chewing ideas down to stubble, then moving on…

Posts Tagged ‘Spanish history’

More pieces to the Don Juan mystery…

Posted by Jason on December 7, 2008

So I’m reading Spain: the Root and the Flower by John A. Crow, and he mentions that Peter the Cruel (King of Castile from 1350-1369) prided himself in being a Don Juan. The next sentences follow:

The famous Don Juan de Mañara, upon whose grave appear these words: “Here lie the ashes of the greatest sinner who ever lived,” epitomized the attitude. Perhaps rooted in such histories the Don Juan legend became a part of medieval folklore. (109-110)

Could Crow have found the origin of the Don Juan myth? I checked out this supposedly famous Don Juan de Mañara, and it turns out that this man really lived in Sevilla, but his name was Don Miguel de Mañara. Apparently this guy was quite the drinker and quite the playboy until he had a religious conversion and became a pious, upstanding philanthropist. The only problem with this? Mañara was born in 1627, which was right about the time when Tirso de Molina’s play “El Burlador de Sevilla” was first published. Don’t think the myth could have come from this dude.

So my hypothesis of Don Juan being a Spanish distillation of Zeus’ and his womanizing exploits is not completely blown out of the water, yet. In Crow’s book, which doesn’t exactly ooze premium scholarship, I have been reading that the Greeks were in Spain starting around 600 B.C., and that their largest contributions to early Spanish culture were music and drama, including some musical instruments and song styles. This supports my theory since many of the tall tales of Zeus and his philandering were most certainly passed down via song and poetic odes, which have a tendency to morph throughout the ages. 

I don’t know which is more plausible: the folk tale of Don Juan is the remnant of Zeus myths from 600 B.C., passed down through ancient song; OR Don Juan is the dregs which captivated the Spanish populous from the classic literature and mythology brought to Spain from Muslim and Jewish scholars throughout 700 years of occupation. 

Regarding the second scenario, would the Muslims and Jews even have bothered with the Greek pantheon and its related stories, given that both cultures were so dominantly monotheistic? More searching to do…


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