La Llorna is a Hispanic legend which came to popular television in an episode of the NBC drama Grimm in 2012. It’s one I’ve wanted to write about for some time, but only recently put fingers to keyboard to bring the story to life here on the blog. As with most legends, there are multiple versions. I have attempted to combine them all into one fluid story. The legend itself is most commonly known in Mexico, Puerto Rico, southwestern United States and parts of Central and South America.
She is said to appear as the ghost of a beautiful woman with long flowing black hair and wearing a white gown. She roams rivers and creeks, searching for children to drag to their watery grave.
Referred to as “Maria”, in life La Llorna was a beautiful young peasant girl who turned every male eye, young and old, rich and poor alike. While she spent most of her day at home, in the evenings she would dress up in her best dress and entertain the men in the local fandangos.
Because of her beauty, Maria believed herself better than everyone else around her and refused all advances from men in the villages. She finally found a worthy match in a young ranchero: he was handsome, he was a good horseman, he was wealthy and he could play the guitar and sing beautifully. The young ranchero wooed Maria and managed to win her hand in marriage.
The marriage began wonderfully, the pair producing two fine sons. Everything seemed idyllic. A happy family. But after a few years, the ranchero returned to the wild prairie, leaving his wife and children behind. He’d leave for months at a time, returning only to visit his sons and effectively ignoring his wife. He even spoke of leaving Maria to marry someone of his own class.
Some versions of the story state that she drowned her sons in a fit of jealousy; while others indicate they drowned from Maria’s neglect in supervising them. However it happened, Maria quickly realized the error of her ways and attempted to save them to no avail. Again, the versions of the tale diverge a bit here. One version says that she was found dead on the banks of the river the next morning by a traveler while another version states she ran through the village streets screaming and wailing inconsolably. Day after day she would roam the banks of the river, searching for her sons in the hopes that they would return. She refused to eat and soon wasted away.
Not long after Maria’s death, her spirit appeared walking along the river crying out for her sons. Many a dark night she can be seen wearing the same white robe she’d been buried in, searching for her sons. Today children are warned against going in search of La Llorna at night, lest she snatch them and drown them as she did her own.