When Washington Irving wrote “Legend of the Moor’s Legacy,” he did not have to rely, as one might expect, upon his imagination to produce the exotic and colorful setting—he had been there. When he lived in the Alhambra, a fifteenth century Spanish fortress, in 1829, it had undergone no restoration whatsoever; it was literally a ruins, inhabited by gypsies and beggars, invalid soldiers and ragged peasants. In the central court was a Moorish well which attracted a constant congregation of gossipers, storytellers, and water carriers who were the models for Pedro Gil, his wife, and neighbors. For the plot of “Legend of the Moor’s Legacy,” as for those of most of the tales in his collection THE ALHAMBRA, Irving fused together scraps of legends which he heard, and peopled them with standard folktale characters. For this reason, the story is familiar to anyone who has read fairy tales or folktales, stories of a traveler’s strange adventures, or Scheherazade’s stories for the Sultan.
Irving’s tale has all the stock figures: Peregil, the humble and kindly water carrier who is naive about the greedy and scheming ways of the world; his lazy, nagging wife, forever dreaming of wealth and finery; the spying, talebearing mischief maker Pedrillo Pedrugo; and the corrupt and tyrannical authority figure, the Alcalde. The story itself is the well-known one about an honest, hardworking poor man who is rewarded for an act of charity with a great treasure and then almost cheated out of it, and who lives happily ever after in the end. What sets “Legend of the Moor’s Legacy” apart from countless other tales like it is the author’s...
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