Book: Legends and Popular Tales of the Basque People
Author: Mariana Monteiro

Legends and Popular Tales of the Basque People By Mariana Monteiro

Format: Global Grey free PDF, epub, Kindle ebook
Pages (PDF): 175
Publication Date: 1887

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Chapters include: Aquelarre; Arguiduna; Maitagarri; Roldan's Bugle-Horn; Jaun-Zuria, Prince Of Erin; The Branch of White Lilies. A Tradition; The Song of Lamia; The Virgin of the Five Towns--Ballad; Kurucificatuaren Canta (The Chant of the Crucified)--Ballad; The Raids; The Holy War--Ballad; The Prophecy of Lara--Ballad; and, Hurca-Mendi.

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IN the territory which stands between the towns of Zuggaramurdi and Echalar, a mountainous tract covered with woods, crossed by rivulets, and divided by narrow and very deep valleys, will be found, isolated and darksome, the mountain of Aquelarre, overgrown with brambles and thorns, and surrounded by rocks and waterfalls.

The position of the mountain and its conical form invites the attention of geologists visiting these rugged places; and in effect it is curious to notice that while other mountains, branches of the Pyrenees, are joined to-ether by defiles which form undulations full of various accidents, in some, of soft, ever-green brows, while in other instances their heights are perfect plains, and in some again peaked Aquelarre is roughly different from. the general form of these mountains, so that it stands an exception in the midst of them.

It is said that "Ariel," the titular genius of the Biscayans, one day stretched out his powerful arm and wrenched from its base this singular mountain, placing it at a distance from its companion, so that they should not become contaminated by any contact with this accursed mountain. In fact Aquelarre is an accursed mountain. If you believe it not, remark the colour of the brambles which cover its enormous sides. It is not a green that pleases the sight, the colour in which the noble oak clothes its branches. Neither is it the silvery hue of the white poplar. Much less is it the brilliant green of the handsome beech-tree. Nor does it approach to the green which covers the cherry, the pear, and the nut-trees, full of white, fragrant flowers, in whose salyx shines the drop of dew, like a pure diamond.

The colour of the brushwood of Aquelarre, sombre, lugubrious, darksome, resembles the gigantic peak of Lithuania, or of the cypress which grows in the fissures of the stony hills of Arabia Petrea--a funereal sinister hue which saddens the spirit and represses the expansion of soul of the poet, that in a rapture contemplates the sumptuous gifts and graces of nature in the woods, or the smiling and simple glory of the flower-strewn valleys.

Why this notable contrast? Why this dark phantom in the midst of such beautifully bedecked nature? Because all things that are in contact with the genius of evil carry with them the seal of reprobation, substituting for their ancient beauty forms at once repugnant and loathsome.

Aquelarre finds itself in this sad state. Its heights are frequented by the prince of darkness, and in the crevices of the mountains are repeated the echoes of the irreligious songs which are entoned in his praise.

Many in terror and fear have heard these songs resounding in the mountains, and breaking the majestic silence of the night.

There are some who have seen columns of black smoke rising, and have perceived a nauseous smell emanating from the confines of this accursed mountain, and have with reason conjectured, that the smoke was produced by the holocausts offered to the genius of evil by his wicked worshippers in some mysterious sacrifices.

Nevertheless, who were these spirits? From whence do they come to celebrate their nocturnal revels?

The simple dweller of the mountains shrugs his shoulders on being asked these questions, and contents himself with replying laconically--"Eztaquit" ("I do not know").

Suddenly a report was spread from mouth to mouth, and which gained ground and soon became general, to the effect, that the discovery had been made of what passed on the heights of the accursed mountain by a child.

Behold how tradition tells us this was effected.

Izar and Lañoa were two orphan children; the first was seven years of age and the latter nine. These poor children, true wandering bards, frequented the mountains, earning a livelihood by singing ballads and national airs in sweet infantile voices, in return for a bed of straw and a cupful of meal. Throughout the district these children were known and loved on account of their sad state, as well as for their graceful forms and winning ways.

There was, however, a difference between the two. Izar, the younger brother, was fair as jasper; his long hair fell in curls, pale as the stems of the maize, down his shoulders and back; his eyes were of the purest sky-blue, while from them shot glances at once sweet and suppliant of irresistible force; his lips were red as the flower of the wild pomegranate, around which hovered a smile as gentle as the light puff of an expiring breeze, and, on contracting them, two dimples appeared in his rosy cheeks. Izar was the more patient of the brothers, the meeker, and the more beautiful; his voice had a purer tone, and for that reason was the favourite of the inhabitants of the mountains.

Lañoa was as handsome as his brother, but Nature had dowered him with a different style of beauty. His figure was more lithe, and his limbs of stronger make; the looks he cast out of his black eyes were haughty--at times even arrogant and full of daring. The way he curled his upper lip revealed a passionate, proud character, his hair was black with the bluish shade seen on the feathers of the raven; his long eye-lashes somewhat softened the fire of his eagle eye. Nevertheless, Lañoa was a good lad, and loved his younger brother, notwithstanding that at times he would treat him roughly.

It was on a sad, cloudy day in November that these two were walking towards Aranaz, crossing with difficulty the mountains enveloped in a fog, and covered with snow.