La Gomera: an island of legend

La Gomera: an island of legend

With the passage of time, legends have become mixed with other literary elements that were introduced in times following colonisation and have been passed from generation to generation. One of the places that has generated the Island’s most famous legend is the Garajonary National Park, which owes its name to the impossible love between Princess Gara and Prince Jonay. This magical enclave contains elements of the great stories themselves, such as the foggy landscape, the enigmatic laurel forest and the intricate orography of the island, all framed by the sound of the trade winds.

puesta de sol Gomera

The story of two aboriginal teenagers named Gara and Jonay

One of these legends tells that the water flowing from the “Fuente de los Siete Chorros” (Fountain of the Seven Spouts), located in the highlands of Epina (Vallehermoso) is miraculous. From this fountain, it is said that the water is capable of deciphering the romantic destiny of anyone who looks into it. If the reflection on the water is sharp and clear, it means that this person will be fortunate in love, however if the reflection is murky, they will be condemned to suffering and heartbreak.
It is here where the legend of the “Chorros de Epina” mixes with another.
Every year, on “Beñesmén” day (Guanche festival celebrating the new year that coincided with the collection of the harvest and honouring of the Gods), young women of a marriageable age approached the fountain to see what the future held for them in terms of love. One year, the young Gara, Princess of Agulo, looked into the fountain to learn her future and, although at first her reflection was clear, it quickly began to become murky and ripple as a blazing sun appeared. The person in charge of interpreting the magic symbols warned: “What will be, will be. Flee from the fire, Gara, or the fire will consume you”.

By that time the Menceyes (Kings of the Guanches), accompanied by their relatives and other nobles, arrived in La Gomera from Tenerife. Among them was the Mencey of Adeje, together with his son, Jonay. From the first moment, Gara became attached to the handsome young man, and he soon felt the same. A few days later they announced their relationship, but at this same moment Mount Teide, known as Echeyde (Hell), began to erupt lava and fire so abruptly that it was visible from La Gomera.

Tenerife La Gomera

It is here where the wise saying took shape:

  • Gara, Princess of Agulo, place of Water.
  • Jonay, Prince of Hell’s Island, place of Fire. Fuego.

This love was impossible. The families of both decided to break this relationship, thinking that it would only bring them bad luck, as they linked the eruption of Teide to the anger of the Gods. When the bond between Gara and Jonay was broken, the volcano calmed again. Jonay returned to Tenerife with his family, but he did not give up on his love. Instead, he inflated two animal bladders and threw himself into the sea in the middle of the night. When the forces weakened the two bladders, he remained afloat, and at dawn on the following day, he arrived on the coast of La Gomera and went in search of his love. They both decided to escape together to the laurel forest. As soon as he found out, Gara’s father formed a large group of men and went to look for them. They soon found them, but in their eagerness to flee and not give up their love, they decided to climb the highest mountain. When they realised that there was no way out, they both decided that they would prefer to die together than live separately, so they took a cedar wood cane and sharpened it at both ends. They pressed their chests against the points and united in an everlasting embrace whilst the cane pierced their hearts, thus achieving their dream of being together forever.

There are many other legends associated with the name of the Park, but nothing is known about the true origin of this legend. The described events actually date back to an aboriginal era, though the oral tradition that started in the romantic era is placed in the 18th century, when love stories or “Romanceros” became popular.

Agando