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buber.net > Basque > Folklore > EHL > Euskal Herriko Leiendak: Mari
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Euskal Herriko Leiendak: Mari

by chris

The following Basque Legend was translated by chris from the book "Euskal Herriko Leiendak". He originally posted these stories in the Forum.


Mari is the main goddess of Basque mythology. She has many living places, but the one she has in Anboto mountain is one of the most well known. Because of that, she is also called the dame of Anboto.

Mari has a husband, Maju. On Friday evenings she goes to see him and he combs her hair with her golden comb. She has two sons also: Atarrabi and Mikelats; Atarrabi is good but Mikelats, on the other hand, is bad. Sometimes Mari marries mortal men and has children with them also.


Don Diego Lopez Haroko was the lord of Bizkaia in the century XIV. He was a great hunter and he could always find wild boar or other wild animals that came out, since at that time our mountains were full of animals like that.

One day, going out after a good play, he saw a woman singing on top of a boulder. She had a completely enchanting voice, and Don Diego had to know its owner; so he headed in her direction.

In all his life he hadn't known any woman so beautiful. She was tall and elegant, with smooth white skin. Her deep black eyes made a vivid contrast with her gold coloured hair that stretched almost to the ground. A green dress embroidered with gold and a band across her forehead she wore, which was also made of gold. She was so brilliant that Don Diego fell head over heels in love with her.

"Who are you?" he asked her.

"The dame of Anboto" she replied.

"Since you are the dame of Anboto, and I am the Lord of Bizkaia, will you marry me?"

The dame said yes, but one thing she made him promise: that before her he would never make the sign of the cross.

Mari and the lord of Bizkaia were married and they had a son and a daughter; they called the daughter Urraka and the boy Inaki Gerra.

The years passed and everyone lived well in the castle of Diego Lopez. One day, Don Diego brought a big wild boar back from the hunt; the cooks immediately prepared it for dinner.

When the family were all at the table the two family dogs entered the dining room and starting barking and begging for food. One, a big alano (?) dog, very bold, and the other, a water spaniel, a much smaller dog. Don Diego, laughing, threw a leg of wild boar to them. The two dogs began to fight, each taking the leg from the other, and to the surprise of all, the small dog killed the larger and, dragging the leg of the boar, escaped. Don Diego, who had been unable to remedy the situation, made the sign of the cross saying:

"My God! In my life I've never seen such a thing!"

In that same moment, Mari took her daughter's hand and the two flew away through a window. From then on there was no news of them.

The years went by, and in a war against the Spanish they took Don Diego prisoner and took him to the fortress of Toledo. Inaki Gerra went around asking advice from all his kin on how to free his father; no-one knew, however, how to free him until one time a white bearded old man said this:

"Inaki, if you need help then go to your mother, she will tell you what to do."

Well, Inaki went to Anboto, and, when he got there, saw Mari on top of a boulder.

"Inaki Gerra, my son" she said to him "come to me. I know what you've come for; you've come to ask how to free your father from jail."

Mari cried out, and a well saddled beautiful white horse appeared.

"Pardal is his name" she said to him. "He is for you. He will help you win your battles, but you must never remove his saddle, or give him food or drink. Today he will take you to Toledo and bring the two of you home."

And thus Inaki climbed onto the horse and went to rescue his father, who was at the back of the castle where they were holding him. Inaki searched for him, took him by the hand and led him to the place where the horse was, and the two of them returned to Bizkaia; no-one could have done anything, as the two were invisible meanwhile.

From that time, in the house of the lord of Bizkaia, the tripe of all the cows they kill they leave on top of a stone for Mari as an offering. And, as they used to say, it was necessary to do that, otherwise terrible harm would come to the Lord or the house. And that way it happened and remained.

A descendent of Don Diego stopped making the offering, and he lost an eye because he no longer followed the tradition.

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