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The French tarasca returns again and again

Published: 2017.09.05 - 16:47:35   /  /  Laura Barrera Jerez  /  translated by  Luis E. Amador Dominguez  /

Since the 14th century, the people of the region of Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur in France have told the story of an ox-beast, six-legged bear, turtle carapace, lion's head, and a tail with scales and sting, all in large dimensions up to twenty feet long. They called it the Tarasca and they say it was Santa Marta who confronted it.

According to one version of the legend, the creature frightened the people and had already caused several human and animal deaths. The people complained of losing their crops and constantly feared a violent attack. Even the king and the army tried to exterminate it, but they did not succeed.

It was thus that the deputies of the town arrived to the place of Santa Marta and they implored to her for their lives and those of their representatives. She agreed to favor them and returned with them.

They say that the disappointment of the settlers was immense when they saw the deputies return with that woman, they believed she was incapable of remedying the situation. However, Santa Marta, who was determined to fulfill her mission, asked to be carried to the creature.

The men pointed the way and left her alone. She went into the forest, without arms or company: those who watched her leave never believed that she would return from that encounter, much less that she would tame the beast.

There were murky noises amongst the shrubs, and many began to weep for Marta. They thought she was dead. But she returned erect, along the same road and brought as a trophy, the docile and obedient tarasca.

As a booty, she walked the animal around the city and many were astonished by the event. When her task was accomplished, Santa Marta left and decided to leave the animal there, after all, it was already bewitched by her prayers and would not cause any harm.

However, they say that fear accumulated during days and days of sleeplessness, at dusk the villagers murdered the beast that did not offer any resistance.

Upon learning, Santa Marta returned and offered a sermon to those suspicious men and women. Perhaps because of this, there was some kind of remorse in them and soon the town began to be called Tarascon.

Years later a giant doll was constructed that represented the beast and was moved by several men who hid under the disguise. They say that at the end of the war between Arles and Tarascon, those of the first side defeated and burned the Tarasca in a public place, as a symbol of humiliation to the defeated.

According to the inhabitants of that territory, no other Tarasca was built as big as that one, but for a long time its legend has been maintained, to the point that at present its image forms part of the city's coat of arms and every year they celebrate a party in its honor, an event that was proclaimed Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity by Unesco in 2005.

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