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Main > Spain folktales > Fairy tale "A Legend of St. Bartholomew"

A Legend of St. Bartholomew

It is a point of faith accepted by all devout Portuguese that thirty-three baths in the sea must be taken on or before the 24th of August of every year. Although the motive may not seem to be very reasonable, still the result is of great advantage to those believers who occupy thirty-three days in taking the thirty-three baths, for otherwise the majority of them would never undergo any form of ablution.

That the demon is loose on the 24th of August is an established fact among the credulous; and were it not for the compact entered into between St. Bartholomew and the said demon, that all who have taken thirty-three baths during the year should be free from his talons, the list of the condemned would be much increased.

Now, there was a very powerful baron, whose castle was erected on the eastern slope of the Gaviarra, overlooking the neighbouring provinces of Spain, and he had always refused to take these thirty-three baths, for he maintained that it was cowardly on the part of a man to show any fear of the demon. His castle was fully manned; the drawbridge was never left lowered; the turrets were never left unguarded; and a wide and deep ditch surrounded the whole of his estates, which had been given him by Affonso Henriques, after the complete overthrow of the Saracens at Ourique, in which famous and decisive battle the baron had wrought wondrous deeds of bravery.

All round the castle were planted numerous vines, which had been brought from Burgundy by order of Count Henry, father of the first Portuguese king; and in the month of August the grapes are already well formed, but the hand of Nature has not yet painted them. Among the vines quantities of yellow melons and green water-melons were strewn over the ground, while the mottled pumpkins hung gracefully from the branches of the orange-trees.

In front of the castle was an arbour, formed of box-trees, under which a lovely fountain had been constructed; and here, in the hot summer months, would wander the baron’s only daughter, Alina.

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