A beautiful, powerful and lonely woman lives in the mountains, just going down the river to fetch water. When the mood comes upon her, she drags men off to her cave to have sex with them before killing them. One prisoner, a young boy from the mountain (“serranillo”) who had been gathering firewood, manages to escape from her cave full of skulls.
Legends from Extremadura tell that in the second half of the sixteenth century, in 1560 and in beautiful village of Garganta la Olla (in La Vera region), eight kilometers from Jaraíz of Vera and near the Monastery of Yuste, in the hollow of the Sierra de Tormantos (southern slope of Gredos) lived a woman who was terrorizing men. La Serrana de la Vera (the mountain woman of La Vera) is a feminine myth very popular in this region and we know about twenty versions, with slight variations, all in romance narration.
It seems that the true protagonist of the story is mentioned in the parish book of this town: a beautiful girl from a well-off though not noble family called Isabel de Carvajal. Seduced by a nephew of the Bishop of Plasencia, she flees to the mountains to hide in those solitudes her pain and shame; and takes revenge in every man who wandered alone in the mountains, killing him after seducing and sleeping with him. It also says that she possesses big physical strength and a great courage, as she can hunt wild boars and bulls and also can use the crossbow, explaining in some versions that she has those qualities because she’s a magical hybrid, offspring of a shepherd and a mare. However, the story ends when a young shepherd from the mountains (“serranillo”), cleverer than her, manages to escape from her trap and tells what happened to everyone. Isabel is captured for justice and dies by hanging in Plasencia.
The ballads usually tell about a tanned, blonde woman armed with a crossbow or other weapon. When the mood comes upon her, she drags men off to her cave to have sex with them before killing them. One prisoner, a young serranillo who had been gathering firewood, manages to escape from her cave full of skulls.
The enraged Serrana is fearful the serranillo will reveal the location of her cave and so she pursues him, her sling loaded with a huge boulder. She succeeds in knocking off the young man´s cap made of good, fine cloth and though he laments the loss of it, nothing would induce him to go back and retrieve it from the wild creature whom he describes as a beautiful woman from the waist up and a mare from the waist down!
Relation with water: she lives in a place full of ravines and goes often beside the river. The “Serrana” has traces of the ancient giants and titans from the myths, so her huge strenght makes her be able to jump over the rivers, like other mythical beings.
GUTIÉRREZ CARBAJO, F. (1996). La pervivencia del mito de La serrana de la Vera. Actas del IV Congreso Internacional de la Asociación Internacional Siglo de Oro (AISO), (Alcalá de Henares, 22-27 de julio de 1996) / María Cruz García de Enterría (ed. lit.), Alicia Cordón Mesa (ed. lit.), Vol. 1, 1998, ISBN 84-8138-266-3, págs. 771-786: http://cvc.cervantes.es/literatura/aiso/pdf/04/aiso_4_1_074.pdf