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Basque Mythology: The Hunter
The following was translated from an article originally in Spanish at the Encyclopedia Auñamendi.
The legend of the hunter who, for punishment of his excessive zeal, is
forced to run without respite through mountains, valleys and plains
accompanied by his dogs, forms a part of the innumerable nocturnal and
aereas(???) hunting stories scattered in the oral literature of the
peoples of Europe. According to the Basque version, the hunter is
generally a priest that, abandoning his congregation while in the
middle of celebrating mass, left with his dogs to chase after a
hare. He has yet to return, nor will he ever return, from his
excursion. No one has ever seen him; but there are many who tell that
they have heard his whistle, as well as the sad and monotonous howl of
his dogs, in our forests and lands.
In Atáun, where this hunter is called Mateo-txistu, the people are
said to have seen, by the light of the moon on a winter night, the
shadow of the unfortunate priest; however, neither he nor his dogs
could be seen directly. In Placencia they call him Juanito
txistularixa -- Juanito the chistulari -- and say that he had been a
priest of Elosua. In Cortézubi they believe that he was a priest of
Mallavia and he that walks the world hounded by hunger. One day, he
passed near an oven where a woman was baking a batch of bread. He
asked for a bun; but he did not have time to take it from the hands of
the baker that approached him; he ran on past, as he has until
today. Many coal miners hear, in the middle of the deafening noise of
the wind that blows in the forests, the whistle that the hunter calls
to his dogs. In Guesalibar -- in the neighborhood of Mondragón -- he
is called Martin-abade, "Priest Martín". There, they say that he was
from Udala. Having suspended the celebration of the mass by running
after a hare which his dogs followed in pursuit, he is condemned to
run over the earth with his dogs. His dogs bark and he whistles
constantly. They are never seen; only the flames that the dogs, when
they bark, spew from their mouths are visible. In Donestihiri they
call the hunter Erregue Xalamon. According to the stories of
Amézqueta, after the night in which the whistles of the hunter and the
barking of his dogs are heard, a storm comes that lasts for fifteen
Reference: José Miguel of Barandiarán: "Eusko-Folklore", n.° 17;
Resurrection Mª Azkue: "E. And.", II, p. 438.
José Miguel of BARANDIARÁN
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