Tello y Tazgona

A love story from Andalucía (adapted from Lorenzo Valla’s 15th century version of the Legend of La Peña de los Enamorados).

A young man once served as a slave in the house of a Moorish leader in the Kingdom of Granada. The man’s name was Tello, and he was a Christian soldier who had been taken prisoner during the years of the Réconquista.

The daughter of the Moorish leader was called Tazgona, and she grew fond of Tello and fell in love with his way of speaking and behaving. Tello, too, fell in love with Tazgona’s beauty and goodness.

The pair realised that their union was impossible. He was her father’s slave, and she knew that her father’s wish was to have her wed to a Moor. Despite the certain dangers, Tello and Tazgona decided to flee.

They escaped in the dead of night, in search of somewhere safe where no one would know who they were or where they had come from.

However, when Tazgona’s father found they were gone, he gathered a small band of men on horseback and they followed in hot pursuit.

Tello and Tazgona fled through fields and forests in the darkness until morning began to colour the sky, and they saw that they had reached the base of a steep mountain. They were exhausted, and Tazgona collapsed to the ground. But Tello heard the pounding of horse hooves close at hand and helped Tazgona to climb. Together they ascended, ledge by ledge, until they reached their only hope of sanctuary. Sunrise lit them as they stood at the summit, hand in hand.

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Tazgona’s father and his men soon arrived at the foot of the mountain. In a rage, the Moorish leader shouted to the lovers to give themselves up and ask for his mercy.

The men exhorted Tello and Tazgona to do as their leader bade and not inflame his ire any further. It was no good. The couple stood firm. So the men descended from their horses and began to climb.

Tello, up high, grew desperate and turned stones and branches and dirt into weapons which he hurled to hinder the men’s ascent. This broke their resolve, and Tazgona’s father grew even more agitated. He sent to the nearby town for Archidona for reinforcements, and demanded that archers be amongst them.

Tello and Tazgona, besieged, understood that they were doomed. They kissed and embraced and flung themselves from the top of the mountain in the direction where Tazgona’s father stood.

And so Tello and Tazgona died in a tight embrace at the feet of the Moorish leader. And all – especially the old man, Tazgona’s father – lamented their loss. The lovers were buried where they fell, beneath La Peña de los Enamorados, and there they lie to this day.

From the myriad oral and written versions telling the tragic tale of Tello and Tazgona, this one is (more or less) based on that written by Lorenzo Valla in the 1440s and translated from Latin into Spanish by Dr. José López de Toro in 1957.

Lorenzo Valla also wrote an official biography of Ferdinando of Antequera, and the story of La Peña de los Enamorades is included in his Conquest of Antequera. There may have been reasons for him portraying the protagonists of the story as a Christian slave and a Muslim maiden. Other (possibly older) versions suggest the pair were both Moors.

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