Ria oak

Very close to the new station of Ria, a few meters from Mas Marie, there was a robust and secular oak of Ria which projects the shade of its foliage on the national road. He is the king of the surrounding trees, like a still green grandfather, with a giant's torso, bent neither by winds nor by storms, with his head held high and proud, braving the elements, with powerful and gnarled arms which protected so many generations.

Ria oak


Ria oak

Who knows how far into the ground the powerful roots, the numerous tentacles of this gigantic oak extend? Who also knows from what era his curious legend ? At least it was at the time when the mysterious Encantades reigned supreme in Roussillon, and particularly in the surroundings of Prades.

Soft with a supernatural power which they held from hell, these evil witches impregnated their victims, cast spells on them, spread the worst evils in the land, inspiring the locals with deep terror.

It was in the dark that they performed their evil spells; at the stroke of midnight, they gathered around the gorges d'en Gourné, the deepest chasm of the Tet between Ria and Villefranche, they washed their clothes there, then disappeared under the supervision of the three Analges sisters, the most daring and the most wrinkled; woe to the inhabitants of the village they chose for the accomplishment of their sinister exploits; they made them suffer the worst vexations and left painful memories of their passage.

In vain the peasants, armed to the teeth, ran in pursuit of them and circled in the countryside. The merry band of the Encantades made their way towards the group of holm oaks, the double row of which, starting from the gorges, ran along the main road. And at the command of one of them: "Pet sus fulla, Aybre upstream" ("foot on leaf, at the top of the tree"), they disappeared in the bushy branches.

Then we heard a rustle of leaves colliding and branches that moan, as if a flock of birds had descended on these trees. Then nature returned to silence until the furious peasants arrived; they passed under the oaks, but went to look for the witches elsewhere than among the leaves and the acorns.

One night it was very cold, so cold that the peasants could barely hold their sticks and their forks. When they passed under the oaks, their caps, which they had however pulled up to their ears, disappeared as if by magic, stolen by the mysterious fairies. Bursts of laughter echoed in the air and the unfortunate frightened peasants returned to their village at full speed.

One day, however, one of the oaks protested; he was the youngest and the most frail. He addressed his elders and expressed his indignation to them.

- "We can no longer," said he, "make ourselves accomplices of these horrible witches who torture the brave harmless peasants." Their hellish deeds cannot be approved by us, and I suggest you stop giving them hospitality, banish them forever. "

Disapproving cries greeted this proposal. Or was astonished at the audacity, the boldness of the young complainant, and one of the oaks replied:

- "We do not have to feel sorry for the fate of these damned lumberjacks who strip us of our branches and our acorns. Too bad for them if they suffer. We endure well, without saying anything, the bad weather of the Seasons ”.

- "You are selfish," cried the young oak, "I will act alone, but I will act." "

And, courageously, he forbade the Encanladas to hide under its foliage henceforth. He even threatened to reveal their refuge.

The witches, disdainful, at first braved the puny tree, but, following the wise advice of the badessa, they decided to change the place of their retreat for more security. Before leaving for good, they wanted to reward the oaks whose protection, fidelity and discretion had hitherto been so precious to them.

- "We are ready to distribute the most brilliant favors to you," they said to the protective trees. Speak up and your wishes will be granted ”

A group of oaks exclaimed: "The trees of the neighboring hills live happily because their leaves are thin and sparkling: we would like to have leaves of gold".

The wind brought a harmonious sound of voices saying: "Our foliage is dull, give us crystal leaves. "

Finally a nightingale came to transmit the desires of the most distant oaks which demanded more tender, fragrant and thornless leaves.

In less than a second all the oaks obtained satisfaction. Only the revolted tree, object of the hatred of the witches, retained its old foliage. Then the mocking Encantades made a disheveled circle around him, then moved away: they were avenged.

The next morning smugglers passed on the road and saw the dazzling gold leaves on which the rays of the sun played; one of them climbed the tree and passed on to his comrades the precious metal he was picking with both hands. The smugglers filled their pockets, their bags and their mantises, without being worried, then disappeared in the mountain.

The tramontana, which blew violently, made the crystal leaves fall and they broke. This Argentinian noise attracted a few goats which grazed in a nearby meadow. As they stretched out their noses towards the oaks with the fragrant leaves, the shepherd climbed on the trees and stripped them to satisfy his flock.

In the twinkling of an eye the oaks with their tender branches were absolutely bare, while at their side the little oak spared by the encantades alone retained its natural foliage. He aroused the jealousy of his proud neighbors who wereted away one after the other.

Some time later, the encantades passed on the main road, on their way to Ria, and were consumed by the misfortune which had befallen the oaks, whose complicity they had rewarded. They quarreled, blaming each other for such a disaster, exchanged blows and dispersed forever. This is how the country was delivered from the Encanladas who no longer had any power once separated.

And the little holm oak, which had shown itself to be such a skull, was the object of a true cult on the part of the inhabitants of Ria, Villefranche and the surrounding villages. He grows up in the midst of general veneration. We always refused to replace the oak trees that had disappeared at his side.