Some Basque Stories

© 1995-2002 Untangle Incorporated
Last Updated: Tuesday, April 30, 2002

A View from The Witch's Cave: Folktales of the Pyrennes.


The Lamia of Mondarrain
It is said that the summit of Mondarrain in Ezpeleta is inhabited by lamias. One morning an old shepherd encountered a lamia who was combing her hair with a comb made of gold. The shepherd stole the comb from her, and the lamia chased him. When he approached the Xistiko-harria stone, the sun was shining on that very spot. The lamia said to the shepherd, "You may give thanks to the one who has wrapped you in his light." And she backed away.

The Young Man Who Fell in Love with a Lamia
A young man from the Korrione farm (in Garagarza) went to Kobaundi, located on the mountain of Kobate. There he met a lamia. She was a very beautiful woman, much more beautiful that the Christian women in those parts. The lamia promised to marry the young man on one condition: he would have to guess how old she was.

The young man consulted with a neighbor woman about the proceedure for learning the age of a lamia. The woman told him that she would discover the lamia's age for him. So, the woman went to Kobaundi. She stood with her back to the mouth of the lamia's cave and bent over so that her face would peek between her own legs.
The lamia appeared and, startled by the sight, declared, "In all my 105 years, I have never seen such a thing."
Then the neighbor woman ran off to tell the boy the lamia's age. In this way the young man was able to tell the lamia with certainity, "You are 105 years old," so the lamia agreed to marry him.
The young man gave his news to his mother, and she ordered him to look carefully at the lamia's feet. The young man did so and he saw that they looked like duck's feet. As a result, the poor boy was badly frightened and fell ill. Not long after that, he died.

The Bridge at Licq
In Licq they built a bridge that was so flimsy that any flood could sweep it away. One day a lamia appeared before a man from Licq. The lamia proposed to build a solid, flood-proof bridge in the short space of time before nightfsll and midnight, specifically before the cock could crow, if he would agree to belong to her when he died.
The man agreed to the proposal, saying, "Why not?" But after thinking it over, the man grew afraid and went to a wise woman for advice. The woman gave him two eggs laid by a black hen. One of the eggs would soon become a cock that would sing, "Cock-doodle-doo!"
And so the lamias began the construction of the bridge. Among themselves they addressed each other by the same name. "There goes Guillen." "Give it to me, Guillen." "Take it, Guillen." And while they were passing from one to another, they were heard to comment, "Here we are, at least eleven thousand Guillens."
All of a sudden, just at the moment when they were about to put the last stone in place, the voice of a cock was heard to sing, "Cock-doodle-doo!"
The lamias became very angry and they protested as they abandoned their work, shouting, "Cursed be the egg laid by the black hen of March!"
And that was how the bridge at licq was left without the finishing touch of the final stone. Since that time, no one has managed to place that last stone.

More Stories

A certain king of Navarra once solemly promised, "I shall give my daughter in marriage to the man that vanquishes one of my black subjects." A man from the Muntzas farm near Abadiano accepted the king's proposal and managed to vanquish the black man. The king kept his promise and gave him his daughter's hand, and the couple moved into the Palace of Abadiano, located in the Muntzas district.
A son and a daughter were born, Ibon was the older, and Mariurrika was the younger, and as such she was quite spoiled. One day, Mariurrika and a servant had the idea of killing Ibon to claim his inheritance. With that in mind, they took him to spend the day at Amboto. During their meal, they gave Ibon too much wine. After he had fallen into a drunken sleep, Mariurrika and the servant hurled him over a cliff and he died.
When Mariurrika returned home, she told her parents that Ibon had had an accident and had fallen over a cliff. But she could not silence the screaming of her conscience, which accused her of her brother's death. That night while Mariurrika was in the kitchen, she saw monsters sliding down the chimney.
Mariurrika died on the spot, and ever since then, she has spent eternity flying from the mountaintop of Amboto to the mountaintop of Oiz in the form of a fireball. She takes refuge in two caves, one in Amboto (the cave of Mari) and the other in Sarrimendi.
A Mother's Curse
In a certain house there once lived a mother and her daughter. Ignoring her mother's advice, the daughter lived soley according to her own desires.
One day she gave her mother an impudent reply to some question, and her mother was offended and put a curse on her daughter, "May heaven and earth close their doors to you!"
Since that time, she has been forced to fly through the air between heaven and earth. During the day, she usually resides in the cavern of Amboto. There, she spends hours spinning and spinning, but she never manages to make thread. At night, she leaves the cavern and transports herself elsewwhere, leaving a stream of sparks in her wake.

Carried Away
In Cerain there is a farm that is known by the name of Euzkita. One day while a terrible storm was raging, the mother of the house ordered her daughter to go up and close the windows in the attic. But the young girl did not want to obey, so her mother cursed her and asked that she be carried away by monsters. Finally, the daughter went up to close the windows, but she never came down again
Since that time, the girl has wandered obeying Mari as she goes from one place to another. Sometimnes she is seen in Aizkorri, and other times in Aralar and in Amboto.
When she was in Aizkorri, she carried a ram to her cave. The shepherds went there to ask her to return the ram. During the shepherd's visit, she sat on the back of the ram while a young woman combed her hair. The shepherds never recovered the ram.

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