Doña Elvira was Jose’s mother.
José Gordón now. Jose always. “Jose”; his grandmother Manuela died with these words on her lips. Jose, child of light. The soul of el Capricho.
His mother, Elvira, Doña Elvira now, was a powerful woman in her silence and her domains. With an artful hand in the kitchen and an attentive ear to her guests, she kept the family together astutely. The house was always clean and smelled of delicious food.
Once a week it was baking day, and Doña Elvira would toil for hours in the heat of the ovens. When she finished her work, with all the rolls and loaves ready, her countrywoman’s hands prepared for one last miracle.
On the table there were only a few scraps of dough, flour and small loose pieces that had not gone into the bread, and Dona Elvira would gather together those last particles with her magician’s fingers and would make small human figures like the local ‘maragatos’.
She would put together heads, arms, legs and bodies until she had assembled an army of little giants. A sprinkle of sugar and a dab of egg, and the miracle was ready.
With very little, she could make a world.
The fire was breathing its last and the final batch was a party for the little ones. On the other side of the oven door a mysterious cackling of fire could be heard. On the last tray, a line of impossible warriors always appeared as if born of fire, dancing magically in the air, suspended in time.
of the wolf.
on a path.
Manuela Ferrero would travel the 19 kilometres from her hometown Villageriz in Zamora to the town of Jiménez de Jamuz, where she had sent her only daughter, little Elvira. There, she had been forced to leave her in the care of an uncle and aunt. The days were all alike, and Manuela worked from sunrise to sunset leaving only the night time for a fleeting visit.
Elvira, her only child, was a fatherless daughter, like the Greek gods who said they were the children of fire.
At night, with only the help of the moonlight, Doña Elvira’s mother would leave the house where she served and head north to cross the mountains over La Portilla before descending to the town in León. At the highest point, near the peak called El Dornayo, where the winds whistle a thousand metres up among the sharp rocks, this valiant mother would tell of the branches shaking into sinister shadows and she said that the wolves would come out to meet her, letting her pass like a ghost, accomplices to her secret mission.
It was the witching hour for everyone, a time they call the twilight of the wolf, and Elvira’s mother walked and walked leaving the timeless night behind. When she reached her destination, at her daughter’s bedside, she gently brushed her hair from her face without wanting to wake her up, to look on that moonlit face that made her forget how tired she was from the walk. Elvira gazed at her with half-open eyes, sleepy and patient, half-dreaming of the caress of her mother, who each night brought her the feverish gaze of the wolves in her eyes.