Welcome to the
Land of Enchanters
Scroll down to read about the Myths and Legends and the
Gnomes unique to Brittany. Read the story of
Merlin - (Mir Dan in Brittany)
and about Standing Stones
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
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
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.
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
Brittany has an incredible
number of standing stones - these comprise:
- 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.
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.
- These are groups of stones and they too have their various stories -
for instance at Locarn, two blasphemous priests were turned into Menhirs.
- 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.
- 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.
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
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.
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
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
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.
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
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
Buitel Noz. This latter is certainly best
avoided as he has been known to beat people.
- 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!
- 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.
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.
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
Brocéliande and Merlin the
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
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
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.