Surrounded on three sides by the ocean, Brittany has always enjoyed a special relationship with the sea. It has long played an important part in the life and soul of Brittany; its waters have nourished and sustained generations of Bretons since time immemorial but the bargain has sometimes been cruelly struck. A point well made in an old Breton saying that tells: “Who trusts the sea, trusts death.”
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.
During the French Revolution, large swathes of Brittany and neighbouring Vendée found themselves embroiled in a bitter civil war between the forces of the new Republic and the counter-revolutionary movement loosely known as the Chouannerie.
Does graffiti need to be subversive to wear its tag or is safe street art equally as credible or valid?
A look at some of the rare, rude and unusual elements of Brittany’s unique religious heritage.
In Brittany, the arrival of midsummer was traditionally celebrated by the lighting of massive communal bonfires and their attendant rituals; ancient practices that, despite the best efforts of the Church to suppress them, continued here well into living memory.
The bestiaries of the Middle Ages included fantastic beasts such as the unicorn, mermaids and dragons but popular belief in such creatures did not entirely die away after the Age of Enlightenment. Along Brittany’s wild coastline, stories of sailors and seashore gatherers encountering mermaids remained commonplace well into the 19th century.
In the rural Brittany of yesteryear, where doctors were very rare, the populace were happy to utilise the healing power of plants and other natural remedies. Sometimes, the intervention of the local healer or witch was sought but often people were content to apply the ancient wisdom that had been transmitted within the family from generation to generation
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.
In the folklore of Brittany, fairies are rarely benevolent and when they are, it is usually under the tightest of conditions; the smallest infraction being punished severely. Aligned to their status as a cursed race, they are immensely powerful but fiercely proud and will not stand to be mocked or ignored. They sometimes appear seductive and protective but when provoked they can be malicious and cruel; to annoy a fairy was to expose oneself to their evil spells. There are many Breton tales of mortals battling against a fairy’s curse; one such is that of Yannick, a humble clog-maker.