WHATEVER the origin of the race which conceived the demonology of Brittany--and there are indications that it was not wholly Celtic--that weird province of Faëry bears unmistakable evidence of having been deeply impressed by the Celtic imagination, if it was not totally peopled by it, for its various inhabitants act in the Celtic spirit, are moved by Celtic springs of thought and fancy, and possess not a little of that irritability which has forced anthropologists to include the Celtic race among those peoples described as 'sanguine-bilious.' As a rule they are by no means friendly or even humane, these fays of Brittany, and if we find beneficent elves within the green forests of the duchy we may feel certain that they are French immigrants, and therefore more polished than the choleric native sprites.
Of all the many localities celebrated in the fairy lore of Brittany none is so famous as Broceliande. Broceliande! "The sound is like a bell," a far, faëry chime in a twilit forest. In the name Broceliande there seems to be gathered all the tender charm, the rich and haunting mystery, the remote magic of Brittany and Breton lore. It is, indeed, the title to the rarest book in the library of poetic and traditional romance.
"I went to seek out marvels," said old Wace. "The forest I saw, the land I saw. I sought marvels, but I found none. A fool I came back, a fool I went; a fool
[paragraph continues] I went, a fool I came back; foolishness I sought; a fool I hold myself." 1
Our age, even less sceptical than his, sees no folly in questing for the beautiful, and if we expect no marvels, nor any sleight of faëry, however desirous we are, we do not hold it time lost to plunge into the enchanted forest and in its magic half-gloom grope for, and perchance grasp, dryad draperies, or be trapped in the filmy webs of fancy which are spun in these shadows for unwary mortals.
Standing in dream-girt Broceliande of a hundred legends, its shadows mirrored by dim meres that may never reflect the stars, one feels the lure of Brittany more keenly even than when walking by its fierce and jagged coasts menaced by savage grey seas, or when wandering on its vast moors where the monuments of its pagan past stand in gigantic disarray. For in the forest is the heart of Arthurian story, the shrine of that wonder which has drawn thousands to this land of legend, who, like old Wace, trusted to have found, if not elfin marvels, at least matter of phantasy conjured up by the legendary associations of Broceliande.
But we must beware of each step in these twilit recesses, for the fays of Brittany are not as those of other lands. Harsh things are spoken of them. They are malignant, say the forest folk. The note of Brittany is scarce a joyous one. It is bitter-sweet as a sad chord struck on an ancient harp.
The fays of Brittany are not the friends of man. They are not 'the good people,' 'the wee folk'; they have no endearing names, the gift of a grateful peasantry. Cold and hostile, they hold aloof from human converse, and,
should they encounter man, vent their displeasure at the interruption in the most vindictive manner.
Whether the fairies of Brittany be the late representatives of the gods of an elder day or merely animistic spirits who have haunted these glades since man first sheltered in them, certain it is that in no other region in Europe has Mother Church laid such a heavy ban upon all the things of faëry as in this strange and isolated peninsula. A more tolerant ecclesiastical rule might have weaned them to a timid friendship, but all overtures have been discouraged, and to-day they are enemies, active, malignant, swift to inflict evil upon the pious peasant because he is pious and on the energetic because of his industry.
Among those forest-beings of whom legend speaks such malice none is more relentless than the Korrigan, who has power to enmesh the heart of the most constant swain and doom him to perish miserably for love of her. Beware of the fountains and of the wells of this forest of Broceliande, for there she is most commonly to be encountered, and you may know her by her bright hair,--"like golden wire," as Spenser says of his lady's--her red, flashing eyes, and her laughing lips. But if you would dare her wiles you must come alone to her fountain by night, for she shuns even the half-gloom that is day in shadowy Broceliande. The peasants when they speak of her will assure you that she and her kind are pagan princesses of Brittany who would have none of Christianity when the holy Apostles brought it to Armorica, and who must dwell here under a ban, outcast and abhorred.
The Seigneur of Nann was high of heart, for that day his bride of a year had presented him with two beautiful children, a boy and a girl, both white as May-blossom. In his joy the happy father asked his wife her heart's desire, and she, pining for that which idle fancy urged upon her, begged him to bring her a dish of woodcock from the lake in the dale, or of venison from the greenwood. The Seigneur of Nann seized his lance and, vaulting on his jet-black steed, sought the borders of the forest, where he halted to survey the ground for track of roe or slot of the red deer. Of a sudden a white doe rose in front of him, and was lost in the forest like a silver shadow.
At sight of this fair quarry the Seigneur followed into the greenwood. Ever his prey rustled among the leaves ahead, and in the hot chase he recked not of the forest depths into which he had plunged. But coming upon a narrow glade where the interlacing leaves above let in the sun to dapple the moss-ways below, he saw a strange lady sitting by the broken border of a well, braiding her fair hair and binding it with golden pins.
The Seigneur louted low, begged that he might drink, and bending down set his lips to the water; but she, turning strange eyes upon him--eyes not blue like those of his bride, nor grey, nor brown, nor black, like those of other women, but red in their depths as the heart's blood of a dove--spoke to him discourteously.
"Who are you who dare to trouble the waters of my
fountain?" she asked. "Do you not know that your conduct merits death? This well is enchanted, and by drinking of it you are fated to die, unless you fulfil a certain condition."
"And what is that?" asked the Seigneur.
"You must marry me within the hour," replied the lady.
"Demoiselle," replied the Seigneur, "it may not be as you desire, for I am already espoused to a fair bride who has borne me this very day a son and a daughter. Nor shall I die until it pleases the good God. Nevertheless, I wot well who you are. Rather would I die on the instant than wed with a Korrigan."
Leaping upon his horse, he turned and rode from the woodland as a man possessed. As he drew homeward he was overshadowed by a sense of coming ill. At the gate of his château stood his mother, anxious to greet him with good news of his bride. But with averted eyes he addresses her in the refrain so familiar to the folk-poetry of all lands:
Three days later the young spouse asks of her mother-in-law:
"Tell me, mother, why do the bells sound? Wherefore do the priests chant so low?
"Tis nothing, daughter," replies the elder woman. "A poor stranger who lodged here died this night."
"Ah, where is gone the Seigneur of Nann? Mother, oh, where is he?"
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THE SEIGNEUR OF NANN AND THE KORRIGAN
"He has gone to the town, my child. In a little he will come to see you."
"Ah, mother, let us speak of happy things. Must I wear my red or my blue robe at my churching?"
"Neither, daughter. The mode is changed. You must wear black."
Unconscious in its art, the stream of verse carries us to the church, whence the young wife has gone to offer up thanks for the gift of children. She sees that the ancestral tomb has been opened, and a great dread is at her heart. She asks her mother-in-law who has died, and the old woman at last confesses that the Seigneur of Nann has just been buried.
That same night the young mother was interred beside her husband-lover. And the peasant folk say that from that tomb arose two saplings, the branches of which intertwined more closely as they grew.
In the depths of Lake Tegid in our own Wales dwelt Keridwen, a fertility goddess who possessed a magic cauldron--the sure symbol of a deity of abundance. 1 Like Demeter, she was strangely associated with the harmless necessary sow, badge of many earth-mothers, and itself typical of fertility. Like Keridwen, the Korrigan is associated with water, with the element which makes for vegetable growth. Christian belief would, of course, transform this discredited goddess into an evil being whose one function was the destruction of souls. May we see a relation of the Korrigan and Keridwen in Tridwan, or St Triduana, of Restalrig,
near Edinburgh, who presided over a certain well there, and at whose well-shrine offerings were made by sightless pilgrims for many centuries?
Many are the traditions which tell of human infants abducted by the Korrigan, who at times left an ugly changeling in place of the babe she had stolen. But it, was more as an enchantress that she was dreaded. By a stroke of her magic wand she could transform the leafy fastnesses in which she dwelt into the semblance of a lordly hall, which the luckless traveller whom she lured thither would regard as a paradise after the dark thickets in which he had been wandering. This seeming castle or palace she furnished with everything that could delight the eye, and as the doomed wretch sat ravished, by her beauty and that of her nine attendant maidens a fatal passion for her entered his heart, so that whatever he cherished most on earth--honour, wife, demoiselle, or affianced bride--became as naught to him, and he, cast himself at the feet of this forest Circe in a frenzy of ardour. But with the first ray of daylight the charm was dissolved and the Korrigan became a hideous hag, as repulsive as before she had been lovely; the walls of her palace and the magnificence which had furnished it, became once more tree and thicket, its carpets moss, its tapestries leaves, its silver cups wild roses, and its dazzling mirrors pools of stagnant water.
Sir Roland of Brittany rides through gloomy Broceliande a league ahead of his troop, unattended by squire or by page. The red cross upon his shoulder is witness that
he is vowed to service in Palestine, and as he passes through the leafy avenues on his way to the rendezvous he fears that he will be late, most tardy of all the knights of Brittany who have sworn to drive the paynim from the Holy Land. Fearful of such disgrace, he spurs his jaded charger on through the haunted forest, and with anxious eye watches the sun sink and the gay white moon sail high above the tree-tops, pouring light through their branches upon the mossy ways below.
A high vow has Roland taken ere setting out upon the crusade--a vow that he will eschew the company of fair ladies, in which none had delighted more than he. No more must he mingle in the dance, no more must he press a maiden's lips with his. He has become a soldier of the Cross. He may not touch a lady's hand save with his mailed glove, he must not sit by her side. Also must he fast from dusk till dawn upon that night of his setting forth. "Small risk," he laughs a little sadly, as he spurs his charger onward, "small risk that I be mansworn ere morning light."
But the setting of the moon tells him that he must rest in the forest until dawn, as without her beams he can no longer pursue his way. So he dismounts from his steed, tethers it to a tree, and looks about for a bed of moss on which to repose. As he does so his wandering gaze fixes upon a beam of light piercing the gloom of the forest. Well aware of the traditions of his country, he thinks at first that it is only the glimmer of a will-o'-the-wisp or a light carried by a wandering elf. But no, on moving nearer the gleam he is surprised to behold a row of windows brilliantly lit as if for a festival. "Now, by my vow," says Roland, "methought I knew well every château in this land of Brittany, nor wist
[paragraph continues] I that seigneur or count held court in this forest of Broceliande."
Resolved to view the château at still closer quarters, he draws near it. A great court fronts him where neither groom nor porter keeps guard, and within he can see a fair hall. This he enters, and immediately his ears are ravished by music which wanders through the chamber like a sighing zephyr. The murmur of rich viols and the call of flutes soft as distant bird-song speak to his very soul. Yet through the ecstasy comes, like a serpent gliding among flowers, the discord of evil thoughts. Grasping his rosary, he is about to retire when the doors at the end of the hall fly open, and he beholds a rapturous vision. Upon a couch of velvet sits a lady of such dazzling beauty that all other women compared with her would seem as kitchen-wenches. A mantle of rich golden hair falls about her, her eyes shine with the brightness of stars, her smile seems heavenly. Round her are grouped nine maidens only less beautiful than herself.
As the moon moving among attendant stars, so the lady comes toward Roland, accompanied by her maidens.. She welcomes him, and would remove his gauntlet, but he tells her of the vow he has made to wear it in lady's bower, and she is silent. Next she asks him to seat himself beside her on the couch, but he will not. In some confusion she orders a repast to be brought. A table is spread with fragrant viands, but as the knight will partake of none of them, in chagrin the lady takes a lute, which she touches with exquisite skill. He listens unmoved, till, casting away her instrument, she dances to him, circling round and round about him, flitting about his chair like a butterfly, until at length she sinks
down near him and lays her head upon his mailed bosom. Upward she turns her face to him, all passion-flushed, her eyes brimming with love. Sir Roland falters. Fascinated by her unearthly beauty, he is about to stoop down to press his lips to hers, But as he bends his head she shrinks from him, for she sees the tender flush of morning above the eastern tree-tops. The living stars faint and fail, and the music of awakening life which accompanies the rising of the young sun falls upon the ear. Slowly the château undergoes transformation. The glittering roof merges into the blue vault of heaven, the tapestried walls become the ivied screens of great forest trees, the princely furnishings are transformed into mossy banks and mounds, and the rugs and carpets beneath Roland's mailed feet are now merged in the forest ways.
But the lady? Sir Roland, glancing down, beholds a hag hideous as sin, whose malicious and distorted countenance betrays baffled hate and rage. At the sound of a bugle she hurries away with a discordant shriek. Into the glade ride Roland's men, to see their lord clasping his rosary and kneeling in thanksgiving for his deliverance from the evils which beset him. He had been saved from breaking his vow!
The nine attendant maidens of the Korrigan bring to mind a passage in Pomponius Mela 1: "Sena [the Ile de Sein, not far from Brest], in the British Sea, opposite the Ofismician coast, is remarkable for an oracle of the Gallic god. Its priestesses, holy in perpetual virginity, are said to be nine in number. They are called Gallicenæ, and are thought to be endowed with singular powers. By their charms they are able to raise the
winds and seas, to turn themselves into what animals they will, to cure wounds and diseases incurable by others, to know and predict the future. But this they do only for navigators, who go thither purposely to consult them."
Like the sylphs and salamanders so humorously described by the Abbé de Villars in Le Comte de Gabalis, 1 the Korrigans desired union with humanity in order that they might thus gain immortality. Such, at least, is the current peasant belief in Brittany. "For this end they violate all the laws of modesty." This belief is common to all lands, and is typical of the fay, the Lorelei, countless well and water sprites, and that enchantress who rode off with Thomas the Rhymer:
Unlike the colder Sir Roland, 'True Thomas' dared, and was wafted to a realm wondrously described by the old balladeer in the vivid phrase that marks the poetry of vision.
It was in this same verdant Broceliande that Vivien, another fairy, that crafty dame of the enchanted lake, the instructress of Lancelot, bound wise Merlin so that he might no more go to Camelot with oracular lips to counsel British Arthur.
But what say the folk of Broceliande themselves of
this? Let us hear their version of a tale which has been so battered by modern criticism, and which has been related in at least half a score of versions, prose and poetic. Let us have the Broceliande account of what happened in Broceliande. 1 Surely its folk, in the very forest in which he wandered with Vivien, must know more of Merlin's enchantment than we of that greater Britain which he left to find a paradise in Britain the Less, for, according to Breton story, Merlin was not imprisoned by magic art, but achieved bliss through his love for the fairy forest nymph.
Disguised as a young student, Merlin was wandering one bright May morning through the leafy glades of Broceliande, when, like the Seigneur of Nann, he came to a beautiful fountain in the heart of the forest which tempted him to rest. As he sat there in reverie, Vivien, daughter of the lord of the manor of Broceliande, came to the water's edge. Her father had gained the affection of a fay of the valley, who had promised on behalf of their daughter that she should be loved by the wisest man in the world, who should grant all her wishes, but would never be able to compel her to consent to his.
Vivien reclined upon the other side of the fountain, and the eyes of the sage and maiden met. At length Merlin rose to depart, and gave the damsel courteous good-day. But she, curious and not content with a mere salutation, wished him all happiness and honour. Her voice was beautiful, her eyes expressive, and Merlin, moved beyond anything in his experience, asked her name. She told him she was a daughter of a gentleman of that country, and in turn asked him who he might be.
"A scholar returning to his master," was the reply.
"Your master? And what may he teach you, young sir?"
"He instructs me in the magic art, fair dame," replied Merlin, amused. "By aid of his teaching I can raise a castle ere a man could count a score, and garrison it with warriors of might. I can make a river flow past the spot on which you recline, I can raise spirits from the great deeps of ether in which this world rolls, and can peer far into the future--aye, to the extreme of human days."
"Would that I shared your wisdom!" cried Vivien, her voice thrilling with the desire of hidden things which she had inherited from her fairy mother. "Teach me these secrets, I entreat of you, noble scholar, and accept in return for your instruction my most tender friendship."
Merlin, willing to please her, arose, and traced certain mystical characters upon the greensward. Straightway the glade in which they sat was filled with knights, ladies, maidens, and esquires, who danced and disported themselves right joyously., A stately castle rose on the verge of the forest, and in the garden the spirits whom Merlin the enchanter had raised up in the semblance of knights and ladies held carnival. Vivien, delighted, asked of Merlin in what manner he had achieved this feat of faëry, and he told her that he would in time instruct her as to the manner of accomplishing it. He then dismissed the spirit attendants and dissipated the castle into thin air, but retained the garden at the request of Vivien, naming it 'Joyous Garden.'
Then he made a tryst with Vivien to meet her in a year on the Vigil of St John.
Now Merlin had to be present at the espousal of Arthur,
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MERLIN AND VIVIEN
his King, with Guinevere, at which he was to assist the archbishop, Dubric, as priest. The festivities over, he recalled his promise to Vivien, and on the appointed day he once more assumed the guise of a travelling scholar and set out to meet the maiden in the forest of Broceliande. She awaited him patiently in joyous Garden, where they partook of a dainty repast. But the viands and the wines were wasted upon Merlin, for Vivien was beside him and she alone filled his thoughts. She was fair of colour, and fresh with the freshness of all in the forest, and her hazel eyes made such fire within his soul that he conceived a madness of love for her that all his wisdom, deep as it was, could not control.
But Vivien was calm as a lake circled by trees, where no breath of the passion of tempest can come. Again and again she urged him to impart to her the secrets she so greatly longed to be acquainted with. And chiefly did she desire to know three things; these at all hazards must she have power over. How, she asked, could water be made to flow in a dry place? In what manner could any form be assumed at will? And, lastly, how could one be made to fall asleep at the pleasure of another?
"Wherefore ask you this last question, demoiselle?" said Merlin, suspicious even in his great passion for her.
"So that I may cast the spell of sleep over my father and my mother when I come to you, Merlin," she replied, with a beguiling glance, "for did they know that I loved you they would slay me."
Merlin hesitated, and so was lost. He imparted to her that hidden knowledge which she desired. Then they dwelt together for eight days in the joyous Garden, during which time the sage, to Vivien's delight and
amaze, related to her the marvellous circumstances of his birth.
Next day Merlin departed, but came again to Broceliande when the eglantine was flowering at the edge of the forest. Again he wore the scholar's garments. His aspect was youthful, his fair hair hung in ringlets on his shoulders, and he appeared so handsome that a tender flower of love sprang up in Vivien's heart, and she felt that she must keep him ever near her. But she knew full well that he whom she loved was in reality well stricken in years, and she was sorrowful. But she did not despair.
"Beloved," she whispered, "will you grant me but one other boon? There is one secret more that I desire to learn."
Now Merlin knew well ere she spoke what was in her mind, and he sighed and shook his head.
"Wherefore do you sigh?" she asked innocently.
"I sigh because my fate is strong upon me," replied the sage. "For it was foreseen in the long ago that a lady should lead me captive and that I should become her prisoner for all time. Neither have I the power to deny you what you ask of me."
Vivien embraced him rapturously.
"Ah, Merlin, beloved, is it not that you should always be with me?" she asked passionately. "For your sake have I not given up father and mother, and are not al my thoughts and desires toward you?"
Merlin, carried away by her amorous eloquence, could only answer: "It is yours to ask what you will."
Vivien then revealed to him her wish. She longed to learn from his lips an enchantment which would keep him ever near her, which would so bind him to her in
the chains of love that nothing in the world could part him from her. Hearkening to her plea, he taught her such enchantment as would render him love's prisoner for ever.
Evening was shrouding the forest in soft shadows when Merlin sank to rest. Vivien, waiting until his deep and regular breathing told her that he was asleep, walked nine times around him, waving her cloak over his head, and muttering the mysterious words he had taught her. When the sage awoke, he found himself in the joyous Garden with Vivien by his side.
"You are mine for ever," she murmured. "You can never leave me now."
"My delight will be ever to stay with you," he replied, enraptured. "And oh, beloved, never leave me, I pray you, for f am bespelled so as to love you throughout eternity!"
Never shall I leave you," she replied; and in such manner the wise Merlin withdrew from the world of men to remain ever in the joyous Garden with Vivien. Love had triumphed over wisdom.
The Arthurian version of the story does not, of course, represent Vivien as does the old Breton legend. In Geoffrey of Monmouth's book and in the Morte dArthur she is drawn as the scheming enchantress who wishes to lure Merlin to his ruin for, the joy of being able to boast of her conquest. In some romances she is alluded to as Nimue, and in others is described as the daughter of Dyonas, who perhaps is the same as Dylan, a Brythonic (British) sea-god. As the Lady of the Lake she is the foster-mother of Lancelot, and we should have no difficulty in classing her as a water deity or spirit very much like the Korrigan.
But Merlin is a very different character, and it is probable that the story of his love for Vivien was composed at a comparatively late date for the purpose of rounding off his fate in Arthurian legend. A recent hypothesis concerning him is to the effect that "if he belongs to the pagan period [of Celtic lore] at all, he was probably an ideal magician or god of magicians." 1 Canon MacCulloch smiles at the late Sir John Rhys's belief that Merlin was "a Celtic Zeus," but his later suggestion seems equally debatable. We must remember that we draw our conception of Merlin as Arthurian archimagus chiefly from late Norman-French sources and Celtic tradition. Ancient Brythonic traditions concerning beings of much the same type as Merlin appear to have existed, however, and the character of Lailoken in the life of St Kentigern recalls his life-story. So far research on the subject seems to show that the legend of Merlin is a thing of complex growth, composed of traditions of independent and widely differing origin, most of which were told about Celtic bards and soothsayers. Merlin is, in fact, the typical Druid or wise man of Celtic tradition, and there is not the slightest reason for believing that he was ever paid divine honours. As a soothsayer of legend, he would assuredly belong to the pagan period, however much he is indebted to Geoffrey of Monmouth for his late popularity in pure romance.
In the country of Broceliande lies the magic fountain of
[paragraph continues] Baranton, sequestered among hills and surrounded by deep woods. Says a thirteenth-century writer of this fountain:
"Oh, amazing wonder of the Fountain of Brecelien! If a drop be taken and poured on a certain rock beside the spring, immediately the water changes into vapour, forms itself into great clouds filled with hail; the air becomes thick with shadows, and resonant with the muttering of thunder. Those who have come through curiosity to behold the prodigy wish that they had never done so, so filled are their hearts with terror, and so does fear paralyse their limbs. Incredible as the marvel may seem, yet the proofs of its reality are too abundant to be doubted."
Huon de Méry was more fortunate than Wace. He sprinkled the magic stone which lay behind the fountain with water from the golden basin that hung from the oak that shaded it, and beheld many marvels. And so may he who has the seeing eye to-day.
Ah, what had phantasy
In that sad sound to say,
Sad as a spirit's wailing?
A call from over the seas of shadowland,
A call the soul of the soul might understand,
But never, ah, never the mind, the steeps of soul assailing.
The old fragmentary romance of Bruno of La Montagne is eloquent of the faëry spirit which informs all Breton lore. Butor, Baron of La Montagne, had married a young lady when he was himself of mature years, and had a son, whom he resolved to take to a fountain where the fairies came to repose themselves. The Baron, describing this magic well to the child's mother, says (we roughly translate):
The Seigneur gave his infant son into the keeping of Bruyant, a trusty friend of his, and they set out for the fairy fountain with a troop of vassals. They left the infant in the forest of Broceliande. Here the fairies soon found him.
"Ha, sisters," said one whose skin was as white as the robe of gossamer she wore, and whose golden crown betokened her the queen of the others, "come hither and see a new-born infant. How, I wonder, does he come to be here? I am sure I did not behold him in this spot yesterday. Well, at all events, he must be baptized and suitably endowed, as is our custom when we discover a mortal child. Now what will you give him?"
"I will give him," said one, "beauty and grace."
"I endow him," said a second, "with generosity."
"And I," said a third, "with such valour that he will
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THE FAIRIES OF BROCELIANDE FIND THE LITTLE BRUNO
overthrow all his enemies at tourney and on the battlefield."
The Queen listened to these promises. "Surely you have little sense," she said. "For my part, I wish that in his youth he may love one who will be utterly insensible to him, and although he will be as you desire, noble, generous, beautiful, and valorous, he will yet, for his good, suffer keenly from the anguish of love."
"O Queen," said one of the fairies, "what a cruel fate you have ordained for this unfortunate child! But I myself shall watch over him and nurse him until he comes to such an age as he may love, when I myself will try to engage his affections."
"For all that," said the Queen, "I will not alter my design. You shall not nurse this infant."
The fairies then disappeared. Shortly afterward Bruyant returned, and carried the child back to the castle of La Montagne, where presently a fairy presented herself as nurse.
Unfortunately the manuscript from which this tale is taken breaks off at this point, and we do not know how the Fairy Queen succeeded with her plans for the amorous education of the little Bruno. But the fragment, although tantalizing in the extreme, gives us some insight into the nature of the fairies who inhabit the green fastnesses of Broceliande.
Nearly all fairy-folk have in time grown to mortal height. Whether fairies be the decayed poor relations of more successful deities, gods whose cult has been forgotten and neglected (as the Irish Sidhe, or fairy-folk), or diminutive animistic spirits, originating in the belief
that every object, small or great, possessed a personality, it is noticeable that Celtic fairies are of human height, while those of the Teutonic peoples are usually dwarfish. Titania may come originally from the loins of Titans or she may be Diana come down in the world, and Oberon may hail from a very different and more dwarfish source, but in Shakespeare's England they have grown sufficiently to permit them to tread the boards of the Globe Theatre with normal humans. Scores of fairies mate with mortal men, and men, as a rule, do not care for dwarf-wives. Among Celts, at least, the fay, whatever her original stature, in later times had certainly achieved the height of mortal womanhood.
In Upper Brittany, where French is the language in general use, the usual French ideas concerning fairies prevail. They are called fées or fetes (Latin fata), and sometimes fions, which reminds us of the fions of Scottish and Irish folk-lore. 1 There are old people still alive who claim to have seen the fairies, and who describe them variously, but the general belief seems to be that they disappeared from the land several generations ago. One old man described them as having teeth as long as one's hand, and as wearing garments of sea-weed or leaves. They were human in aspect, said another ancient whom Sébillot questioned; their clothes were seamless, and it was impossible to say by merely looking at them whether they were male or female. Their garments were of the most brilliant colours imaginable, but if one approached them too closely these gaudy hues disappeared. They wore a kind of bonnet shaped like a crown, which appeared to be part of their person.
The people of the coast say that the fairies are an accursed race who are condemned to walk the earth for a certain space. Some even think them rebellious angels who have been sent to earth for a time to expiate their offences against heaven. For the most part they inhabit the dolmens and the grottos and caverns on the coast. 1
On the shores of the Channel are numerous grottos or caverns which the Bretons call houles, and these are supposed to harbour a distinct class of fairy. Some of these caverns are from twenty to thirty feet high, and so extensive that it is unwise to explore them too far. Others seem only large enough to hold a single person, but if one enters he will find himself in a spacious natural chamber. The inhabitants of these depths, like all their kind, prefer to sally forth by night rather than by day. In the day-time they are not seen because they smear themselves with a magic ointment which renders them invisible; but at night they are visible to everybody.
There was once upon a time a labourer of Saint-Cast named Marc Bourdais, but, according to the usage of the country, he had a nickname and was called Maraud. One day he was returning home when he heard the sound of a horn beneath his feet, and asked a companion who chanced to be with him if he had heard it also.
"Of course I did," replied the fellow; "it is a fairy horn."
"Umph," said Maraud. "Ask the fairies, then, to bring us a slice of bread."
His companion knelt down and shouted out the request, but nothing happened and they resumed their way.
They had not gone far, however, when they beheld a slice of beautiful white bread lying on a snowy napkin by the roadside. Maraud picked it up and found that it was well buttered and as toothsome as a cake, and when they had divided and eaten it they felt their hunger completely satisfied. But he who has fed well is often thirsty, so Maraud, lowering his head, and speaking to the little folk beneath, cried: "Hullo, there! Bring us something to drink, if you please."
He had hardly spoken when they beheld a pot of cider and a glass reposing on the ground in front of them. Maraud filled the glass, and, raising it to his lips, quaffed of the fairy cider. It was clear and of a rich colour, and he declared that it was by far the best that he had ever tasted. His friend drank likewise, and when they returned to the village that night they had a good story to tell of how they had eaten and drunk at the expense of the fairies. But their friends and neighbours shook their heads and regarded them sadly.
"Alas! poor fellows," they said, "if you have eaten fairy food and drunk fairy liquor you are as good as dead men."
Nothing happened to them within the next few days, however, and it was with light hearts that one morning they returned to work in the neighbourhood of the spot where they had met with such a strange adventure. When they arrived at the place they smelt the odour of cakes which had been baked with black corn, and a fierce hunger at once took possession of them.
"Ha!" said Maraud, "the fairies are baking to-day. Suppose we ask them for a cake or two." "No, no!" replied his friend. "Ask them if you wish, but I will have none of them."
"Pah!" cried Maraud, "what are you afraid of?" And he cried: "Below there! Bring me a cake, will you?" Two fine cakes at once appeared. Maraud seized upon one, but when he had cut it he perceived that it was made of hairs, and he threw it down in disgust.
"You wicked old sorcerer!" he cried. "Do you mean to mock me?"
But as he spoke the cakes disappeared.
Now there lived in the village a widow with seven children, and a hard task she had to find bread for them all. She heard tell of Maraud's adventure with the fairies, and pondered on the chance of receiving a like hospitality from them, that the seven little mouths she had to provide for might be filled. So she made up her mind to go to a fairy grotto she knew of and ask for bread. "Surely," she thought, "what the good people give to others who do not require it they will give to me, whose need is so great." When she had come to the entrance of the grotto she knocked on the side of it as one knocks on a door, and there at once appeared a little old dame with a great bunch of keys hanging at her side. She appeared to be covered with limpets, and mould and moss clung to her as to a rock. To the widow she seemed at least a thousand years old.
"What do you desire, my good woman?" she asked.
"Alas! madame," said the widow, "might I have a little bread for my seven children? Give me some, I beseech you, and I will remember you in my prayers."
"I am not the mistress here," replied the old woman. "I am only the porteress, and it is at least a hundred years since I have been out. But return to-morrow and I will promise to speak for you."
Next day at the same time the widow returned to the cave, and found the old porteress waiting for her.
"I have spoken for you," said she, "and here is a loaf of bread for you, and those who send it wish to speak to you."
"Bring me to them," said the widow, "that I may thank them."
"Not to-day," replied the porteress. "Return tomorrow at the same hour and I will do so."
The widow returned to the village and told her neighbours of her success. Every one came to see the fairy loaf, and many begged a piece.
Next day the poor woman returned to the grotto in the hope that she would once more benefit from the little folks' bounty. The porteress was there as usual.
"Well, my good woman," said she, "did you find my bread to your taste? Here is the lady who has befriended you," and she indicated a beautiful lady, who came smilingly from the darkness of the cavern.
"Ah, madame," said the widow, "I thank you with all my heart for your charity."
"The loaf will last a long time," said the fairy, "and you will find that you and your family will not readily finish it."
"Alas!" said the widow, "last night all my neighbours insisted on having a piece, so that it is now entirely eaten."
"Well," replied the fay, "I will give you another loaf. So long as you or your children partake of it it will not grow smaller and will always remain fresh, but if you should give the least morsel to a stranger the loaf will disappear. But as I have helped you, so must you help me. I have four cows, and I wish to send them out to
pasture. Promise me that one of your daughters will guard them for me."
The widow promised, and next morning sent one of her daughters out to look for the cows, which were to be pastured in a field where there was but little herbage. A neighbour saw her there, and asked what she was doing in that deserted place.
"Oh, I am watching the fairy cows," replied she. The woman looked at her and smiled, for there were no cows there and she thought the girl had become half-witted.
With the evening the fairy of the grotto came herself to fetch the cows, and she said to the little cowherd: "How would you like to be godmother to my child?"
"It would be a pleasure, madame," replied the girl.
"Well, say nothing to any one, not even to your mother," replied the fairy, "for if you do I shall never bring you anything more to eat."
A few days afterward a fairy came to tell the girl to prepare to come to the cavern on the morrow, as on that day the infant was to be named. Next day, according to the fairy's instructions, she presented herself at the mouth of the grotto, and in due course was made godmother to the little fairy. For two days she remained there, and when she left her godchild was already grown up. She had, as a matter of fact, unconsciously remained with the 'good people' for ten years, and her mother had long mourned her as dead. Meanwhile the fairies had requested the poor widow to send another of her daughters to watch their cows.
When at last the absent one returned to the village she went straight home, and her mother on beholding her gave a great cry. The girl could not understand her
agitation, believing as she did that she had been absent for two days only.
"Two days!" echoed the mother. "You have been away ten years! Look how you have grown!"
After she had overcome her surprise the girl resumed her household duties as if nothing particular had happened, and knitted a pair of stockings for her godchild. When they were finished she carried them to the fairy grotto, where, as she thought, she spent the afternoon. But in reality she had been away from home this time for five years. As she was leaving, her godchild gave her a purse, saying: "This purse is full of gold. Whenever you take a piece out another one will come in its place, but if any one else uses it it will lose all its virtue."
When the girl returned to the village at last it was to find her mother dead, her brothers gone abroad, and her sisters married, so that she was the only one left at home. As she was pretty and a good housewife she did not want for lovers, and in due time she chose one for a husband. She did not tell her spouse about the purse she had had from the fairies, and if she wanted to give him a piece of gold she withdrew it from the magic purse in secret. She never went back to the fairy cavern, as she had no mind to return from it and find her husband an old man.
A fisherman of Saint-Jacut-de-la-Mer, walking home to his cottage from his boat one evening along the wet sands, came, unawares, upon a number of fairies in a houle. They were talking and laughing gaily, and the fisherman observed that while they made merry they
Click to enlarge
FAIRIES IN A BRETON 'HOULE'
rubbed their bodies with a kind of ointment or pomade. All at once, to the old salt's surprise, they turned into ordinary women. Concealing himself behind a rock, the fisherman watched them until the now completely transformed immortals quitted their haunt and waddled away in the guise of old market-women.
The fisherman waited until they were well out of sight, and then entered the cavern, where the first object that met his gaze was the pot of ointment which had effected the marvellous change he had witnessed. Taking some of the pomade on his forefinger, he smeared it around his left eye. He afterward found that he could penetrate the various disguises assumed by the fairies wherever he met them, and that these were for the most part adopted for the purposes of trickery. Thus he was able to see a fairy in the assumed shape of a beggar-woman going from door to door demanding alms, seeking an opportunity to steal or work mischief, and all the while casting spells upon those who were charitable enough to assist her. Again, he could distinguish real fish caught in his net at sea from merwomen disguised as fish, who were desirous of entangling the nets or otherwise distressing and annoying the fishermen.
But nowhere was the disguised fairy race so much in evidence as at the fair of Ploubalay, where he recognized several of the elusive folk in the semblance of raree-showmen, fortune-tellers, and the like, who had taken these shapes in order to deceive. He was quietly smiling at their pranks, when some of the fairies who composed a troupe of performers in front of one of the booths regarded him very earnestly. He felt certain that they had penetrated his secret, but ere he could make off one of them threw a stick at him with such
violence that it struck and burst the offending left eye.
Fairies in all lands have a constitutional distaste for being recognized, but those of Brittany appear to visit their vengeance upon the members with which they are actually beheld. "See what thieves the fairies are!" cried a woman, on beholding one abstract apples from a countrywoman's pocket. The predatory elf at once turned round and tore out the eye that had marked his act.
A Cornish woman who chanced to find herself the guardian of an elf-child was given certain water with which to wash its face. The liquid had the property of illuminating the infant's face with a supernatural brightness, and the woman ventured to try it upon herself, and in doing so splashed a little into one eye. This gave her the fairy sight. One day in the marketplace she saw a fairy man stealing, and gave the alarm, when the enraged sprite cried:
She was immediately stricken blind in the right eye, her fairy foster-child vanished, and she and her husband sank into poverty and want.
Another Breton tale recounts how a mortal woman was given a polished stone in the form of an egg wherewith to rub a fairy child's eyes. She applied it to her own right eye, and became possessed of magic sight so far as elves were concerned. Still another case, alluded to in the Revue Celtique, 1 arose through 'the sacred bond' formed between a fairy man and a mortal woman where both stood as god-parents to a child. The association
enabled the woman to see magically. The fairy maiden Rockflower bestows a similar gift on her lover in a Breton tale from Saint-Cast, and speaks of "clearing his eyes like her own." 1
The Breton fairies, like others of their race, are fond of kidnapping mortal children and leaving in their places wizened elves who cause the greatest trouble to the distressed parents. The usual method of ridding a family of such a changeling is to surprise it in some manner so that it will betray its true character. Thus, on suspicion resting upon a certain Breton infant who showed every sign of changeling nature, milk was boiled on the fire in egg-shells, whereupon the impish youngster cried: "I shall soon be a hundred years old, but I never saw so many shells boiling! I was born in Pif and Paf, in the country where cats are made, but I never saw anything like it!" Thus self-revealed, the elf was expelled from the house. In most Northern tales where the changeling betrays itself it at once takes flight and a train of elves appears, bringing back the true infant. Again, if the wizened occupant of the cradle can be made to laugh that is accepted as proof of its fairy nature. "Something ridiculous," says Simrock, "must be done to cause him to laugh, for laughter brings deliverance." 2 The same stratagem appears to be used as the cure in English and Scots changeling tales.
The Breton fays were prone, too, to take the shape of
animals, birds, and even of fish. As we have seen, the sea-fairies of Saint-Jacut-de-la-Mer were in the habit of taking the shape of fish for the purpose of annoying fishermen and damaging their gear. Another Breton tale from Saint-Cast illustrates their penchant for the fish shape. A fisherman of that town one day was lucky enough to catch the King of the Fishes disguised as a small golden fish. The fish begged hard to be released, and promised, if he were set free, to sacrifice as many of his subjects as would daily fill the fisherman's nets. On this understanding the finny monarch was given his liberty, and fulfilled his promise to the letter. Moreover, when the fisherman's boat was capsized in a gale the Fish King appeared, and, holding a flask to the drowning man's lips, made him drink a magic fluid which ensured his ability to exist under water. He conveyed the fisherman to his capital, a place of dazzling splendour, paved with gold and gems. The rude caster of nets instantly filled his pockets with the spoil of this marvellous causeway. Though probably rather disturbed by the incident, the Fish King, with true royal politeness, informed him that whenever he desired to return the way was open to him. The fisherman expressed his sorrow at having to leave such a delightful environment, but added that unless he returned to earth his wife and family would regard him as lost. The Fish King called a large tunny-fish, and as Arion mounted the dolphin in the old Argolian tale, so the fisherman approached the tunny, which
The fisherman at once
Before dismissing the fisherman, however, the Fish King presented him with an inexhaustible purse--probably as a hint that it would be unnecessary for him on a future visit to disturb his paving arrangements.
Two questions which early obtrude themselves in the consideration of Breton fairy-lore are: Are all the fays of Brittany malevolent? And, if so, whence proceeds this belief that fairy-folk are necessarily malign? Example treads upon example to prove that the Breton fairy is seldom beneficent, that he or she is prone to ill-nature and spitefulness, not to say fiendish malice on occasion, There appears to be a deep-rooted conviction that the elfish race devotes itself to the annoyance of mankind, practising a species of peculiarly irritating trickery, wanton and destructive. Only very rarely is a spirit of friendliness evinced, and then a motive is usually obvious. The 'friendly' fairy invariably has an axe to grind.
Two reasons may be advanced to account for this condition of things. First, the fairy-folk--in which are included house and field spirits--may be the traditional remnant of a race of real people, perhaps a prehistoric race, driven into the remote parts of the country by strange immigrant conquerors. Perhaps these primitive folk were elfish, dwarfish, or otherwise peculiar in
appearance to the superior new-comers, who would in pride of race scorn the small, swarthy aborigines, and refuse all communion with them. We may be sure that the aborigines, on their part, would feel for their tall, handsome conquerors all the hatred of which a subject race is capable, never approaching them unless under compulsion or necessity, and revenging themselves upon them by every means of annoyance in their power. We may feel certain, too, that the magic of these conquered and discredited folk would be made full use of to plague the usurpers of the soil, and trickery, as irritating as any elf-pranks, would be brought to increase the discomfort of the new-comers.
There are, however, several good objections to this view of the origin of the fairy idea. First and foremost, the smaller prehistoric aboriginal peoples of Europe themselves possessed tales of little people, of spirits of field and forest, flood and fell. It is unlikely that man was ever without these.
The idea of animism, the belief that everything had a personality of its own, certainly belonged to the later prehistoric period, for among the articles which fill the graves of aboriginal peoples, for use on the last journey, we find weapons to enable the deceased to drive off the evil spirits which would surround his own after death. Spirits, to early man, are always relatively smaller than himself. He beholds the "picture
of a little man" in his comrade's eyes, and concludes it to be his 'soul.' Some primitive peoples, indeed, believe that several parts of the body have each their own resident soul. Again, the spirit of the corn or the spirit of the flower, the savage would argue, must in the nature of things be small. We can thus see how the belief in 'the little folk' may have arisen, and how they remained little until a later day.
A much more scientific theory of the origin of the belief in fairies is that which sees in them the deities of a discredited religion, the gods of an aboriginal people, rather than the people themselves. Such were the Irish Daoine Sidhe, and the Welsh y Mamau ('the Mothers')--undoubtedly gods of the Celts. Again, although in many countries, especially in England, the fairies are regarded as small of stature, in Celtic countries the fay proper, as distinct from the brownie and such goblins, is of average mortal height, and this would seem to be the case in Brittany, Whether the gorics and courils of Brittany, who seem sufficiently, small, are fairies or otherwise is a moot point. They seem to be more of the field spirit type, and are perhaps classed more correctly with the gnome race; we thus deal with them in our chapter on sprites and demons. It would seem, too, as if there might be ground for the belief that the normal-sized fairy race of Celtic countries had become confounded with the Teutonic idea of elves (Teut. Elfen) in Germany and England, from which, perhaps, they borrowed their diminutive size.
But these are only considerations, not conclusions. Strange as it may seem, folk-lore has by no means solved the fairy problem, and much remains to be accomplished ere we can write 'Finis' to the study of fairy origins.
Another Breton name for the fairies is les Margots la fée, a title which is chiefly employed in several districts of the Côtes-du-Nord, principally in the arrondissements of Saint-Brieuc and Loudéac, to describe those fairies who have their abode in large rocks and on the wild and extensive moorlands which are so typical of the country. These, unlike the fées houles, are able to render themselves invisible at pleasure. Like human beings, they are subject to maladies, and are occasionally glad to accept mortal succour. They return kindness for kindness, but are vindictive enemies to those who attempt to harm them.
But fairy vindictiveness is not lavished upon those unwitting mortals who do them harm alone. If one chances to succeed in a task set by the immortals of the forest, one is in danger of death, as the following story shows.
A poor little fellow was one day gathering faggots in the forest when a gay, handsomely dressed gentleman passed him, and, noticing the lad's ragged and forlorn condition, said to him: "What are you doing there, my boy?"
"I am looking for wood, sir," replied the boy. "If I did not do so we should have no fire at home."
"You are very poor at home, then?" asked the gentleman.
"So poor," said the lad, "that sometimes we only eat once a day, and often go supperless to bed."
"That is a sad tale," said the gentleman. "If you
Click to enlarge
THE POOR BOY AND THE THREE FAIRY DAMSELS
will promise to meet me here within a month I will give you some money, which will help your parents and feed and clothe your small brothers and sisters."
Prompt to the day and the hour, the boy kept the tryst in the forest glade, at the very spot where he had met the gentleman. But though he looked anxiously on every side he could see no signs of his friend. In his anxiety he pushed farther into the forest, and came to the borders of a pond, where three damsels were preparing to bathe. One was dressed in white, another in grey, and the third in blue. The boy pulled off his cap, gave them good-day, and asked politely if they had not seen a gentleman in the neighbourhood. The maiden who was dressed in white told him where the gentleman was to be found, and pointed out a road by which he might arrive at his castle.
"He will ask you," said she, "to become his servant, and if you accept he will wish you to eat. The first time that he presents the food to you, say: 'It is I who should serve you.' If he asks you a second time make the same reply; but if he should press you a third time refuse brusquely and thrust away the plate which he offers you."
The boy was not long in finding the castle, and was at once shown into the gentleman's presence. As the maiden dressed in white had foretold, he requested the youth to enter his service, and when his offer was accepted placed before him a plate of viands. The lad bowed politely, but refused the food. A second time it was offered, but he persisted in his refusal, and when it was proffered to him a third time he thrust it away from him so roughly that it fell to the ground and the plate was broken.
"Ah," said the gentleman, "you are just the kind of servant I require. You are now my lackey, and if you are able to do three things that I command you I will give you one of my daughters for your wife and you shall be my son-in-law."
The next day he gave the boy a hatchet of lead, a saw of paper, and a wheelbarrow made of oak-leaves, bidding him fell, bind up, and measure all the wood in the forest within a radius of seven leagues. The new servant at once commenced his task, but the hatchet of lead broke at the first blow, the saw of paper buckled at the first stroke, and the wheelbarrow of oak-leaves was broken by the weight of the first little branch he placed on it. The lad in despair sat down, and could do nothing but gaze at the useless implements. At midday the damsel dressed in white whom he had seen at the pond came to bring him something to eat.
"Alas!" she cried, "why do you sit thus idle? If my father should come and find that you have done nothing he would kill you."
"I can do nothing with such wretched tools," grumbled the lad.
"Do you see this wand?" said the damsel, producing a little rod. "Take it in your hand and walk round the forest, and the work will take care of itself. At the same time say these words: 'Let the wood fall, tie itself into bundles, and be measured.'"
The boy did as the damsel advised him, and matters proceeded so satisfactorily that by a little after midday the work was completed. In the evening the gentleman said to him:
"Have you accomplished your task?"
"Yes, sir. Do you wish to see it? The wood is cut and tied into bundles of the proper weight and measurement."
"It is well," said the gentleman. "To-morrow I will set you the second task."
On the following morning he took the lad to a knoll some distance from the castle, and said to him:
"You see this rising ground? By this evening you must have made it a garden well planted with fruit-trees and having a fish-pond in the middle, where ducks and other water-fowl may swim. Here are your tools."
The tools were a pick of glass and a spade of earthenware. The boy commenced the work, but at the first stroke his fragile pick and spade broke into a thousand fragments. For the second time he sat down helplessly. Time passed slowly, and as before at midday the damsel in white brought him his dinner.
"So I find you once more with your arms folded," she said.
"I cannot work with a pick of glass and an earthenware spade," complained the youth.
"Here is another wand," said the damsel. "Take it and walk round this knoll, saying: 'Let the place be planted and become a beautiful garden with fruit-trees, in the middle of which is a fish-pond with ducks swimming upon it.'"
The boy took the wand, did as he was bid, and the work was speedily accomplished. A beautiful garden arose as if by enchantment, well furnished with fruit-trees of all descriptions and ornamented with a small sheet of water.
Once more his master was quite satisfied with the result,
and on the third morning set him his third task. He took him beneath one of the towers of the castle.
"Behold this tower," he said. "It is of polished marble. You must climb it, and at the top you will find a turtle-dove, which you must bring to me."
The gentleman, who was; of opinion that the damsel in white had helped his servant in the first two tasks, sent her to the town to buy provisions. When she received this order the maiden retired to her chamber and burst into tears. Her sisters asked her what was the matter, and she told them that she wished to remain at the castle, so they promised to go to the town in her stead. At midday she found the lad sitting at the foot of the tower bewailing the fact that he could not climb its smooth and glassy sides.
"I have come to help you once more," said the damsel. "You must get a cauldron, then cut me into morsels and throw in all my bones, without missing a single one. It is the only way to succeed."
"Never!" exclaimed the youth. "I would sooner die than harm such a beautiful lady as you." "Yet you must do as I say," she replied. For a long time the youth. refused, but at last he gave way to the maiden's entreaties, cut her into little pieces, and placed the bones in a large cauldron, forgetting, however, the little toe of her left foot. Then he rose as if by magic to the top of the tower, found the turtle-dove, and came down again. 1 Having completed his task, he took a wand which lay beside the cauldron, and when he touched the bones they came together again and the
damsel stepped out of the great pot none the worse for her experience.
When the young fellow carried the dove to his master the gentleman said:
"It is well. I shall carry out my promise and give you one of my daughters for your wife, but all three shall be veiled and you must pick the one you desire without seeing her face."
The three damsels were then brought into his presence, but the lad easily recognized the one who had assisted him, because she lacked the small toe of the left foot. So he chose her without hesitation, and they were married.
But the gentleman was not content with the marriage. On the day of the bridal he placed the bed of the young folks over a vault, and hung it from the roof by four cords. When they had gone to bed he came to the door of the chamber and said: "Son-in-law, are you asleep?" "No, not yet," replied the youth. Some time afterward he repeated his question, and met with a similar answer.
"The next time he comes," said the bride, "pretend that you are sleeping."
Shortly after that his father-in-law asked once more if he were asleep, and receiving no answer retired, evidently well satisfied.
When he had gone the bride made her husband rise at once. "Go instantly to the stables," said she, "and take there the horse which is called Little Wind, mount him, and fly."
The young fellow hastened to comply with her request, and he had scarcely left the chamber when the master
of the castle returned and asked if his daughter were asleep. She answered "No," and, bidding her arise and come with him, he cut the cords, so that the bed fell into the vault beneath. The bride now heard the trampling of hoofs in the garden outside, and rushed out to find her husband in the act of mounting.
"Stay!" she cried. "You have taken Great Wind instead of Little Wind, as I advised you, but there is no help for it," and she mounted behind him. Great Wind did not belie his name, and dashed into the night like a tempest.
"Do you see anything?" asked the girl. "No, nothing," said her husband.
"Look again," she said. "Do you see anything now?" "Yes," he replied, "I see a great flame of fire."
The bride took her wand, struck it three times, and said: "I change thee, Great Wind, into a garden, myself into a pear-tree, and my husband into a gardener."
The transformation had hardly been effected when the master of the castle and his wife came up with them.
"Ha, my good man," cried he to the seeming gardener, "has any one on horseback passed this way?"
"Three pears for a sou," said the gardener.
"That is not an answer to my question," fumed the old wizard, for such he was. "I asked if you had seen any one on horseback in this direction."
"Four for a sou, then, if you will," said the gardener.
"Idiot!" foamed the enchanter, and dashed on in pursuit. The young wife then changed herself, her horse, and her husband into their natural forms, and, mounting once more, they rode onward.
"Do you see anything now?" asked she.
"Yes, I see a great flame of fire," he replied.
Once more she took her wand. "I change this steed into a church," she said, "myself into an altar, and my husband into a priest."
Very soon the wizard and his wife came to the doors of the church and asked the priest if a youth and a lady had passed that way on horseback.
"Dominus vobiscum," said the priest, and nothing more could the wizard get from him.
Pursued once more, the young wife changed the horse into a river, herself into a boat, and her husband into a boatman. When the wizard came up with them he asked to be ferried across the river. The boatman at once made room for them, but in the middle of the stream the boat capsized and the enchanter and his wife were drowned.
The young lady and her husband returned to the castle, seized the treasure of its fairy lord, and, says tradition, lived happily ever afterward, as all young spouses do in fairy-tale.
55:1 Roman de Rou, v. 6415 ff.
57:1 Consult original ballad in Vicomte de la Villemarqué's Chants Populaires de la Bretagne.
59:1 MacCulloch, The Religion of the Ancient Celts, p. 116 (Edinburgh, 1911).
60:1 See Ballads and Metrical Tales, illustrating the Fairy Mythology of Europe (anonymous, London, 1857) for a metrical version of this tale.
63:1 Lib. III, cap. vi.
64:1 Paris, 1670. Strange that this book should have been seized upon by students of the occult as a 'text-book' furnishing longed-for details of the 'lost knowledge' concerning elementary spirits, when it is, in effect, a very whole-hearted satire upon belief in such beings.
65:1 Villemarqué, Myrdhinn, ou l'Enchanteur Merlin (1861).
70:1 MacCulloch, The Religion of the Ancient Celts, p. 122.
74:1 Or subterranean dwellers. See D. MacRitchie's Fians, Fairies, and Picts (1893).
75:1 See the chapter on "Menhirs and Dolmens."
82:1 Vol. i, p. 231
83:1 Contes populaires de la Haute-Bretagne (Paris, 1880).
83:2 Handbuch der deutschen Mythologie.
85:1 See the author's Le Roi d' Ys and other Poems (London, 1910).
86:1 Kipling, "Primum Tempus."
92:1 In folk-tales of this nature a ladder is usually made of the bones, but this circumstance seems to. have been omitted in the present instance.