Myths and legends: the fantastic creatures of the Basque Country

Fairies, goblins, witches, giants, dragons… so many fantastic and legendary creatures that you can meet in the mountains, caves and rivers of the Basque Country!

Basajaun, the Basque yeti

The Basajaun (meaning “Lord of the Forest” in Basque) is a legendary creature from Basque mythology. Legend has it that he lives in the Iraty forest and mountains of the Basque Country. It takes on the appearance of a tall, hair-covered humanoid creature, similar to the American bigfoot.

Shepherds fear it, even though it protects their flocks from wolf attacks in the summer pastures. On his nocturnal outings, the invisible guardian of the forest sometimes visits shepherds’ huts to steal their food. Basajaun ‘s wife is called Basandere (the Lady of the Forest). It also lives in the mountains of the Basque Country, near caves, caverns and fountains.

The Laminak, half-fairies, half-lutins

Originating in Basque mythology and popular beliefs, laminak are fantastic beings who maintain good relations with humans. They take on the appearance of teasing goblins in the provinces of Soule and Basse-Navarre, or pretty young women with long hair and animal feet in the more western regions.

Essentially nocturnal creatures, laminak live underground, in caves, near water sources and streams. In Saint-Pée-sur-Nivelle, they are said to be hidden under the old Utsalea bridge. The Laminak are also said to have hidden large quantities of gold on the Gaztelu hill , more specifically in the prehistoric caves of Isturitz and Oxocelhaya.

The goddess Mari

A central figure in Basque mythology, Mari is considered to be the mother goddess of all the divinities that populate the world. Legend has it that she lives underground, in a cave high in the mountains. Associated with him are witches, called “sorginak”, who perform rituals in his honor, and Sugaar, “the male dragon”, god of storms and lightning.

Herensuge, the seven-headed serpent

Herensugue is also one of the most famous mythological creatures in Basque culture. It’s a gigantic seven-headed serpent, protector of the Basajaunak. Thanks to its powerful breath, it sucks in herds that pass within its reach, and sometimes their shepherds. It is said to hide beneath the Rhune massif, the sacred mountain of the Basques. Nothing could be further from the truth, as legend has it that the scale-covered monster was struck down by the knight Gaston de Belzunce in the 15th century.

Giants, bogeymen, cyclops and other fantastic creatures of the Basque Country

Even more mysterious and fascinating creatures haunt the mountains, forests and rivers of the inland Basque country. We can also mention Sugulna, a three-headed hydra; Tartaro, a cruel, anthropophagous cyclops; the bogeyman Gaueko which punishes unwary travelers who venture into the mountains at night; the Gentiles (“Jentilak” in Basque), a people of giants who are said to have built the dolmens and cromlechs of the Basque country; or the Olentzero the Basque equivalent of Santa Claus.

Discover Basque culture

To find out more, the Musée Basque in Bayonne is devoting a storytelling tour to discovering some of the characters of Basque mythology through various objects: the dolmens of the Gentils, the combs of the Lamina, the kaiku (milk jug) of the Basajaun