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Euskal Idazleen Elkartea

Antton Irusta Zamalloa > Extracts

Narrative (short story and novel)

The story of Edurne |

Long ago I met a girl who was studying history. She loved farms and forests. Her name was Nuria. She had to do a piece of university research. It involved taking some photos of the Doomed Castle, which was perched on a large rock in the Pyrenees.

We got to the crossroads of the Doomed Castle at midday. We had lunch in a field full of blue and white flowers. I lay down among the flowers and went to sleep right away, while my friend Nuria was picking some of the wonderful flowers.

All of a sudden it began to snow thick and fast.

Astonished, we made our way back to the hotel where we had taken a room.

The woman there exclaimed:

-You're soaking wet! Where on earth have you been? What happened?

-We don't know. The sun was blazing down in this field and then it suddenly began to snow after lunch.

-It's nothing unusual; when strangers come here, it often starts to snow. It's an ancient story, the story of Edurne, in fact. Perhaps Granddad will tell you all about it.

We agreed, and she showed us the way to Granddad who was in the warm beside the fire.

-Granddad, will you tell them the story about Edurne?

-Yes, of course. I'd be delighted.

As we were wet and frozen we sat by the fire near the grandfather eager to hear the story.

"About a thousand years ago the people who inhabited the plains of Catalonia, which you visited today, lived wretched lives and had to escape to the mountains. Among them were farmers, charcoal burners, craftsmen and peasants. There was also an old, mighty soldier: he was called old Hugo.

The doomed castle was built on that plain on the orders of old Hugo.

Old Huge was brutal, strong and a thief. People were deeply afraid of him, but as he was very old, one rainy day he died. Hugo had a daughter called Maranka who was slender and beautiful. When her father died, she ruled in his stead.

Once, as she was going through the forest with her warriors, the black night fell upon them and they sought refuge in a hut in a forest in their land.

They were not familiar with the place and went inside the hut as soon as they had dismounted from their horses. When Maranka passed by the shepherd, she stared at the boy and was captivated by his good looks.

Maranka fell in love with the shepherd.

She wanted to go back to the shepherd, but this time all alone. When she was out hunting, she got lost in the forest again. She reached the hut at the dead of night, got down off her horse and quickly went inside.

-Madam, what are you doing here? -asked the surprised shepherd, when he saw Maranka.

-Look, I've lost my way and I'd like to spend the night here beside you -and later on she asked him-: Where are you going?

-To spend the night outside.

-That is out of the question! I command you to stay here with me.

-Inside here? With you, Madam?

-That's right. I want you to stay here.

The shepherd, whose name was Arnau, went over to a corner of the hut and sat down. In the meantime, Maranka approached the bed and slowly took off her clothes, one by one, until she was naked. Then she went up to the shepherd and began to caress him. The shepherd stood up all at once and said to her:

-Madam, is this what you wanted?

-Exactly! I want you for ever! -replied Maranka.

The moment the shepherd heard these words, he left all of a sudden. Then Maranka felt a tremendous hatred for him. How could a shepherd scorn her so?

She dressed at once, took her horse and made for the castle considering how to get her revenge for such an insult. Not long afterwards she learnt that Arnau was in love with a young girl. The girl's name was Edurne (a Basque first name derived from the word for 'snow'), because her skin was as white as white, her hair the colour of gold, and her eyes clear blue. All the people around knew that Edurne and Arnau were in love.

Maranka gave a trusted servant of hers a strict order. He was to find Edurne, kill her and leave her body in front of the shepherd's hut. The servant did just that. Very soon he obeyed the order and left Edurne dead in front of Arnau's hut.

When Arnau came out of the hut and saw Edurne on the ground, he could not believe his eyes. Who could have killed her? It must have been Maranka's work. No doubt about that.

He ran to the castle, and when he saw Maranka, he cried out:

-Kill me, kill me! -the young shepherd implored Maranka-. I could not live without Edurne!

-That is what I wanted to hear and that is what I wanted to make you feel.

Arnau, beside himself, picked up Edurne in his arms and ran away. For seven days and seven nights he wandered here and there, stumbling and getting up again; on the seventh day he reached a green field and came across an old woman there.

The old woman said to him:

-Arnau, where are you going with Edurne asleep in your arms?

-Silence, they've killed her, Maranka has killed her.

-That is not so, look at her carefully -the old woman told him-. I am Edurne's godmother and I have given her protection. Edurne is asleep.

Arnau looked at Edurne and immediately realised that her cheeks were pink.

-She's asleep -the old woman told him-, but she will have to sleep for a thousand years. It was the only way to protect her.

-A thousand years! A thousand years is an eternity. What am I going to do without Edurne? How am I going to live without her love?

-You are young -the old woman replied-. You will find someone else to fall in love with. There are other flowers in the world.

Arnau was crying. He told her over and over again that he could not live without Edurne; as the old woman had special powers, she made Arnau go to sleep alongside Edurne and they both became flowers, a blue one and a white one.

Maranka had spies everywhere and one of them told her the old woman had turned Arnau into a blue flower and Edurne into a white one.

Maranka immediately ordered her soldiers to search the green fields for a white flower and a blue one and pull them up.

The soldiers searched all the fields and when one of them said "here they are", the whole field became full of blue and white flowers.

The soldiers returned to the field full of blue and white flowers. When they went into the field, it began to snow thick and fast and then suddenly the field turned completely white. Maranka thought it must be under a spell and when she found out it was to last a thousand years, she gave up her attempts.

Many years went by. A terrible plague came and the people from the valleys sought refuge in the mountains once again. Some of the people reached the field of blue and white flowers. They found the old woman there.

-If you undertake to look after these flowers, in return I will give you tools to work the earth, animals and seeds. The only condition will be to look after these flowers and to stop anyone cutting a single one."

Then granddad said this:

-We are the descendants of the people who went to those fields and the Doomed Castle you want to visit is Maranka's castle, the one she had built and made to last. For a long time now when strangers come here and go into the field of blue and white flowers, it starts to snow.

I slept like a log, because my mind was at rest after hearing the story, but my friend Nuria spent the whole night pacing too and fro in a nervous state unable to sleep.

When I got up the next day Nuria had terrible shadows under her eyes and would not take her hands out of her pockets.

-Where is granddad?

-He got up early in the morning and went to the field; he is always going there to look at the flowers.

Then, as we set off for the Doomed Castle, Nuria said to me:

-Look, Antton, that story has left me worried.

-Yes, I noticed -I told her-. You haven't slept. You don't look well.

-Look, at midday yesterday, while you were asleep, I was picking flowers.

She took her hand out of her pocket and when she opened her hand she showed me a blue flower and a white flower.

-And if they are them? What if they are Edurne and Arnau?

-They are just stories! You don't believe them, do you?

The fact is we did not go to the castle but left the area. We were nervous and worried. I have hardly ever told that story. I told it years ago and I wonder whether the flowers I still have in a chest at home could be Edurne and Arnau.
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