Mythology Monday #2 Cocollona

Hello! Welcome once again to Mythology Monday. Quick reminders: You can find out more information about LAMMP, and about the Hispanic Atheist over here and here (respectively). That being said let’s jump right in! If given the chance I’ll try and do another one today, but the one right now is an urban myth from Girona Spain.

The Cocollona lurked beneath the water, carefully using the water to make sure even those few humans gifted enough to detect her naturally couldn’t see her. She surfaced from time to time in deserted locations, to feed on unsuspecting birds and fish she had captured while swimming lazily through the Onyar. Like a “normal” crocodile she was a lazy being only rarely striking fish and birds foolish enough to come close, and she suspected (in the small part of her that retained her human intellect) that she couldn’t be seen by animals, like she couldn’t be seen by normal humans. Even her butterfly wings which she used to propel herself forward through the water in rare, and violent bursts. 

The former human had haunted the river for centuries. Since long ago, in the age of the Inquisition, the Cocollona had been an inhabitant of the city and a river-dweller. The strange monster had been reported on by authorities and by regular city-dwellers for centuries and was accepted for a while, before fading into the background like the ancient myths of werewolves in Spain. As monsters became less and less accepted and believed in they began to lose force and presence. Sooner or later the oldest ones will all undergo a process by which they “deteriorate” and begin to become harder and harder to notice. Sooner or later they can only be seen by men and women with exceptional spiritual energy. The Cocollona is in the middle of this process, which is why some people report seeing her wings in the river, but others don’t believe them and make fun of them. Now the Cocollona almost mindlessly drifts through the river, occasionally devouring food and moving suddenly as she remembers things about her past life, when she was human and thrashes about angered over her new life, and her new inability to die. It was infuriating for the lady crocodile. 

(This story suggests the Cocollona is somehow physically immortal. Her source myth doesn’t state this. Nor does it state that she is intelligent/sentient. Or give an age when the legend occurred. This is just an example of one way she could theoretically be written into a story.)

So the Cocollona. Have you heard of her? She’s a nun. Or she was/would have been when if she had lived longer when she was human. According to a website about Girona, a long time ago there was a convent in which priests, monks, and nuns worked together. It seems that they weren’t particularly good at their lives of faith and got annoyed when a young nun or would be nun (one site I read said she was a nun scolded them for living the way they did, which was disorganized and of little faith) attempted to correct them and work to get back “on the right path”. And what happened to her? She got locked up in a cell and slowly transformed into a strange crocodile thing. With butterfly wings. Because of her soul and faith. I guess.

So the internal logic here is the following: Young girl who likes God (possibly, it could be another god) wants to live religiously. Happens to go to a bad convent. Wants to get her fellow religious leaders back on the good path. Gets locked up in a dark cell. Begins to grow scales until she is fully crocodiled (because darkness and humidity, apparently). Somehow because of her “purity” she grew these butterfly wings. And then died. Eventually.

She died (at some point) and became a ghost. And now from time to time her strange crocodile/butterfly ghost can be seen drifting in the river underneath the light of the full moon close to where she was supposedly imprisoned for her faith.

Weirdest martyr/persecution story I’ve heard so far with what are likely Christians. Especially because she doesn’t have a good reward and the people who punished her don’t seem to suffer.

Another interpretation with some differing details can be found here (it’s in English).

Some pages I’ve read, specifically the Spanish wiki page on Cocollona (which I don’t take seriously as a source but I wanted to see its links) stated that it is possible tour guides created the Cocollona myth in an attempt to get more business or otherwise increase interest in the city, but it’s difficult to tell whether or not this is actually the case.

I believe this video could be Spanish, but it’s not like any Spanish I’ve ever heard (I’ve never heard someone from Spain speak Spanish, so I don’t know) so I suspect it could be Catalan or another language altogether. But it tells more or less the same story. The pictures and the words that sound similar to Spanish heard in the Americas make it possible to figure out the gist of the story. The drawings are nice in a childish way so it can be worth showing to children using for an activity on myths and monsters if you are a teacher or want to teach your kids about myths they haven’t heard of before if you mute it and just the tell story as the video plays.

If you have any interesting Latino/Spanish monsters, heroes, deities, or legends you’d like to see covered let me know! Let me what you think of this tragic nun/nun in training.


  1. Kreator says

    Wow, I knew other folk tales about people transforming into animals, but this one is certainly one of the most bizarre. By the way, based on your sources and some deductions that language is definitely Catalan. The Spanish spoken in the motherland is certainly unique, but not that much! Also, a hunch confirmed me that this creature’s name is a simple portmanteau ‎of crocodile and butterfly (cocodril and papallona in Catalan).
    By the way, if you want to hear Castilian Spanish as part of a cool story with weird monsters, I recommend you the film “El Laberinto del Fauno / Pan’s Labyrinth“, if you haven’t watched it already.

    If you have any interesting Latino/Spanish monsters, heroes, deities, or legends you’d like to see covered let me know!

    Anything is good for me, but as a tip the Guaraní, Mapuche or Selk’nam peoples have/had some pretty interesting characters in their folklore.

  2. Hannes Gouwy says

    We saw a huge ‘lizard’ at sa riera Spain, unexplaineable.. It was full moon celebrating the end of our holiday, dancing and singing like crazy people and suddenly we see this light in the water, moving graciously, very big.. super intense. We saw paws of lizard like animal, something black on the it’s back.. we were both astonished. Now we are are here looking on the internet for an explanation and we read about this coconella, everything matches our thoughts. Never experienced anything like this..


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