The Lore of the Drowned

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.”

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.

The Mermaids of Brittany

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.

Yannick and the Golden Apple II

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.

Yannick and the Golden Apple

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. Perhaps 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.

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.

May Day in Brittany

May Day is known as la Fête du Travail in France and celebrated with a public holiday. It is an occasion to be seen to campaign for workers’ rights and social justice but the date also carries a much older tradition here; it is also la Fête du Muguet, when sprigs of muguet or Lily of the Valley are presented to loved ones. It is also the day of one of the most important festivals celebrated by the ancient Celts, Beltain.

Finding Fortune and Favour

When ignorance and fear were faced with danger, our ancestors struggled for understanding. Little wonder therefore that the belief in the existence of spirits sympathetic or antagonistic to people’s daily struggles gave rise to superstitions. Surrounded on all sides by forces that seemed incomprehensible, people tried prayers and practices they hoped would compel the forces of nature to look favourably upon them.

Brittany’s Beastly Folk Remedies

The health and well-being of valuable livestock exercised the people of yesterday’s Brittany every bit as much as human health. Some of the popular remedies and traditional treatments for animal diseases used in Brittany during the 18th and 19th centuries have survived to us today even if their practice has long since died away.

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