers of the great kingdom of Atlantis and lived in a gorgeous palace they were very sad. You see the king and the queen both yearned with all their hearts for children and they had none and the palace was a cold, bleak, place without them. King Brancopardo would lament, “Why is life so unkind? Babies are born to poor peasants who can scarcely feed them and hear am I a King with great riches who remains childless. It is not fair!”
And Queen Brancaroza would sigh, “If only I could have a baby of my own I would be so happy! Poor women have many babies who they can barely afford to clothe, but here am I a rich queen in a beautiful palace, childless!”
She would weep day and night for what she did not have. The king grew ever more unkind and his face became wizened and cruel whereas once it had been handsome, jolly and kind. Once he had been a good and just king who was loved by his people but as time grew without a child his soul became more and more wrinkled. The people became worried and prayed for him because they loved him and were his faithful subjects. They made offerings at all the shrines and holy places of Atlantis but the royal couple remained childless. As the barren years unfolded Queen Brancaroza grew ever more melancholy and King Brancopardo became angrier, crueler and more and more unreasonable. In his misery, he made the lives of his loyal subjects unbearable.
The Royal Palace had a glorious garden filled with many wondrous and beautiful flowers and trees where marvelous birds sang sweet songs of joy. In that blessed place, the King and Queen often found peace despite the curse of barrenness that had fallen upon them. One evening when the King and Queen were feeling especially downcast they went and walked upon the terrace in the garden to watch the evening fall gently, watching quietly as the stars slowly blinked into life.
One star began gently twinkling brighter and brighter than all the others and began moving nearer and nearer. They watched in awe as it appeared in front of them in dazzling glory. Queen Brancaroza placed her hands over her eyes but King Brancopardo bowed his head to his chest and they heard a gentle voice say,
“Please have no fear of me, I am here to help you.” The Royal Couple looked and they saw a human form standing in front of them in a circle of glorious light. “King and Queen of Atlantis, I am Starlight I have seen your plight and know what troubles you. I have listened to your prayers and I have heard the pleas of your poor subjects that you have treated so unkindly and yet still they begged for you. A beautiful daughter shall be yours more beautiful than the sunlight if you agree to what I say to you.”
With this news, the hopes of Queen Brancaroza rose and she smiled warmly and took her husband’s hand. It had greatly upset her to see the man she loved who had once been kind and good slowly turn into a cruel and mean ruler. Although she had often warned him that he would be made to pay for his cruelty, she understood how sad he felt about not having a child and heir.
Starlight then said,
“But because you have been unkind and unjust to your people you must pay a penance to prove your worthiness and atone. A few days after your baby girl is born I will return and take her away from you to a place that I will prepare for her. In the fairest and most beautiful part of Atlantis, I will build Seven Cities and care for her myself. There will be a city for each and every day of the week and she will live in a different one each day. The cities will be built from ivory, gold, silver, pearls, emeralds, diamonds and rubies and all precious stones and metals will be used in the construction and style. It will be a place of wonder and enchantment and will be surrounded by high and impenetrable walls of solid bronze. The only way in or out of that place will be through a great gate which will only open for the righteous. On her twentieth birthday the walls will fall down and you may enter the Seven Cities to find her. If you break your vow, or so much as touch the walls or the gates until the appointed time, death and destruction will fall upon you and your kingdom! Do you accept?”
King Brancopardo was initially delighted and then fell into despondency,
“Everyday we grow older and twenty years is such a long, long time!” he said, while tears rolled down the fair cheeks of Queen Brancaroza who could say nothing. Starlight continued,
“This is all I have to offer. You must wait until she reaches twenty years of age before you can have her back if you accept. If you try to enter the Seven Cities before that time you will fall dead and Atlantis will be broken and drowned. Do you accept these terms King Brancopardo and Queen Brancaroza and if so will you swear that you understand all of these terms and the consequences?”
The King and Queen looked at one another for a few seconds and both knew there was no alternative and it did at least give them hope of a child and heir. Together they held their right hands up and solemnly swore their agreement. With that Starlight twinkled and disappeared leaving the King and Queen alone on that starry night.
“Have I been dreaming?” asked the King.
“No, for I too have had the same dream.” said the Queen, “Let us put our faith in Starlight and see what unfolds.”
Princess Azulverde and the Seven Cities
The days past and one day Queen Brancaroza went to her husband and happily told him she was with child. Her husband was overjoyed and there was great celebrations and happiness throughout his kingdom of Atlantis. In due course, the Queen gave birth to a beautiful, healthy girl and the Royal Couple named her Azulverde. In all the towns and villages of Atlantis, there were feasts and parties as the people celebrated the birth of little Princess Azulverde.
Now it came to pass that the third evening after the birth of Princess Azulverde, Starlight came and took the baby girl away as had been agreed with the King and Queen to the Seven Cities which had been created for her to be brought up in until she reached her twentieth birthday.
The King and Queen were naturally devastated but they had made a solemn promise and they knew they must keep it. Together they would sit in their garden in the evenings looking at the stars and wondering about how their daughter was growing. Sometimes Starlight would come down to them while they sat in the garden and tell them all the things their daughter was doing with each day. There was happiness in the palace as the King and Queen proudly passed on the news of their daughter to their courtiers and servants and they would all laugh at the quaint sayings and funny things that Starlight reported that she said and did as she grew up.
One evening Starlight came down and told the couple that their daughter had been given a beautiful pair of blue slippers and a lovely green parasol that she loved and would parade up and down carrying the parasol while wearing the slippers. The Royal Couple were delighted with this news and the Queen sent presents of blue slippers and green parasols to all the little girls in Atlantis.
To begin with, the King and Queen would look forward to the appearance Starlight and the latest news of their daughter. As time went on they began once again to feel a huge hole in their lives and yearned for their child to hold and love. The Queen wanted to hug and sing to her and the King wanted to bounce her on his knee and tell her stories. Sadly, they could not even see or touch her and that is what they yearned for more than anything else in the world and the couple once again grew melancholy.
And time rolled by and the weeks turned into months which turned into years and the Royal Couple became morose. The King again slipped into cruelty and unreasonableness making the lives of his subjects harsh and miserable. He knew he was growing older with each passing day and with each day without his daughter would be another day less he would have with her after she reached her twentieth birthday.
The Queen tried her best to reassure and reason with him, saying, “Please, please be patient. We were at fault!” Such was the good and loving nature of the Queen that even when her husband ranted and raged about Starlight, she would try and ease the burden of guilt by saying “We” when really it had been his behavior alone that had brought them to this, for she was a loving, innocent, soul who had never had a bad thought against anyone in her life.
The Eighteenth Birthday
Time passed miserably for the couple and the eighteenth birthday of Princess Azulverde arrived. “Surely Starlight meant eighteen years and not twenty? ” asked King Brancopardo querulously. The Queen calmly reassured him that it was twenty and pointed out he well knew it.
The King flared into a rage shouting and stamping crying, “Nor more, no more! I will be kept from my daughter no more!”
Queen Brancaroza gasped, “Surely you would not break the solemn promise we made that night!”
Although she knew her husband had a frightful temper and lately had become increasingly irritated with the frustration of not being able to have his daughter with them, she never dreamed for a second that he would even think of breaking that vow. She began to tremble with fear at what he might do next.
“It was an unfair to make us take such a vow, I will not be held by it a day longer! I will have my daughter by my side!” he roared.
The Queen burst into tears, “No good will ever come of a broken promise!” she cried, “We only have to wait for another two years!”
“But the last two years are the longest. I grow old and may not live much longer. I want my daughter by my side now!” he cried. “I cannot bear to wait any longer, she is my daughter and no one will keep me from her.”
That very day the King called to him his generals to him and ordered them to prepare the army to attack the Seven Cities to free his daughter. His generals counseled against such an attack but the King refused to listen and ordered them to march the army to the gates of the Seven Cities. So the generals prepared the army and marched them towards the Seven Cities with the King at its head. The last words Queen Brancaroza said to her husband were, “Please, please, please, give up this madness and remember your promise!”
The King ignored his wife and led his army on the long and dangerous journey to the gates of the Seven Cities situated in the fairest part of fair Atlantis. They suffered many terrible hardships on that long journey as if obstacles had been deliberately set in their way to discourage them. Yet the King and his generals overcame each obstacle and slowly but surely drew near the gates of the Seven Cities of the Lagoon.
At last, the King stood at the fore of his army outside the great gates of the Seven Cities that was surrounded by a high and mighty wall. The sky darkened and thunder rolled ominously through the air and great forks of lightning flashed from the skies striking the ground all around the King’s army.
The Death of Atlantis
Undaunted the King urged his army on and they clamored around the walls. The earth trembled and heaved under their feet but still the King urged his men on. The thought of his eighteen-year-old daughter, Princess Azulverde, radiant and beautiful inside the city drove him on and he unbuckling his sword and struck the gates a mighty blow. As his blade struck the door the lightning flashed, the thunder rumbled and the ground buckled and roared and the walls of the Seven Cities fell outwards onto the King and his army. The earth trembled and shrank downwards and the seas burst over the great land of Atlantis covering all in water. The King and his army were killed and the land drowned. He had broken his promise the curse of Starlight had struck hard and fast. At last, the waters above drowned Atlantis grew calm and storms passed and the skies were once again blue.
The Lagoon of the Seven Cities
Lagoon of the Seven Cities – Image by Aires Almeida from Portimão, Portugal – CC BY 2.0
According to Azorean folklore all that remains above the water of fair Atlantis are nine islands of rock that today are called the Azores. On the largest, the island of São Miguel, there is a magical place called the Lagoa das Sete Cidades, or the Lagoon of the Seven Cities. It is situated in the bowl of a volcanic crater surrounded. In the center, there are two lakes. One is of blue and the other is of green. According to legend the blue lake is where Princess Azulverde left her slippers and the green lake is where she left her green parasol. The twin lakes are place of enchantment to this day and it is said that on some days the ghostly figure of the Princess Azulverde can be seen gliding over the lake wearing blue slippers and carrying a green parasol.
© 14/12/2016 zteve t evans
References, Attributions and Further Reading
Copyright December 14th, 2016 zteve t evan