River Mermaids in Southern Spain November 1, 2013Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary , trackback
***Thanks to Invisible for this tip***
Norman Lewis’s The Tomb in Seville had, to say the very least, a bit of an unusual publication history. It is a back-looking account of a trip in southern Spain in 1934, taken with a mafioso, written decades later, while NL was in his ninetieth year and brought out in 2003 just after his death. Beach has previously paid tribute in this place to one of the great twentieth-century British authors: what a man! Anyway let’s get to the mermaids if that is what they, indeed, are. NL is on the Guadiana in southern Spain, the great river that separates Spain from Portugal. While there he runs across some curious water sprite legends.
The Guadiana was seen locally as unique and extraordinary in every way. ‘I do not expect you to do anything but cast scorn on the local belief in water sprites,’ our informant said, ‘but it is remarkable how many persons of at least average education laugh and change the subject whenever it is brought up. In some areas local fishermen attempt to bribe the water-nympths by casting edible luxuries into the reiver before entreating them to help with the catch. Our fishermen baptize their children without the presence of a priest who they believe would rob them of access to Almighty God [?! This is Spain in 1934].’ Our friend shook his head, ‘We only bring up these topics in the case of outsiders who wish to know something of our life. Above all we are conscious of the heavenly powers. You will see our fishermen at prayer before casting their lines, and every one of them bows to the river whenever a fish is caught.’
Interesting stuff but if we have any Spanish newspaper buffs out reading there follows an even more intriguing passage: ‘As well as being haunted by water sprites – and slightly blurred photographs of these had appeared in the local press – the Guadiana provided curative water effective in various sicknesses and the gratitude of the community was show by nominal libations of the best wine.’ The italicized words are clearly of interest and ‘slightly blurred’ photographs are always entertaining. Could anyone help in tracking the slightly blurred photographs down?! Drbeachcombing AT yahoo DOT com Or had NL’s memory or more likely his informants misled him? Mermaid photographs, even embarassing fakes, are in such short supply, anything added to the canon would be worthwhile.
23 Nov 2013: Kenton writes: ‘re the spanish mermaids, the town of villanueva de la serena on the river Guadiana supposedly was originally called villanueva de la sirena due to the presence of a local mermaid, represented on the town crest to this day, The town is now remembered more as the birthplace of Pedro de Validivia, the conquistador who founded Chile.’ Thanks Kenton!