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.
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.
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.
As the oldest and most important Christian festival, it should come as no surprise to note that several popular traditions and superstitions once surrounded Eastertide here in Brittany.
The history and folklore of Brittany contain many intriguing references to once flourishing cities that disappeared from the face of the earth, having left little or no trace of their ruins upon the land.
Born into grinding poverty, Marie Tromel is remembered by history under the name of Marion du Faouët; a Breton Robin Hood who robbed the rich to aid the poor. A colourful character, she raised a family and commanded a notorious band of brigands for more than fifteen years. Arrested four times, having escaped from prison she was hanged in effigy before finally being publicly executed.
One of the world’s most infamous lost cities is said to lie beneath the waves off the west coast of Brittany.This magnificent city was damned and destroyed by the wrath of God and is now said to be home to the mermaids of the coast.
Brittany is often described as a land of myths and legends; a place where the distinction between the natural and the supernatural did not really exist until the last century. Much has been written about the legends and old folktales of Brittany but how was this rich vein of folklore mined?
The Phantom Washerwomen of the Night stand out as one of the most striking and baleful characters in the rich folklore of Brittany; spectral women doomed to spend eternity labouring over their laundry from sunset to sunrise, terrifying unfortunate souls in the darkness.