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Jaen and the Malena Lizard

Jaen and the Malena Lizard

Jaén y el Lagarto de la Malena

The Lagarto (Lizard) de la Malena or Jaén has been consolidated for centuries as the city's great myth. There are a number of versions of the legend, but the most popular is that a huge reptile once lived in a cave opposite the torrent of La Magdalena, and would catch and eat anyone who came to get water. In the end, a prisoner who had been sentenced to death killed the reptile in exchange for his freedom. He tricked the reptile into letting him put a sack of gunpowder into his mouth. He then ate it and it exploded.

This is the city's most famous legend and it is so popular that it has become one of its symbols. So, in the Magdalena neighbourhood, there is a statue on the fountain where the reptile is supposed to have lived, just so we are all reminded. What is more, this creature gave its name to the most famous musical in the province, Lagarto Rock, and plays a leading role in a number of popular sayings: \"You blow up just like the Jaén reptile\", used as an insult, and \"to blow up like the Malena reptile\", when someone eats too much.

The first version of the story tells that in a cave next to the torrent of El Raudal de la Magdalena, very near the church and an old mosque, a huge reptile appeared that frightened everyone. This is how it started, and then a number of different versions appeared, because the legend dates back to the 17th century.

A man who had been sentenced to death offered to kill the reptile if they promised to release him. That same night, he left a trail of loaves of bread from the torrent, passing by the convent of Santo Domingo and the Palacio de Villardompardo, as far as the Cathedral and on to the Carrera de Jesús. The animal ate them all up and on reaching the Plaza de Saint Ildefonso, instead of a loaf of bread he threw a sack of gunpowder, which the animal devoured greedily, not expecting such a tragic result.

Another version says that a shepherd became fed up with the reptile eating his sheep, so he stuffed a dead animal with lit tinder. The reptile swallowed it and died, while its entrails burned.

Nowadays, "sangre del lagarto" (lizard's blood) is a concoction that is prepared in the town to celebrate the Official Day of the Magdalena Lizard. It is made by heating red wine with three cloves, cinnamon sticks, sugar, lemon or orange peel and anise. It can be drunk hot or cold. The "conjuro del lagarto" (lizard's spell) is chanted while it is being prepared. To finish off, and to take away the effects of the liquor, the best option is to take a stroll through the beautiful, multi-cultural city of Jaén. But, be careful, you might run into the "mona" (monkey) on the cathedral, but that's another story.

Jaen and the Malena Lizard