In Basque mythology, Basajaun (plural: basajaunak) is a huge, hairy hominid dwelling in the woods. They were thought to build megaliths, protect flocks of livestock, and teach skills such as agriculture and ironworking to humans. Given the arrival of the first Basques (c. 80,000 BC) and the overlap of the then-indigenous humans, the Neanderthals (c. 600,000 years ago to 30,000 BC), some theories have arisen as to whether the Basajuanak stories originated out of proto-Basque interaction with the Neanderthals.
As its name means, ‘the man of the forest, the wild man’ this is a well-known mythological character. The Basajauna lives in the depths of the forest or in caves in high-altitude areas. This character has the appearance of a huge and frightening man. His body is fully covered with hair, and he has so long mane to his knees that its’ face, breast and belly are almost completely covered.
This creature is the guardian of the forest and the nature. As well as that, he is particularly the protector of the flock of sheep. That’s why, when the storm comes the Basajauna roars to advise the shepherds. So, thanks to his roar the shepherds are able to put their flocks of sheep sheltered. The Basajauna also protects the herd from the wolves. When the sheep feel the Basajauna is near, they suddenly shake the bells they have and so the shepherds can be calm knowing that wolves are not going to get close.
However, the Basajauna is sometimes presented to us like a terrible and evil being with a tremendous strength and agility; other times, as the first farmers, blacksmiths or millers. He is said to be the master of all those occupations and that human being has stolen to him the secret to make the saw and the mill shaft axis, and the secret for soldering metal too.
This mythological character is an ancient times one. In the mythology of Aragon there is a creature named as Basajarau, Bonjarau or Bosnerau, and these names seem to be related to the Basajauna. Taking into account that in the first century Euskara (Basque language) was spoken in almost all the Pyrenees (toponymy as witness), the Basajaun could be a myth which came from those ages. In a aquitaine – Roman altar it also appeared a Basaerte (basurde) god, which could be a wild boar god. So, we can see that baso (forest) word as Basque origin.
- Vinson, Folklore du Pays Basque (1883), p. 43. J. M. of Barandiaran, Eusko-Folklore (1922); Basque Mythology (1960), pp. 75–76.
- Barandiaran, Jose Miguel (1964) El mundo en la mente popular vasca. Zarautz, Txertoa.
- Barandiaran, Jose Miguel (1994) Mitología vasca. Donostia, Txertoa.
- Martínez de Lezea,Toti (2002) Euskal Herriko Leiendak. Donostia, Erein.