These are the 11 linocut print illustrations for the book “El Esposo de la Muerte” “Death’s Husband”
1.It was the year 1352 and the Black Death had been ravaging Europe for almost for five years. Just like gangrene, slowly but relentlessly, the plague and the rats were advancing northwards from the continent, leaving in their path death and destruction. The inhabitants of the cold regions of the Baltic were at death’s door, black just like the fleas that spread the disease. Kings and Lords had tried to escape the plague by shutting themselves up in their castles, even though many of these forts were unassailable by enemy armies, not even one was able to withstand the cunning rats and their inseparable companions, the fleas.
2. However, there was one island in the Baltic Sea called Gotland, which had been able to escape the advance of the plague. Tall sheer cliffs surrounded the island; this had helped it maintain its independence, despite years of war against kingdoms from the continent. Magnus Gronker ruled the island, he had a reputation as the bloodiest tyrant these lands had ever known and his reputation spread even further afield. Magnus Gronker was a monstrous man, even his beard would scare, and he was also of superior intelligence. He loved to play chess and would brag of having never lost a game.
3.As winter approached and the rats were moving closer, some of the lords who ruled the shores of the Baltic Sea decided to set sail for Gotland before it was too late and the sea froze over. These lords knew there was little difference between their enemy and the rats, but would have preferred to swallow their pride to Gronker the madman than succumb to the plague. Four ships from four different kingdoms arrived in Gotland in the cold Autumn of 1352, they were all met in the same manner: Magnus Gronker challenged each newcomer to a game of chess, if the newcomer managed to win, he could stay on the island with his subjects, but if he lost, he along with all his subjects would be thrown from the cliffs. They all accepted the challenge, as they had no other choice, exhaustion and lack of food meant they couldn’t think clearly nor could they flee. Two of the lords didn’t even know how to play chess and the rules had to be explained to them so that they could partake in the challenge. Needless to say Magnus Gronker won all four games and kept his word, the bottom of the cliffs all around the island were covered in blood and dead bodies.
4. A week after the sea had frozen over and the island appeared lifeless, a sled pulled by eight grey wolves arrived in Gotland. It was driven by a slender man, accompanied by a beautiful woman with black hair. The stranger asked for refuge in the castle. On any other occasion Magnus Gronker would have had them killed, but the desire to play chess with this newcomer and more so the woman’s hair made him come up with the following challenge: if the stranger beat him at chess he could stay on the island for as long as he wanted, but if he lost he would be thrown from the cliff, and his wife would become a slave. The stranger accepted and was led into the castle.
5. The game lasted several hours, the chess pieces fell one by one from the chessboard until the only pieces remaining were two kings. A draw. Magnus Gronker then got up from the table and said to his opponent:
6. I win my friend. You will die and your wife will be my slave.
7. You are mistaken Magnus, replied the Black Death, throwing the chessboard against the window at the end of the room. – You are all going to die.
8. Through the broken window what looked like a black flood could be seen coming across the horizon drawn by the dead bodies on the cliffs, it was an army of rats approaching on the ice.
I hope you enjoyed the story, a set of postcards, prints, t-shirts and the book is available, I am currently looking for sponsors and patrons to make this dream come true.
We did 3 exhibitions so far of this project during the curse of 3 years and we organized a reading of the book in the six languages, Spanish, English, As Gaelge, Catalán and Euskera.
more than 20 people collaborated in this project and I thank those who did translate the story and gave the story a voice in their own languages.