The legends of Mauritius are ancient and mostly of oral tradition. They are often derived and told from history. They can become masterpieces of literature or a precious reflection of past traditions and beliefs, which are gradually disappearing. An exciting reason to discover an imaginary and fascinating world with two legends from Mauritius!
The shipwreck of the Saint-Géran as a source of inspiration.
The most famous shipwreck of Mautitius took place in 1744 near the island of Amber on the north-eastern coast. The French East India Company ship, launched in July 1736, was on its fourth voyage under the command of Captain Richard de Lamarre. The crew consisted of 149 men, 13 passengers and 30 blacks embarked in Gorée.
Due to dangerous manoeuvres in very bad weather, the main and mizzen masts of the Saint-Géran were cut off abruptly and in the ensuing panic, the lifeboats and boats were broken by their crashes. The ship began to sink and the passengers and sailors jumped into the water. Unfortunately, all of them drowned and 183 people died in this tragedy.
When legend meets history
The shipwreck of the Saint-Géran gained international fame thanks to Bernardin de Saint-Pierre’s masterpiece “Paul and Virginie”, which inspired him to write the story of an impossible love between the sweet Virginie and Paul, two teenagers born to single mothers in the former colonial and very puritanical Isle of France. Their newly-formed love goes against the moral standards of the society of the time. Virginie was sent to France against her will to receive a conventional education and the inheritance of an aunt. On her way back to Mauritius, the Saint-Géran on which she was travelling was caught in a storm and washed up on the reefs.
Virginie, a prude and chaste maiden, refuses to take off her clothes in front of a sailor who urges her to do so in order to throw herself into the water. Hindered and embarrassed by the long, waterlogged sides of her dress, sacrificing her virtue at the risk of her life, Virginie drowns, much to the despair of Paul, who dies of grief.
The legend of Paul and Virginie is so enduring that a grave is dedicated to them near Pamplemousses botanical garden and a monument was erected in their memory in Poudre d’Or.
With the legend of Paul and Virginie, Mauritius joins in the tradition of the great stories of impossible love, like Romeo and Juliet or Tristan and Isolde.
ANSE LA RAIE, THE ANCIENT CURSED VILLAGE
The small coastal village of Anse la Raie, on the north-east coast of Mauritius and very close to Mythic Villas & Suites in Grand-Gaube, is said to have been the scene of a tragedy that brought out the courage of a particularly brave young man.
A paradise-looking cove…
The magnificent turquoise bay along the coastal road in the north-east of Mauritius is an invitation to relax and swim in its crystal clear waters. However, according to legend, the small fishing village that stood there a long time ago, was the prey of many torments. The only way out into the open sea was through a narrow pass that the fishermen used every day to bring in the fish that would feed their families.
One day, when nothing predicted the danger, a boat was preparing to cross the channel when suddenly the water began to bubble around it and a huge dark figure, much larger than the boat, slid under it. Frightened, the fishermen leaned over the side to try to find out what it was. Then, like a ghost, a large black wing appeared from the water and struck the boat furiously, breaking the fragile skiff. Taken by surprise, the fishermen drowned under the helpless eyes of the villagers. Then, rising from the sea like an immense kite, a huge manta ray, with a wingspan of more than six metres, jumped out before diving back onto the broken timbers of the boat, its short tail whipping the waves. From its side emerged the broken stem of a harpoon. Everyone immediately recognised the beast they had chased last year and tried in vain to capture…
Golo facing the sea monster
The village was appalled… The manta ray, called “the devil of the seas” because of its two horns and its frightening appearance, eager for revenge, did not leave the pass, preventing the fishermen from going in search of food. The fishing boats lay useless on the beach and the men wept at their helplessness. Starvation threatened, as fishing was the only source of food. Any fools who dared to face the sea monster drowned…
Then Golo, a young man full of courage and audacity, had a great idea, so he didn’t tell anyone. In secret, for days on end, he went deep into the forest to work out his desperate plan. Then, one morning, well before dawn, Golo stood on the beach with a huge wooden stake over his shoulder. He had carved it out of the hardest tree he could find. He had also made a raft from bamboo. He had to be quick and not be surprised by someone in the village who would have warned him off doing something so foolish. He fixed the stake firmly in the centre of the raft and pushed the raft into the cool water. He shivered as much from cold as from fear, but he could not let the villagers starve. He moved closer to the reef, making as little movement as possible so as not to alert the ever-watchful stingray. He steered the raft towards the entrance of the pass and let it drift with the current. He had only one chance and he knew it…
The raft swayed gently on the waves when suddenly the sea shivered and a grey foam covered the waters. The manta ray sprang up like an evil genie and leapt out of the water, only to fall back hard on the little raft. It impaled itself on the pole and its wings furiously beat the water for hours. The noise had woken up the villagers who came out on the beach where Golo, exhausted, had just arrived. They all watched the long agony of the sea monster, and then his body was towed to the shore. Golo was celebrated as a hero and the village was able to stock up on food for months.
Legends are meant to feed our oldest fears and do not always contribute to the promotion and protection of the fauna and flora. The stingrays that you will come across while snorkelling in the clear waters of Mauritius are quite peaceful and beautiful to observe.