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The Fairies of the Swells II

Visitors to Brittany in the 18th and 19th centuries noted many beliefs surrounding the little folk of the region. This post continues to look at some of the more notable characteristics once attributed to a specific group of fairies, known as the Fairies of the Swells, in the local legends and folklore of northern Brittany.

The Fairies of the Swells

According to Breton tradition, the fairies abandoned Brittany all at once and over the course of a single night. Local legends differ as to when that time was but at the end of the 19th century it was usually said to have been when one’s grandparents were very young or even during the turmoil of the Revolution; dates so distant that nothing then resembled what exists here today.

The Serpent King and the Prince

A long time ago, when magic was commonplace and the fairies still lived amongst us, there was a prince of Poher who had been blessed with six healthy children. This aging nobleman was content that his lands were peaceful and that his wife and children were happy in the realm he had fought so hard to maintain; all save his only son, who seemed consumed with wanderlust and dreams of faraway places.

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.

Pages from a Breton Spell Book

A handwritten book of spells set down in Brittany during the 18th century contains a varied collection of spells and enchantments to be used in order to gain good fortune, riches or love. These spells provide a fascinating insight into the popular mentality of the rural population of Brittany before the Revolution.