The 13th Floor

The Legend of BASAJAUN: The Basque Bigfoot?

Before I introduce you to what many have dubbed the Bigfoot of the Basque Country, allow me to briefly explain how I came to cross paths with this hairy heteroclite from Basque Mythology.

To put everything into context, I was born and raised in the northern English town of Huddersfield before emigrating to Bilbao more years ago than I care to remember. Anyway, every winter I take my wife and kids to a nearby ski resort in Formigal on the French border, and while there earlier this year, I received a cryptic message from my concerned mother asking me if I’d spotted anything out of the ordinary on piste.

That message was then swiftly followed up with a heavily pixelated image with the caption: “Strange animal spotted in Formigal. What the hell is this?”

Yeti in formigal

What with me being a stone’s throw from where this “animal” had been spotted, and despite all my usual skepticism, my intrigue got the better of me and Googling soon provided me with some shaky cellphone footage taken by two tourists from the Canary Islands of a Yeti-looking figure traipsing through the snow. What made things all the more worrisome was that fact that the ski resort itself — along with a plethora of Spanish celebrities — had already taken to social media to spread the word and the news soon started making the pages of the likes of The Telegraph, The Sun, Bild and The Huffington Post… and of course, we covered it here on Blumhouse.com.

Then, just as people started to shrug it off as a joke of some kind, up popped more cellphone footage — this time of  a “Spanish Yeti captured & transported by truck.”

These things don’t tend to phase me all that much to be honest, but curiosity lingered all the same as nothing and no one debunked the story. And that’s when a bit of digging around led me to the Basajaun.

Said to dwell in the densest forests and labyrinthine caves of the Pyrenees, the Basajaun — or “Lord of the Woods” in English — is deeply rooted in Basque tradition and described as a large human-like creature with fully anthropomorhic features, extraordinary physical force, great agility and knotted facial and body hair running down to his/her knees. There are also said to be striking parallels between the Basajaun and the Neanderthal — something that isn’t all that surprising, given the fact the Pyrenees is one of the last places the latter is purported to have died out.

Despite it’s threatening appearance, unlike the Himalayan Yeti, the Basajaun is documented as a friend rather than a foe — for humans at least. Specifically, history will have us believe that this was as benevolent a beast as they come, watching over the woodland and shrieking warning cries to warn shepherds to protect their flocks of sheep from predatory animals and incoming storms. And as if that wasn’t help enough, Basque mythology also suggests that the Basajaun was a teacher of all trades, having developed exceptional skills in milling, forging and crop cultivation, all of which they willingly taught to the local population.

Even so, as friendly as this big, hairy giant may have been, the myth has served as inspiration for various tales of terror — including Freaktown Comics’ THE DARK OF THE FOREST, which pits a group of birdwatchers against something particularly protective of the forest and willing to kill anyone that gets in its way. Whilst I can’t vouch for the quality of the comic, myself, as I haven’t read it, Rue Morgue says it’s “A good, old-fashioned horror story that’s not trying to reinvent the wheel and is all the more entertaining because of it.” You can go grab yourselves a copy right here.

Dark of the Forest teaser poster

In terms of actual sightings, whilst recent reports have been few and far between, they do all bear striking resemblances to the legend — not only in terms of appearance, but also how the creature means us no harm.

In 1993, cave explorers claimed to have crossed paths with a Basajaun-like creature in some church ruins in the Catalan Pyrenees, describing the beast as a hulking, five-foot-tall, shaggy-haired being which wailed like “an enraged cat.”

The only recent photograph to be found online of these simiots is the one shown at the head of this article, which was reportedly taken by a young girl on her phone in 2011 while out hiking with her family in Artikutza.

While eyewitness reports and photographic evidence are rare, at least there’s still said to exist a plethora of fifteenth-century carvings depicting the Basajaun at both the Burgos Cathedral and the monastery of Santa María la Real in Najera.

Whether the Basajaun still exists — or if it ever did — remains a mystery, but coming back full circle, I was relieved to discover that the beast recently spotted at my regular winter escape in Formigal was in fact just a marketing ploy by the company Hawkers to promote a viral campaign their latest range of ski accessories:

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