American Folklore: The Real Reason for Exploration? Florida Legend
The Fountain of Youth
When Ponce de Leon set sail for Florida, he was planning to claim the land for his native country. A great deal of the Southern coastline was brimming with legends, and perhaps de Leon’s famous sail toward Bimini was motivated by more than merely discovery. Native American legend had said for years that the area was gifted with miraculous waters, which flowed from a fountain. Could Ponce de Leon have been looking for the fountain of youth?
It might sound unlikely, but legends of this fountain were well known in Europe long before the discovery of the Americas. With the source of this legendary stream not turning up on the European continent, the discovery of new land gave people a new place to look for the Fountain of Youth. Perhaps inspired by Native American myths about the healing powers of the waters in southern Florida, this adventurous explorer set off to claim eternal youth for himself and his crew?
Sadly, we will never know for sure if this was his intended goal. Legends of de Leon hunting for the fountain did not really begin to spread like wildfire until after his death. However, today his name is forever liked with this Florida legend, so even if he did not drink from its waters, perhaps he was granted immortality in a way after all. One thing is for sure, it’s a great twist on those old American history lessons on exploration of the new world to throw this into the mix.
Once you have used the power point (download here), for extra fun, have students read Hawthorne’s classic American short story, Dr. Heidigger’s Experiment. It is a cautionary tale on some of the side effects of taking a swallow from the legendary fountain and yet another way the legend lives on in literature today.