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Welcome to the Land of Enchanters

 

Scroll down to read about the Myths and Legends and the Fairies and Gnomes unique to Brittany.  Read the story of Merlin - (Mir Dan in Brittany) and about Standing Stones - Mégalithes.

 

St Michael and the Devil  

When you next go to Dol de Bretagne - cast a glance at nearby Mont Dol, which rises up out of the reclaimed marshlands.  The story is that the Devil was furious when Mont St Michel was built and full of resentment towards St Michael to whom the monastery was dedicated. 

 

The Devil and St Michael agreed to compete for ownership of the Mount, which the Devil claimed to be his and decided that whoever could jump the furthest would win.  The Devil fell into the River Couënon but the air lifted St. Michael's wings and he was swept to Mont Dol. On one of the rocks of Mont Dol there is the footprint of St. Michael and the claw mark of the Devil. 

 

Another Leap through the Air - from  Dinan  and the founding of Lanvallay

Valay was a monk from Landevennec who set up home near the capital of the Diablintes.  Valay was very concerned about the conduct of the women of the area and decided to reprimand them firmly about their gossip and cruel tongues. They did not take kindly to this and chased Valay, with the intention of stoning him and the poor monk could hardly get away from their fury.  He made a dash for the high rocks at the top of the valley of the Rance and the women triumphantly drew near, thinking they had caught him.  However he leapt into the air and landed on the other side of the river on rock.  His footprints are there to this day. His home became Dinan and the right hand side of the Rance where he landed was called Lanvallay!

 

Saint Suliac

The town of St. Suliac was built around a monastery founded by Suliac, son of Bramail, King of Wales. The king was furious with his son taking holy orders but gave in to his wishes eventually. After his father's death, one of his sister-in-laws was dependent on marrying him in order to stay on the throne when Sulliac's brothers died. The ambitious Hararné was furious at his refusal and determined for revenge so Sulliac took a boat to the estuary of the Rance and sailed to the first isthmus which is now known as the St. Suliac pool.  He was given land by the chief of the region and he and other  monks cultivated the land growing grain and grape vines.  The  town of  Rigourden, neighboured the monastery  but was the other side of what was then the narrow Rance which could be crossed by stepping stones. The people there  kept donkeys who frequently escaped and ran riot over the monastery lands. Sulliac magically froze the animals where they stood and only released them on their promise not to cross the river and enter the monastery grounds.  He also widened the River Rance at that spot.

 

The Birth of the Morbihan 

The Gulf of Morbihan is an inland sea in the South of Brittany.  There are  368 islands  there.  It is said that when the fairies were driven out of the forest of Brocéliande the tears they shed formed the inland sea.  The fairies had garlands of flowers which threw into  the sea and each flower transformed into an island. Three garlands were thrown into the Atlantic and turned into the islands Houat and Hoedic. The fairy queen's garland became the  Isle of Beauty

Mégalithes  Brittany has an incredible number of standing stones - these comprise:

 

Allées couvertes - these are a line of rocks with other huge rocks lined up on top of them to make a roof.  There are many mythological connections with the fairies i.e. La Roche aux Fées at Essé, and at Brennilis, it is said the Korrigans knocked down the local alley called Ti ar Boudigued into a "V" shape.  The roof of this alley is estimated to weigh 35 tons. 

 

 

Alignements - These are narrow and tall stones  in lines and there are many of these, the best known at Carnac. At Plessis-Balisson, the alignement stone close to the village was once part of a Druid cemetery. In Languidic, the alignment stones are called Soldats de saint Cornély

 

Dolmens - These are frequent and superstition has it that these were created by fairies.  One story is that a dolmen, at Collinée had nothing left but a flagstone which bore the inscription  "Qui me tournera, gagnera". Two peasants attempted this and then read Qui m'a tourné n'a rien gagné"  which was not quite what they had anticipated as it meant whoever turned the stone gained nothing.  However a third peasant took the stone home, broke it and found it held hundreds of pieces of gold.

 

Menhirs - These are groups of stones and they too have their various stories - for instance at Locarn, two blasphemous priests were turned into Menhirs.

 

Steles -  Some of these hemispherical stones are considered to be fertility symbols and at Senven-Léhart, legend has it that sterile women used to visit the stone at the chapel of Saint Tugdual at nighttimes to rub their stomachs against the round stone  and  nine months to the day later had a baby.

 

Tumulus - These are earth covered dolmens and impressed the Breton peasants greatly in the past.  At Kermein in Langonnet, the tumulus is 40 metres in diameter and considered to be the tomb of the King Morvan.

 

Marsh FairyFairyFairies,  Korrigans, Lutins and Le Bugel-Noz etc. 

Celtic mythology mentions no particular Gods as with the Greeks, Romans and Nordic peoples. There is no hierarchy or God for a specific purpose and the stories take place in earthly locations.  In Brittany there is no place without a legend.  Breton fairies - who are the equivalent of what the Irish call "little folk" - are claimed to be nasty little things with apparently no redeeming qualities unlike their Irish counterparts.  This may come from their representing an older religion than Christianity and objecting to the pious nature of the Breton people!  They are described below.

 

The Korrigans are little beings under two feet high who, it is said, were to have been important princesses who were opposed to Christianity when the Apostles came to Brittany and refused to be converted.  They hate priests, churches and particularly bells which cause them to run away. They consider the Virgin Mary their greatest enemy as she was responsible for chasing them away from their fountains.  It is said that on Saturday – the day consecrated to the Virgin Mary -  anyone seeing them combing their hair or counting their treasures will die. 

 

They can predict the future, take on any shape and move location at the speed of the mind. They, like sirens and mermaids, sing and comb their long hair. They haunt fountains and wells despite being chased away.  Do not let a Korrigan breathe on you as its breath is deadly.  They have the power of making men fall in love with them but the poor man dies when they disappear.  They have beautiful  hair and red flashing eyes.  

 

These little Breton gnomes are a bit mixed up and always asking the day of the week at their regular secret dances  as they have forgotten all days but Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday.  They are quite mischievous and bad. 

 

Their cousins are called Les Lutins and are equally troublesome, tipping people off bicycles for instance. - in the case of a man who had an argument with his mother in law, the local Lutins protected mothers-in-laws.   The Lutins take different forms and character traits depending on where they live and make a nuisance of themselves. They have different bonnets depending on the region. For instance at Plusquellec, the Lutin is an old man with a beard who scares children but at Plusquelec the Lutin is a dog who hides under a candle lit bench who is scared of children.  In some areas  the Lutins take on the form of black chickens, white horses or goats. They hang around cross roads and little paths and are quite mischievous - putting salt in soup, rolling barrels around greniers and making fun of lovers. 

 

There are also the  Bugel-Noz.  The name differs dependent on where in Brittany they manifest themselves.  They take on the appearance of choir boys in Bulat-Pestiven and when galettes are made, descend from the ceiling holding lanterns, eat all the galettes and drink all the Lait Ribot. They are said to cry like a child at night in other areas.

 

Some very nasty manifestations are The Lavandières de la Nuit who if a human discovers them washing shrouds at night,  wrap him up in them and crush him There is also the Siffleur de la Nuit or Buitel Noz.  This latter is certainly best avoided as he has been known to beat people.

 

Les Sirènes  - mermaids - are a bit more pleasant and have been known to save people, although they have a penchant for strong young men who they take a fancy to and lure to a watery grave!

 

Les Fées - Every grotto, fountain, chateaux, church porch or ruin has a fairy who it is said lives in morsels of soil. They are usually very pretty. 

Every marsh has a fairy called either Gerlen or Ar Helern, the fairy of the marsh.

 

The many standing stones in Brittany are the haunt of the fairy Margot.  There is one important Margot and other collective ones to complicate matters!  Margot has been known to be kind and has demolished stones at Saint-Jacut-de-le-Mené to make a table called La Table à Margot. 

Fairies by fountain

The fairy Mélusine  with her beautiful long blond hair which she studies in a mirror,  has her face sculpted in the south Church door and glass of the Saint-Sulpice Church in Fougères.  The Bretons adopted her.  she was once the daughter of a King of Albania, who she killed and thus was condemned to being turned into a serpent every Saturday night  Apparently she gives loud cries to warn her compatriots of danger.

 

Le Groach or Vielles Fées are not so pleasant and have a few nasty little tricks to play and in one case this is where the phrase "bite the hand that feeds you" literally applies. and this one is got rid of by putting dead magpies around its haunt.

The Forest of Brocéliande and Merlin the Enchanter 

 

This magical forest area is just past Rennes and people visit what is considered to be Merlin's  last resting place.  It is a beautiful and mysterious area. Merlin's father was one of Satan's devils, sent to earth to create a child who would control man by magical and devious forces.  To this end the devil chose as his mate a sleeping and unaware but very devout Christian lady. The ensuing baby was however christened which destroyed the mantle of evil which would have controlled the child.  The young Merlin retained all the magical powers but used them for good purposes.

 

Merlin's mother was to be condemned to death as an unmarried mother.  However to everyone's surprise the baby Merlin suddenly spoke and told the judge the true story.  His mother was saved and spent the rest of her life in a convent.

 

Constant, King of Brittany died and left behind two little children Uter Pendragon and Moine. The wicked Voltiger, who was the equivalent of a Prime Minister wanted more power and gave orders for the children to be murdered. However they were taken away, to grow up in secret, with Voltiger thinking the children dead.  When, to his immense  consternation, Voltiger found that the children had survived, he was thrown into a panic.  He ordered that a tower be built at the town entrance.

 

 However this tower fell down and continued to do so every time Voltiger ordered it rebuilt.  Voltiger's astrologers said that it would continue to fall until the blood of a seven year old child was mixed with the mortar and found the young Merlin who seemed an ideal candidate.  However Merlin again proved himself adept at avoiding a tricky situation and impressed Voltiger and his retinue by explaining why the tower kept falling down. 

 

 

Apparently two dragons, one red and one white,  lived under the tower and finding it too heavy, moved around until it fell down.  They dug down to release the dragons who had a fight and the white dragon conquered the red dragon. The red dragon, Merlin said, represented Voltiger and the white Uter Pendragon and the same scenario was to take place between the two. This happened and Uter Pendragon came into power, as was his right.Uter Pendragon came to find Merlin who had changed himself into a shepherd and he then in front of them changed back to being a child. Merlin was welcomed into the court.

 

Uter Pendragon, King of Brittany, set up court in the castle of Carduel in Wales and the lords and ladies.  He fell in love with a married lady who refused to be unfaithful to her husband. With Merlin's help the King disguised himself with a herb rubbed on his face, as Ygerne's husband and she was deceived.  However to her horror she found out that her husband had been killed in combat that very night when she thought it was him who had returned.  She was eventually persuaded to marry the king but was expecting a baby. When the child - called Arthur - was born it was in secret and  he was taken away to be brought up by someone else. Eventually however Arthur was declared King of Brittany. He was attracted to  Guinevere who was considered the most beautiful woman in Brittany.

 

Merlin returned to Brittany to a huge forest stretching from Fougeres and Quintin to Faouet and Redon in the South and Corlay in the west. This was a very evil place and had in it a number of pools which were very dangerous  and a magic spring the Fountain of Baranton where elves and fairies visited to look at themselves in the water. The forest was called Brocéliande.  It was at the fountain that Merlin first encountered the magical Viviane who he fell in love with.  Arthur and Guinevere were married, the magical round table created and there were many battles fought.  Arthur got rid of a giant terrorising the Mont St Michel area, killed the dragon of the Lieue de Greve between St Michel-en Greve and Plestin.  He camped near Huelgoat and stayed in his castle at Kerdhuel which was built to resemble his Welsh castle Carduel.

 

Many events took place - too many to tell here! There was a terrible battle with the Saxons, Picts and Scots joining forces with the Norwegians, Normans and Danes in attacking the Celtic countries of Arthur.  There was a huge battle on the island of Aval where Arthur was wounded but tended by the fairy Morgan who healed his wounds.  On Merlin's advice he stopped looking for the Holy Grail and gave up Guinevere, who it had been suspected was in love with the knight Lancelot and Arthur settled down to sleep on the island of Aval to await the hour when Brittany needs him again.