(In English) 5 Canarian Legends


The creation of man

One Canarian legend is that of the creation of man. As in many other cultures, native Canarians or “guanches” worshipped their own gods, who were thought to be behind the creation of life and nature.
According to their beliefs, Acorán was the Almighty God, who was eternal and self-sufficient.  As creator of the earth and water, air and fire, there was nothing before him. Acorán is also known as Achamán in Tenerife. One day, Acorán/Achamán was standing on top of Echeyde (Mount Teide in the guanche language), and admiring the beauty and perfection of his work, he decided to create human beings, so that they could admire and preserve it.

Guayota the Malevolent

A popular legend of Tenerife is a story of good versus evil and tells that Guayota, the devil, lived hidden within Mount Teide. One day, he seized Magec, god of the sun and the light, leaving the sky in the dark. The frightened guanches begged Achamán to make the day bright again. Achamán responded to their pleas and came ready to defend them and faced Guayota in a bloody battle. Despite Guayota throwing smoke, lit rocks and streams of lava through the crater of Mount Teide, Achamán was able to defeat him, and as a punishment he locked him up inside the volcano for all eternity.
Guayota has remained captive since then, but he still breathes at the top of Echeyde, awaiting his moment to break free. Guayota was often depicted as a black dog. Researchers have found remains of offerings and jars with food in many of the volcanic pipes within the Mount Teide, possibly offered by the guanches to soothe the wrath of this devil.
If you visit Mount Teide National Park, you can watch a film about Guayota in their visitor's centre.

Gara and Jonay

The Canarian Romeo and Juliet, a story of  impossible love. It is the story of Gara, a beautiful princess from La Gomera, who fell in love with Jonay, the son of a king of Tenerife (some stories describe him as a peasant). They met at a fiesta in La Gomera and it was love at first sight for both of them. According to the legend that has been passed orally from generation to generation, Mount Teide then began to release smoke and ash, which both families saw as a bad omen, so they banned the budding relationship between the young royals. Jonay then crossed the ocean from Tenerife to La Gomera on a craft he had made from goat skins to be with his love. Together they fled to the highest peak with their families giving chase. Finally surrounded by their families with no escape, they sharpened both ends of a stick of laurel and stabbed themselves in their chests, embracing each other until death.  Today, that same peak is a national park called Garajonay in memory of the lovers who made the ultimate choice of death together rather than living apart.

Ladón, the one hundred-headed dragon

In Greek mythology, Ladón was a giant dragon of a hundred heads that guarded the Garden of the Hesperides, a set of paradise islands that many writers identified as the Canary Islands. The three daughters of Atlas, a titan in Greek mythology lived there. When the fierce Ladón was killed by Atlas, his blood ran through the land giving rise to the dragon trees, which are endemic to the Canary Islands and also one of the symbols of Tenerife. The twisted branches of the dragon trees,  as if hundreds of heads are attached to its thick trunk, and the intense red colour of its sap play into this legend. 


San Borondón

We know that there are seven Canary Islands but have you heard about the 8th? a ghost island called San Borondón. San Borondón is the Canarian name of Saint Brendan of Clonfert (480-576 A.D ), an Irish monk who plays the lead in one of the most famous legends of Celtic culture: The Voyage of Saint Brendan the Navigator.

The Irish poem tells that Brendan was a monk from Tralee, County Kerry. He was ordained priest in the year 512 A.D by Saint Erc. He set sail with 14 other monks on a small boat which travelled far away in the Atlantic Ocean. The legend tells about their adventures with fire-hurling demons, with floating crystal columns, with gigantic creatures as large as an island.

Brendan and his fellow travellers landed on island where they found trees and other types of vegetation.

They were saying prayers, when suddenly the island started to sail. It was a gigantic sea creature and they were on its back. 

Many believe that these Irish sailors, back in the Middle Ages reached the shores of North America, Iceland and other Atlantic isles.

When the Canaries were conquered in the 15th century, stories were told about an eighth island which sometimes was seen to the West of La Palma, El Hierro and La Gomera. When sailors tried to reach it and approached to its shores, mountains and valleys, the island was covered by mist and vanished. The island was decided to be Saint Brendan's moving island, and was called "San Borondón" in the Canary Islands.

The persistence of this legend in the islands' folklore is incredible. San Borondón is still alive in the Canarian people's imagination. There is probably not one islander of Tenerife, La Palma, La Gomera or El Hierro who has at sometime looked from the mountains of his island into the sea, searching for the ghost island of San Borondón.