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Island Ecology

Island Ecology

by José P Ribas

Myths (Part Two)

Ibiza Ecology

Once upon a time, in the most remote part of "Llabritja" (the actual Sant Joan de Llabritja), there was a young and beautiful girl called Rita.

She was the best looking; the most wanted and courted young girl of the entire neighbourhood.

Rita had two pretenders; two young and handsome boys called Lluc and Marc, both healthy and honest, deeply in love, from good families, with the honest will of marrying her.

Two years before, both had started to walk her back home (the mother following a few steps behind, watching), from church, after the Sunday mass.

But Lluc was the older brother, therefore "s'Hereu" (the Heir) of most of the family possessions and his family was the richest of all this part of the Island. Obviously Lluc was the favourite of Rita's parents, especially of her mother, an ambitious, heartless, dominating woman, already dreaming of the big amount of wealth that she would have as soon as Rita "fished" Lluc, a good boy, but without much character, mentally a little wick, easy for her to handle.

Nevertheless, Rita's secret favourite was Marc, the youngest of four brothers, therefore he could only expect his "Llegitime" (the small part of the inheritance that all brothers, apart from the heir, must have by the local laws), a small plot of land where he could build a house and earn a modest living on it.

Marc was aware of his disadvantage and he knew that he couldn't expect any more help from anybody, but as he was also a good and intelligent worker, he had already started - without telling anybody - little by little, to build his own house on his small plot of land, full of enthusiasm and hope, to offer it to his beloved Rita in case he was the one elected by her heart.

Coming close to Christmas, her parents started to put pressure on her to make a decision. "Rita," said her father, "as you are soon going to be eighteen, it is the time for you to take a choice, for the next year it will have to be Lluc or Marc, you will have to get married soon, in two or three years, and you can't keep giving hope to both, so make up your mind."

Rita was already expecting this ultimatum from her parents, and she already had an answer. "Next Saturday, when they come home for courting me, I will let them know my conditions", she said.

And so it happened on Saturday evening, as they were both in Rita's parents' house, seated one each side, courting her.

She said: "Listen my dear friends, my father and mother want me to choose one of you to marry and so I will, but you are both good, loving friends. I don't want to upset either of you, but on the other hand I want to live in my own house, not in your parents' houses because you both have big families and I just want to live with my husband alone.

"I have decided that I will marry the first one to build and finish a house for us to live in".

"Very well", said Lluc, thinking that the amount of money his family had would allow him to buy all the materials and pay for as many workers as he needed to finish his house much faster then his opponent.

"Very well" said Marc, thinking that his house was almost finished, just a few more weeks and the house would even be painted, ready to live in.

"Very well" said Rita's parents, who didn't know anything about Marc's house, so they thought he would never have a chance, even to find the money to buy the materials for it.

But just a day after, somehow the mother found out about Marc's new house, (some said she was a bit of a witch) and she was so angry that big red flames came out of her eyes and mouth. No devil has ever looked more furious and terrifying. She started then to chase the husband all the time, insisting again and again: "na Rita s'ha de casar amb en Lluc, devore ell, en Marc es un mort de fam". (Rita must marry Lluc, Lluc, Lluc...)

After three days of listening to her, non-stop with the same old song, as normally happens with most married couples, the husband surrendered: "All right! All right! It's enough", said the poor man, dominated by his women. "We want Rita to marry Lluc and so it will be! His house will be finished first, but don't ask me how I will do it and don't say anything to Rita!"

Christmas soon passed, the "salsa de Nadal" was already eaten and nothing changed, only Marc's house was a little more and more advanced every day, the well was already finished, with the lead on, and he was fixing the last windows and doors, one or two more weeks and it would be ready. Lluc, sad and miserable, when he knew about Marc's new house, didn't even start his own, thinking that it was completely impossible to compete. Rita was as happy as a pair of castanets, laughing and giggling, thinking about how clever she was. "Now I can get married with the one I want without upsetting Lluc and with my parents' blessings," she thought.

The mother was more and more hysterical every day, but the father was very tranquil, with a funny smile upon his face.

The last day of the year, the father said: "I have to go to Vila (Eivissa Town) for some business, so don't wait for me until the day after tomorrow". But instead of going to Vila, he went to Santa Eulari.

He arrived as the Sun was going down and went under the old bridge of Santa Eulari River with a little black bottle that he left there, without the top, and he started looking all over the floor, in between the stones and the river-side plants, until the new day of the new year began to dawn.

That was when he found what he was looking for, a small rare herb, "s'Herba des Fameliar" that he put immediately in the bottle. As soon as the herb was in the bottle it turned heavier, then he put the top on, jumping and shouting: "Ja et tenc! Ja et tenc!" (I've got you! I've got you!) because he knew he had found what he was looking for, his own "Fameliar".

Then, with this fantastic spirit trapped in the black bottle, he went to see Lluc, and said to him: "Lluc, you want to marry Rita, don't you? So, show me where you want the house built and don't worry about anything".

"Yes, of course" Lluc said, and showed him the land on top of a little hill where he wanted his house, thinking that the poor old man had lost his head.

"All right!" said the father, "come back here tomorrow and see what happens".

As soon as it was dark, the father was already on the hill with his little black bottle. He took off the top and a scruffy little man, less then a foot tall, with long arms, its head without a hair, like a little marrow with an enormous mouth and tiny sparkling red eyes, the "Fameliar", jumped out of the bottle shouting "Menjar o feina! Menjar o feina!¨ (Work or food! Work or food!).

"Don't worry," said the father, "I will give you plenty of work" and told him to bring the materials and build a house big enough for eight or ten people.

Within less time than I need for writing it, the materials were there, the tools were moving so fast that they looked like they were flying by themselves, the, almost one metre thick, stone walls were ready in less then two hours, an hour later the roof was done, and so on until the Sun started to show. By then, the house was finished.

Then the father said a little prayer and put his "Fameliar" back in the black bottle and put the top back on. After doing this, and as he has to spend two nights without sleep, he went back to his house looking for his bed. "Now that Lluc's house is finished, knowing that he will be our son-in-law and all his possessions will be also ours, I think that I will sleep for two days" He said.

Later in the morning, when Lluc walked alone up the hill and found the house already built just over night, he was so shocked that he couldn't move for a long while. His eyes jumped out of their sockets and his mouth was so wide open that he could keep the mule and cart in it. His fragile mental health couldn't cope with it, he came down the hill running, screaming and shouting like a real fool.

When Marc saw his opponent's house already finished before his own, he never finished his, he left it all and started walking away, disappearing for ever. Someone said that he took a ship to Cuba, but no one really knows.

Rita had to marry Lluc and both moved to their new house, as she had promised, but nobody could hear her laughter any more.

They both died young. She died of annoyance, Lluc died of real fear, he was terrified every time he walked into the house, he couldn't sleep at night and never was the same man again.

After the young couple died, nobody else wanted to live in this dammed house. Rita's parents also died of remorse very soon after their daughter, so little by little the house just became a ruin and nobody wanted to work on this part of land either.

If you walk by "Es Torrent des Jonc" not far from "Sa Cala de Sant Visent", in between the forest of one of the most lonely areas, you still can see a big pile of stones where the house used to be, and some swear that if you are there the first day of the year, you can hear Rita crying: "Marc, Marc, take me with you, away from this damned house".

This, and similar "histories" of "Barrugets" "Follets" and "Fameliars", have made generations of Ibicencos cry and laugh, to dream and to fight about it being the truth or not, they have kept the young children awake in their beds for many hours, as I remember myself, with my eyes and ears completely open trying to spot one of the "Barrugets" that I was one hundred percent sure was living in our house.

But there was a time that this history was of interest to others, apart from children and simple peasants.

The Inquisition had at least two Court cases in Eivissa that involved the "Fameliar." In 1675, there was a hearing in Eivissa by the "Santa Inquisición" (the Inquisition Tribunal) asking to denounce anybody who have or have had a Fameliar by invoking Lucifer.

In 1744, Francesc Tur de Bartumeu from "Quartó de Santa Eulari" was taken to the Inquisition Tribunal because he wanted to buy a "Fameliar" from Pere Antoni Puiggros, a merchant from Vila.

For some of our historians, the legend of the "Fameliar" was just a cover to hide something more serious, something that it could not be said in our Roman Catholic society, such as the use of slaves in our Islands.

But this is another history...Anyway, don't forget to leave a slice of bread and cheese somewhere inside the house every night, just in case!


Quiet Folk

All Pictures © 1998 Marià Torres Torres - Antropologia d'Eivissa I Formentera Volum 1

José P Ribas