The serpent’s pool in Casares de Hurdes (Cáceres)

by Aitana Martos, 09/01/2015

In Casares, a town in Las Hurdes (Northern Caceres, Extremadura), there is a pool where once a huge serpent emerged, and a shepherd fed it with milk to avoid it to attack people and livestock. According to some versions, this serpent was sent by the devil himself.

FIRST VERSION (From http://www.casaruralenlashurdes.es/blog/la-leyenda-del-charco-de-la-serpiente-casares-de-las-hurdes/)

In the mountains of the hurdano river, where shepherds bred herds of goats, was a pool of clear water and immense beauty.

A shepherd from Las Hurdes spent much time with his herd of goats in that place and one day the shepherd saw a serpent with sparkling eyes going out of water, the frightened shepherd ran terrified by what he had seen. The shepherd spent all night thinking the way of preventing this serpent from killing the goats or attacking him. He had an idea, if the snake liked milk, it would drink it and not attack livestock.

So the shepherd deposited some milk in a bowl-shaped stone beside the pool (nowadays you can see the bowl shape on the stone beside the pool). Hours after the serpent came out of the water with its bright eyes and walked where the milk was. The serpent drank the milk and returned to the water. The shepherd, seeing that his idea had worked, kept depositing a little milk in the bowl of stone every day. Thus the serpent drank it and did not need to attack the goats or the shepherd.

Over time the serpent and the shepherd became friends so that every day the serpent went out of the water when the shepherd whistled to it, it took its milk was taken and then lay next to the shepherd as this caressed it. After some years their friendship grew. But one day the shepherd, on reaching the age of majority, had to leave for military service, and the serpent, seeing that his friend was not coming, plunged into the depths of the pool and was not seen since then.

A year after, at the end of his military service, the shepherd returned to his place and went to visit his friend the serpent. When he arrived to the pool he started calling the serpent and, hearing the call of his friend after a year of waiting, it went out of the water to meet him.

It was so happy of seeing him that it hugged him so hard that inadvertently killed the shepherd who had raised it. The serpent was full of sadness when realized that had inadvertently ended the life of his best friend and slipped back into the crystal clear waters and no more was heard of it.

Cuenta la leyenda, que en los montes de río hurdano, donde los pastores criaban sus rebaños de cabras, había un charco de agua cristalina  y de inmensa belleza.

Un pastor de Las Hurdes pasaba mucho tiempo con su rebaño de cabras junto a ese lugar y un día el pastor vio salir una serpiente de ojos brillantes del agua, el pastor asustado, salió corriendo despavorido por lo que acababa de ver. El pastor pasó toda la noche pensando cómo podría hacer para que  esa serpiente que apareció del agua no le matara las cabras ni le atacara a él. Se le ocurrió una idea, si a la serpiente le gustara la leche, ésta tendría para comer y no atacaría el ganado.

Para ello el pastor depositó un poco de leche en una piedra con forma de cuenco que había junto al charco (actualmente se puede ver la forma de cuenco en la piedra al lado del charco). Horas después la serpiente volvió a salir del agua con sus ojos brillantes le miró y se dirigió donde estaba la leche. La serpiente se tomó la leche y regresó al agua. El pastor al ver que su idea había funcionado, siguió depositando todos los días un poco de leche en el cuenco de piedra. De esta manera la serpiente comía y no tenía necesidad de atacar a las cabras ni al pastor.

Con el tiempo la serpiente y el pastor se hicieron amigos hasta tal punto que todos los días la serpiente salía del agua cuando le silbaba el pastor, se tomaba su leche y luego reposaba junto al pastor mientras este la acariciaba. Pasaron los años y la amistad entre ambos fue creciendo. Pero llego el día, en el que el pastor, al cumplir la mayoría de edad, tuvo que marchar a cumplir el servicio militar, la serpiente al ver que su gran amigo no venía se sumergió en las profundidades del charco y no se supo más de ella durante ese tiempo.

Pasado un año, el pastor al finalizar el servicio militar regresó a su pueblo. Al llegar salió corriendo y fue a visitar a su amiga la serpiente. Cuenta la leyenda que al llegar al charco el pastor empezó a llamar a la serpiente y ésta, tras un año de espera, al oír la llamada de su amigo, salió del agua a recibirle.

Al verle se puso tan contenta que le abrazó tan fuerte y sin darse cuenta acabó con la vida del pastor que la había criado. La serpiente se inundó de tristeza al ver, que sin querer, había acabado con la vida de su mejor amigo y volvió a sumergirse en las aguas cristalinas y no se volvió a saber más de ella.

 

SECOND VERSION (From http://blogdejamama.blogspot.com.es/2010/04/hubo-un-tiempo-en-el-que-las-escarpadas.html)

There was a time in which the rugged mountains of Jurde River were huge lush meadows where vegetation was shown and where shepherds bred herds of goats. Once an unknown man came where several goatherds were and made them a proposal:

“Would any of you pour a sheet of milk in a pool of the river, for a year, every day at sunset? (It was a hole in the rock that was next to a pool where the bottom could not be seen”.

All goatherds refused to make that proposition considering it an unnecessary and no rewarded obligation. All but one of them, who did take the job, because he was so shy that did not dare to say no.

“Well, you have to pour milk every day until I tell you and do not look back when you do it… you leave and you walk away without looking back”.

The next day he began his task and kept doing it for many days, leaving the milk and turned around. But curiosity was stronger than the mysterious gentleman’s orders and once he hid among the bushes to see who drank the milk and was shocked to see that a huge serpent with seven heads went out of the pool and drank the milk in a blow, disappearing back into the deep water.

Some time later the man came back to the goatherd and said:

“There’s no need to put more milk in the pool anymore. Now all I ask you is to take your flock and to leave home, because something terrible is going to happen. I appreciate your work and if you ever go to Rome meet me; I will help you if I can”.

“But listen: it’s noon … how can I take home the goats so soon? They have barely grazed…!”

“Do what I tell you”, he replied, “then you’ll see why”.

So begrudgingly, he took his goats and locked him in Jurde at noon with the taunts of neighbors and threatened by his family. Then the sky began to be cloudy with gray black clouds for all around. It fell a flood that made the river grow from sea to mountain, and that flood dragged the other goatherds’ livestock and even some of the shepherds themselves, this flood took the serpent downstream so it disappeared into the ocean.

II

Years passed and the little goatherd became a man, and decided to marry a cousin from a neighbor village of Jurde, a beautiful woman with long blonde hair, blue eyes and a dizzying beauty. But marriage between cousins was not possible without permission from the Pope, so the young Jurden man took a trip to the Vatican that lasted a year.

In the streets of Rome, very tired, he suddenly heard a voice calling him:

“Listen little goatherd, do not remember me?, I’m the one who told you to put the milk in the Jurde River, I have lived here for many years, come to my home so you can rest and refresh yourself, it seems that you have made a long journey”.

“Yes, I come from Jurde to see the Pope, because I’m getting married and need a certificate so I can marry my cousin, because the Church does not allow it without permission”.

“Do not worry; I’ll take care of everything. Come with me so you can take diner and a bath and you can sleep all night”.

The next morning upon awakening, he saw his whole body was in a pool of blood and was so frightened that he could not get up.

“Don’t worry little goatherd, I know what happens to you, fear not, the blood you see is the infected one you brought for the long journey you’ve done, it has come out after I gave you an ointment for your wounds”.

They took breakfast and the friend said:

“Come, I want you to see something”.

They walked to a wall where there was something that paralyzed his whole body. A huge serpent with seven heads kept the Roman’s estate.

“Do you see that is the monster? That’s the one you raised in Jurde River”.

Once they got the Pope’s permission for the marriage and got back home, the goatherd began to look sad.

“What is wrong? Why are you suddenly became so serious?”

“Tomorrow is the Christ festivity in my town and since it will take me a year to return, I cannot be this year’s festival”.

“Do not worry; I just want you to give me something in return for the favor”.

“And what I can give you?”

“You can give me the grapevine that you have at your door, that’s enough”.

“Oh well!, if that’s the only thing you want, done deal”.

“Take this mule that I’m giving to you, it will take you to your town before dawn, but never say “Jesus”, because if you say that word the mule will stop and you will have to walk”.

He began his journey, he got up the mule and said: “Move you mule of the devil to the sea”, and with the rattle he fell asleep. When in the middle of his sleep he heard bells ringing, he woke up suddenly and said:

“Jesus … I’m in my town!”

And then the mule disappeared, but as he was already in Lombo Labrao, went down walking and reached the village ready for the dawn. At home, he learned the priest housekeeper was sick and went to visit her, asking:

“What’s wrong madam?”, and she answered angrily:

“You know it well; you’ve come all night long over my ribs”. (So they say the priest housekeepers are the devil’s mules)

At dawn and got home he noticed that the vine of the door was gone. Maybe it’s now somewhere in Rome giving wine, where the seven-headed monster is terrorizing the population.

 

 

Connection with water: pools, mythical beasts or animals related to water.

Location:

Casares de Hurdes, Extremadura, Spain