The Golden Goat : a provençal legend

The Golden Goat is a mythical animal with a coat, horns and hooves of precious metal.

A guardian of legendary treasures, its legend is associated with the partial or temporary occupation of Provence by the Saracens in the High Middle Ages. It is said that the Moors hid their treasure in the caves of the Val d’Enfer, where only a goat could see it.

The Moors in Provence

To understand the origin of the Golden Goat, it is important to immerse oneself in the history of Provence. Saracen raids took place from 730 to 973 in Provence. They began before the Battle of Poitiers and continued regularly thereafter. Even today, the Battle of Poitiers is considered to be the first encounter between the Muslims and the Franks. The Moors arrived from Spain and continued their conquest northwards. They established themselves in several strongholds, including Saint-Tropez, and mostly raided the surrounding area. In doing so, the chieftains reaped great spoils. However, the accumulation of their plundering left its mark on the collective memory.

The Val-d’Enfer caves: the secret hiding place

Conrad III, who had become King of Provence by marriage, succeeded with some difficulty in gathering his vassals to overthrow the Saracens outside the kingdom. The Moors, who had not been disturbed until now, began to be frightened by this initiative of the king of Provence.

It was then that a Saracen nobleman, called Abdelraman, had the idea of hiding his treasure in a secret hiding place. He tied gold coins, jewels and gems, which constituted his real treasure, in a goat skin with thread and left the territory with his servants. The caves of the Val d’Enfer in the Alpilles are the best place to hide his fortune.

Once there, he sees a goat slither between two rocks and follows it. The goat then takes him to a large room lit by torches in which a horrible woman – the Taven – sits on a carved stone seat. At that time, witches acted deliberately, as was the case with the Taven, who resided in the caves of the Val-d’Enfer, at the bottom of the Baux rock. The witch challenges him to confront a monster. If he succeeds, she will provide him with a room to hide his treasure. Greedy for money and wealth, the Moor accepts her proposal. The confrontation between the young man and the beast lasts two days and two nights and ends with the death of both protagonists.

Shortly afterwards, one of Abdelraman’s servants, who was waiting outside the cave, saw a different goat emerge from the one he had arrived with, the Golden Goat. Because of its golden constitution (coat, horns and hooves), it was dazzling under the sunrays. Filled with fear in front of this particular animal, the knight fled.

The treasure-keeping goat

Only the goat, as a witness to the hiding of the treasure by the Saracens, is able to know the true hiding place of the coveted loot. She thus becomes the guardian of the fantastic treasure of the Moors of Fraxinet. Suspicious, she will only confide in the person who is able to move her.

If the idea of venturing into the caves of the Val-d’Enfer crosses your mind, you will have to be patient to seduce the golden goat and take the treasure. While waiting for someone to come and coax it, the animal takes a malicious pleasure in losing its pursuers through the mountains and hills of Provence, frolicking on the crests, in the scrubland and garrigue reaching the shores of the Mediterranean. In this way, greedy treasure seekers who know its secret cannot capture the mischievous animal.

Legend has it that fine threads of gold can be seen in the hillside hanging from the plants. On certain evenings, it is even possible to see the golden goat jumping from rock to rock. Finally, the morality of the golden goat lies in the fact that the real treasure is not material.

In the footsteps of the Moors in Provence

The Moors settled in Provence for a long time during the High Middle Ages. This presence has left us a legacy of place names and territories.

Between Hyères and Fréjus, the Maures massif could have taken its name from the Saracen occupation, as historians have long believed. Its name is actually derived from Latin and means “the black one”. Beyond the etymological quarrels, the Maures massif constitutes an absolutely remarkable natural space, between hills of red rocks, pine forests, garrigue carpet, secret beaches and creeks bathed by the Mediterranean Sea.

We advise you to take the departmental road D559, which runs along the coast and will invite you to marvel throughout your journey.