Monday, September 24, 2018

Between the mountains and the sea (Following folktales around the world 84. - Monaco)

Today I continue the blog series titled Following folktales around the world! If you would like to know what the series is all about, you can find the introduction post here. You can find all posts here, or you can follow the series on Facebook!

Once again, it was not easy to find a book for a tiny country, but I managed to scrape by...

The beauty spot of the Riviera
Thomas Henry Pickering
Kessinger Publishing, 2010.

This book was originally published in 1882, as a sort of guide for Victorian tourists. The author notes in the first chapter that people tend to think of Monaco as a casino and nothing else; but of course visitors can only be so wrong if they try to "do" Monaco in one day, and never leave the casino at all. I don't think much has changed since then. The author introduces the natural and cultural beauties of the small country, suggests trips and walks, describes the government and the economy, and, among other things, spends a chapter talking about the history and legends of Monaco. It was in this chapter that I found some stories to read.

The stories

Monaco's connection to Greek mythology is through Heracles: Legend says he stopped here on his way home with Geryon's cattle, and founded the port and the fortress. The author also claims that Phoenician traders worshiped Melkarth here (whom he identifies with Heracles). The most famous local legend is that of St. Devote, patron saint of Monaco, a martyr from Corsica whose remains were shipped to Monaco, and whose feast is still celebrated every year.
There was also a love story about Anna, a Christian captive, and Haroun, a Moorish leader; the girl eventually got her captor to convert, and they ran away together. The Moorish army, losing its leader, soon left the area. Another legend had a more somber tone: When the Duke of York, brother to George III, died in Monaco, and his death was announced by his ship flying the flag on half mast, a woman clad in white was seen throwing herself into the sea from the cliffs. According to the author, locals still remember her.
There was one more story, about the town of Roquebrune - it said that the town was originally on the summit of the mountain, but it started slipping one day, and only the prayers of a devout monk managed to stop it halfway down, before it would have crashed into the sea.

Where to next?

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