The legend of the guitar. Daphne, Laurel

  • Laurel leaves crown the great poets and artists.

    According to the legend, Apollo created the first guitar using this tree in memory of Daphne.

    The origin of the guitar is unknown, but it is an evidence that since the late XVI century, being its golden age in the XX century, this plucked string instrument has been gaining worldwide recognition and has become a Spanish cultural icon.

    The instrument has had an important evolution since its beginning in regard to its structural characteristics as well as in the materials used. Although there are several versions and theories, the most widespread belief dates it from the Middle Age as a result of the clash of the Christian and Muslim culture in the Iberian Peninsula.

    The Vihuela or Latin guitar were common, having the vihuela a high prestige, but at the end of XVI century, when the contrapuntal instrumental style was abandoned, the art of the vihuela took refuge by means of being transfigured on the guitar. The order increased, so there were five strings in total, and it became a tradition at popular celebrations.

    We can find important publications such as Spanish guitar of five orders, which teaches tempering and strumming (Joan Carles Amata, 1596), where the current name ‘Spanish guitar’ was already used, so its use and recognition was popularized in Europe.

    Between the XVIII and XIX centuries, the sixth string is added, acquiring the current appearance, but it was not until the XIX century by means of the constructive incorporations of Antonio Torres (Almería, 1817-1892), when it was defined as we know it today, the classical form as well as the flamenco form.

    In the beginner's guide Segovia, my guitar book by Andres Segovia and George Mendoza (Ediciones Montena S.A. 1980), there is a beautiful legend of Greco-Roman mythology:

    Apollo, one of the Olympian gods, addressed Cupid (Eros in Greek mythology) making fun of his skills with the bow and the arrows, in addition to his singing.

    Cupid, who was hurt because of the Apollo’s words, shot him a golden arrow in the heart, which caused a strong attraction for Daphne instantly, the beautiful nymph, who was daughter of Peneus (the river god), passed by. Cupid, in order to provoke the Daphne’s aversion to Apollo, drove another arrow into her heart, but this time he used the lead arrowhead.

    Apollo went after Daphne, but when he finally caught up with her, she implored her father’s help, the river god, who changed her into a tree, the Laurel, which is called Daphne in Greece, and from that moment, it was a sacred tree to Apollo.

    According to legend in the Book of Segovia: Apollo produced the first guitar using this tree, preserving the feminine origin by means of its curved lines of the body and its tendency to be capricious and unpredictable.

    Using Laurel leaves to crown the great poets and artists.