Nekane, the Lamiña & the Bear is a retelling of a classic Basque tale. The Basque are an ethnic group that live in a region that is located around the western end of the Pyrenees on the coast of the Bay of Biscay and straddles parts of north-central Spain and south-western France. This basics of the story will be familiar but the Basque version is certainly unique.

A young girl, Nekane, is sent to her Uncle’s house with a basket of fish and olive oil, but of course has to travel through the deep, dark woods to get there. Her mother warns her about the lamiña, a forest spirit who loves olive oil and will try to take it by taking any shape it wishes. Her mother tells her though, that the spirit is limited by the shape it takes, so if it takes the shape of a bird it can fly but won’t be able to breathe underwater. Also, it will never let you see its feet.

The lamiña does try to trick the girl in the forest by becoming fog, but she outsmarts it, makes it to a clearing and the wind blows it away. The girl then meets a bear, who she is sure isn’t the lamiña because she can see its paws. She tells it to leave her alone and she will make sure it gets honey at her uncle’s home.

Of course, when she gets to the uncle’s house, who does she meet again- the lamiña disguised as her uncle. She tricks it and it ends up being chased by the bear, solving both of her problems. Then the uncle comes home, pleased to see her, and she tells him that she has quite a story to tell.

I like this retelling, although it is rather tame compared to Perrault’s Red Riding Hood. The girl is smart, not a victim in the least. She knows there will be danger, but is prepared. The book is illustrated with beautiful water colors by Xizo Jun Li, which adds to the story. Nekane is so little compared to the trees, the bear, the lamiña, but she’s not helpless, she can handle it.

You can purchase Nekane, the Lamiña & the Bear on Amazon.

Categories: Picture Book, Fairy Tale

Published December 1st 1993 by Rayve Productions
32 pages

Book source: Library

Thursday’s Tales is a weekly event here at Carol’s Notebook. Fairy tales, folktales, tall tales, even re-tellings, I love them all.


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