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buber.net > Basque > Folklore > Basque Mythology: The Hunter
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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 days.

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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