THE COCK AND HEN: A PILGRIM TELLS A FAMOUS TALE OF THE CAMINO DE SANTIAGO (Now in colour!)

Santo Domingo de la Calzada is the setting for a tale that is repeated with variations by thousands, possibly millions of pilgrims, as well as by people in the Rioja and beyond. Before literature can be anything else, it must be an amusing fib. (In fact, I prefer it to stop there.) If ever there was an amusing fib which satisfies beyond understanding, it is the Tale of the Cock and Hen.

You haven’t heard it? Just do a search on the web and you’ll find dozens of versions. Or talk to any pilgrim.

A hen and rooster are often kept caged in the cathedral, but the place was closed when I passed.

The most famous pastry of the town is the ahorcadito, or hanged man, which is a reference to the legend. And, of course, they bake lots of these, called Milagros del Santo, or Miracles of the Saint:

The tale of The Cock and Hen? You want my version?

You may be sorry. I tend to rush stories, and nearly always cut them off before the end with: “You can guess the rest.” But here goes.

A German couple and their lusty young son were passing through Santo Domingo de la Calzada on pilgrimage. At the inn where they stayed, the son was approached amorously by one of the maids. He rejected her advances. If you are post-modern or whatever, you’ll deduce that the young man was gay or impotent. A hard-headed revisionist might claim that the maid was less than appealing, because that’s what sex-on-a-plate is like in real life. But I say the boy was a virtuous pilgrim, and there’s an end to it!

The spiteful maid concealed some of the inn’s silverware in the boy’s luggage. When the family was departing the next morning, she denounced him to the authorities, who searched his stuff and found the objects presumed stolen.

Rather than going through some dreary counselling or community service rigmarole, the authorities promptly hanged the youth and, as was the custom, left his body hanging on the gibbet.

The grieving parents could do nothing but piously continue their pilgrimage to Santiago.

Now, in the fourteenth century, Ryan Air services were limited to say the least. If you walked to Santiago, you walked back. So it was that the two Germans passed through Santo Domingo de la Calzada some months later. They were at first dismayed to see the body of their son still hanging on the gibbet. Dismay then became wonder when the body spoke to them, explaining that he was still alive, because Santo Domingo – or was it Saint James? – had been supporting his legs.

The parents rushed round to see the governor, who was dining on two birds at the time. They told him of the marvel they had witnessed and begged him to release their son. The governor paused his eating and said:  “Your son is as alive as this hen and this rooster upon which I am dining. And I will only release your son when this hen and this rooster regrow their feathers and fly up from my plate.”

And you really can guess the rest!

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About mosomoso

Growing moso bamboo on the mid-coast of NSW, Australia.
This entry was posted in HISTORICAL, ON THE COMICAL SIDE. Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to THE COCK AND HEN: A PILGRIM TELLS A FAMOUS TALE OF THE CAMINO DE SANTIAGO (Now in colour!)

  1. Beth Cooper says:

    Those crazy medieval pilgrims. Months had passed … the hanged son
    was a forgotten corpse. Why didn’t the parents wait till nightfall and jest
    cut him down? Why involve the authorities in this? Sheesh, yer know
    their tendency ter arbitrariness. Instead the parents hafta rely on a
    second miracle. I’ m sorry mosomoso, it’s askin’ too much. 🙂

    Years ago I saw a Japanese film, can’t remember the name, that had
    a situation played then replayed with different endings. I think I’ll
    imagine a few fer this cock and bull story m.

    • mosomoso says:

      Hmmm, you’re not some kind of Rashomon-Revisionist, I hope? We don’t take kindly to that type, out on the pilgrim trails. In the days before ultralite carbon fibre walking poles, we might have beaten you with our staffs for those remarks.

  2. Beth Cooper says:

    Mosomoso, that’s who it was, lol. Rashomon! I’ll see if
    I can conjure it up. Ive thought of one ending, a slightly
    saucy comedy, not sure if it is Chaucerian comedy or
    French farce.

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