González, Conde Fernán

González, Conde Fernán (c. 930–970) In medieval Spanish legend, count of Burgos who made Castile independent of the state of León. He is the subject of numerous heroic ballads and the 13th-century narrative poem El poema de Fernán González.

Both González and his wife, Sancha, often appear in Spanish ballads. According to various legends, Sancha rescued the count twice at the risk of her own life. The count had asked her hand in marriage from her father, Garcias, king of Navarre. On his way to join his bride the count was ambushed by men of the queen of León, who was the sister of the king of Navarre and opposed the match. The count was taken to a castle and imprisoned. Then a “pilgrim knight of Normandy,” riding through Navarre, came to the castle where the count was imprisoned and later told his intended wife, Sancha, of the deep love the count held for her. In the ballad The Escape of Count Fernán González the knight says:

González loves thee, lady,—he loved thee long ago,— Arise, let love with love be paid, and set González free (John Gibson Lockhart translation).

Sancha, moved by his words, bribed the jailer and fled with the count to Castile. Many years later, according to another legend, the count was again freed by his wife after he was ambushed by the men of the queen of León. This time Sancha, feigning a pilgrimage to Compostela to visit the tomb of St. James the Greater, passed the night in the castle where her husband was being held prisoner. She exchanged her clothes for his, and he escaped.

El Poema de Fernán González, believed to have been written by a monk of the Castilian monastery of San Pedro de Aslanza in the 13th century, recounts the history of Spain up to the birth of Fernán González and then relates the exploits of the hero.


Encyclopedia of World Mythology and Legend, Third Edition – Written by Anthony S. Mercatante & James R. Dow
– Copyright © 2009 by Anthony S. Mercatante