Often described as one of the world’s great love stories, the relationship between Abélard and Héloïse is often celebrated alongside such fabled affairs as Helen and Paris, Dido and Aeneas or Cleopatra and Mark Anthony. However, the Bretons of yesteryear carried a very different remembrance; that of Héloïse as evil witch but does either standing hang true?
Category Archives: Books
Tolkien’s Tale of Brittany
The popular memory of JRR Tolkien’s literary output will forever be overshadowed by his novels of Middle-earth, The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings but other gems are to be found amidst his rich body of work. One of these is a long poem written in rhyming verse in the style of a medieval Breton lay, entitled The Lay of Aotrou and Itroun; a tragic tale featuring several motifs found in the traditional folklore of Brittany.
A Book Tour of Brittany
Generations of writers have long drawn artistic inspiration from the unique atmosphere found in the small corner of northern Europe that is Brittany. Stimulated by these surroundings, locals and visitors alike have often put pen to paper with notable worldwide success; this post highlights some authors and their books inspired by Brittany.
The Giants of Brittany
Found within the mythology and folklore of countless disparate cultures across the world, are stories of giants; sometimes described as mighty men and women of towering stature but sometimes portrayed as a distinct race of huge humanoids. The folklore of Brittany is rich with tales of the deeds of giants and their impact in moulding the nation’s landscape.
The Fool’s Quest
First set down from the oral tradition in the middle of the 19th century, the tale of Peronnik the Idiot has often been described as a Breton re-telling of Chrétien de Troyes’ 12th century romance Perceval, the Story of the Grail. However, others maintain that the story is truly a surviving descendant of one once transmitted orally by the Celtic bards of old and that the tales of Peronnik, Perceval and the medieval Welsh romance Peredur all share the same ancient, lost source.
Memoirs of a Breton Peasant
A fascinating insight into the popular mentalities of 19th century Brittany as seen through the critical eyes of a remarkable man; sometime beggar, soldier, farmer, bar keeper, tobacconist and paranoid vagrant. This autobiography is an absorbing account of a “long lifetime of poverty, slavery and persecution” and one that I would recommend.
Bookish Browsings in Brittany
It is not only artists that have taken inspiration from the rich landscapes and unique culture of Brittany; generations of writers and poets have also been stimulated by this enchanting region of France.
Lai of the Breton Werewolf
The 12th century poet Marie de France remains a mystery to us but her writing had a strong and lasting influence on the development of medieval literature. Adapted from traditional Breton folktales, her tales or lais are a veritable treasure of European culture. This is her lai of the werewolf.