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Herensuge is the name for a mythical dragon in Basque language. In Basque mythology, dragons appear sparingly, sometimes with seven heads. Herensuge often also appear in the form of a snake serpent. [1]The seven heads were believed to be the off spring of the Herensuge dragon; when the little dragons were fully grown, they would fall off their mother's head. Only the god Sugaar is associated with this creature but more often with a serpent.

Yet there is a Christian legend in which certain Navarrese knight, Teodosio de Goñi, while making penance for double parricide in the Aralar Range has to rescue a woman that had been given as ransom to the dragon; when the chains that tie his ankles have been bitten by the dragon and he sees no way of defeating it, the knight prays to Saint Michael to save him. In Heaven, the archangel is notified: "Michael, they call you in Earth" but he replies: "My Lord, I won't go to that fight without You". Finally, the archangel, with God over his head appears and cuts the head of the dragon, liberating Teodosio from his chains and ending his penance.

This legend is specifically associated to the monastery of San Miguel de Aralar, it has been interpreted in the sense of justifying the break away with the religion and customs of Pagan Basques and adopting Christianity and, specifically, the veneration for St. Michael. Otherwise, it is very similar to other European legends of knights and dragons, which likely had a significant influence on it.[2]

Legends of Herensuge[edit]

  • The Grateful Tartalo and the Herensuge: In this story a prince frees a Tartalo, Basque one eyed giant, from his father, the king. He must flee because of his father's anger and calls upon the Tartalo for help; the Tartalo advises tells him to become a gardener for another king. While there, he wins the heart of the youngest daughter of the king who is due to be sacrificed to a seven headed Herensuge. With the help of the Tartalo, the disguised prince, is able to kill the creature after three battles; the king promises his daughter to the man who defeated the Herensuge. In the end the prince’s identity is revealed and he marries the princess.[3]
  • The Seven Headed Serpent: In this story a young man is met by an old woman in the woods, who asks for a piece of the cake he has with him. The young man offers her the entire cake, and she is grateful for his kindness. In return he is given a stick that has the power to kill with a single blow, he comes to be a shepherd for a palace, and is able to protect the flock with the stick. After he defeats a number of beasts, one the them offers to tell him of a palace in the woods here he will find wealth in exchange for sparing the beast’s life; the boy spares it and goes to the palace where he finds great wealth. He travels throughout the country until he finds a land where people must draw lots to see who will be sacrificed to a local Herensuge; the king has lost and must sacrifice his daughter. The man accompanies the daughter to the mountain of the Herensuge and kills all of its seven heads with the stick; the man is married to the princess as a rewards for saving her.[3]
  • The Serpent in the Wood: Here a young woman wishes to go see the country and sets out to meet new people. She journeyed across the country until she entered a wood. There she was captured by a Herensuge. After three years of imprisonment she wished desperately to return home; the serpent told her to leave and come back in two days for he was actually a prince punished to be a Herensuge for 4 years and that he would marry her since his punishment was almost over. He gave her a distaff and spindle, of silver-gilt, and a silk handkerchief and she left; when she arrives home her father does not let her leave again and she is only able to escape after four days. By this time the prince is gone and she must make the very long journey to the prince’s city,during which she wears through seven pairs of shoes; when she arrives the prince is being married to another woman. The girl shows the silk handkerchief and other items given to her; the prince then disavows his new marriage and instead marries the girl since he promised to do so earlier.[3]


  1. ^ Lurker, Manfred (2004-08-02). "The Routledge Dictionary of Gods and Goddesses, Devils and Demons". doi:10.4324/9780203643518.
  2. ^ "Teodosio (edo Theodosio) de Goñi - Auñamendi Eusko Entziklopedia". (in Basque). Retrieved 2019-04-10.
  3. ^ a b c WEBSTER, WENTWORTH (2018). BASQUE LEGENDS. OUTLOOK Verlag. ISBN 3732647900. OCLC 1029648876.