Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Awesome Cartoons of Basque Folklore Characters

My friend, former student, and sometime Satisfactory contributor Grace Meng, that epicurean Korean, has been traveling around in Spain and, recently, in Basque Country. I've been enjoying her food-blog, One Fork, One Spoon, since she was in Oaxaca (a totally different cuisine, there). Reading her food notes in my RSS reader, I've felt like I've been in touch with her, even though she hasn't had a stable address to which I can send postcards.

Well, when I checked the mailbox today, I found a real treat: a postcard from Grace covered with a complicated, detailed, and really lively set of little cartoon drawings of strange, fantastical figures. The only English printed on the card identifies them as "Folklore characters in the Basque Country." In Spanish, all we get is "Personajes del folklore vasco."

But there's lots of Basque on the card, as you can see if you click to enlarge this image.

Of course, I can't make head or tail of it. That's the astounding thing about Basque: no cognates; no kinship to any other living language. I bet even Mike, with all of his linguistic smarts, can't crack the code here.

But I'm sure we can enjoy these cartoons. In fact, since Jesse Reklaw insists that we use a found image for one of our last panels in the story we're working on, I think this postcard might turn out to be useful to us. Or, maybe, we'll just enjoy the cartoons.

My favorite in the bunch might just be this guy, who I think is named "Katximorro."

He'd be funny even if he weren't swinging a bunny by the ears.

On the other hand, I'm also really pleased with this hairy, horned heap: "Hartza"?

Boy, these are fun.

The card says that was designed by La Fábrica de Dibujos ("The Drawing Factory"), in Pamplona, for Kukuxumusu (what a great name!), and I'm linking to their website, even though I haven't explored it much yet, just because I feel a little guilty appropriating their stuff without being able to read it.

6 comments:

Mark McGuinness said...

I think your favorite character is named "Lesakako Zakuzaharra" (number 5). Katximorro is six if I'm reading right.

Isaac said...

I'm pretty sure that #5 is the stout brown guy with the yellow face and the balloon or wrecking ball over his shoulder. I think it's clear if you look at numbering scheme on the whole postcard.

Mike said...

#2 is one of my favorites, for sure. #4 looks remarkably like the guard Isaac designed for our slowly-accumulating story set in some indeterminate medievaly East; #8 looks kind of like one of the Sand People from Star Wars; and #16 just might be the Basque Mary Poppins.

Wow. That's a hell of a lot of fun and visually distinctive characters to cram into a folklore, let alone to cram onto a postcard!

As for "cracking the code," forget about it, especially with a sample that small. I know that "Eusk-" corresponds to "Basque" in various words (I believe it's Euskara for the people, Euskadi for the language), and it really looks like "-ko" is some sort of agentivizing suffix that gets voiced to "-go" when immediately preceded by an "n" (see nos. 20, 32, 40, and just maybe our favorite #2), but that's all the linguistic crackin' you'll get out of me. (But if my brother Mark is reading this, maybe he'll give it a go, being as he is actually a grad student in linguistics!).

AppleSister said...

I have no opinion on who exactly #5 is, but I found out a little bit about the history of Euskera when I read "A Basque History of the World" by Mark Kurlansky. Although it's probably the oldest language in Europe, the written language is pretty modern, especially since the Euskera language academy fairly recently chose a standard Euskera among the various dialects spoken all around the Basque provinces in both Spain and France. It's also an agglutinating language, though I don't really understand what that means, I just like the way "agglutinating" feels in my mouth, ha ha. Kids in the schools here learn Castellano, Euskera, English, AND French because it's so close to the French border. Whew.

Thanks for the shout-out, Isaac! Agur! (Goodbye in Euskera, pronounced "ah-goor.")

Mark McGuinness said...

Isaac's right on five. I really need to learn how to read.

Anonymous said...

#2 looks like something Mat Brinkman would draw.

--Rob C.