Korrigans | The fairy folk of Brittany

Written by on October 13, 2018 in Guest Blogs

With its medieval towns and villages, wild impressive coastline and abundant forests, picturesque Brittany offers its visitors so much more than just homemade cider and galettes dripping in ham and cheese. Whole days can be devoted to meandering the narrow cobblestone streets and charming squares lined with crooked half-timbered houses. But, as night falls be prepared for a nail-biting mystical enchantment.

The Korrigans of Brittany – fairy folk

According to folklore as the twilight starts to steal the sun and the air grows heavy with the sweet smell of the cooling earth, little people, some no taller than your thumb, come out to play amongst the ferns. They flit through the silver moon-lit sprinkles of the fountains. If you sit quietly and watch extremely closely, you may glimpse a honey coloured streak of hair between the granite boulders.

However, as beautiful as this rare sight might be I strongly suggest that you dare not linger. For the golden streak belongs to no other than the Korrigan According to Patricia Monaghan in ‘The Encyclopaedia of Celtic Mythology and Folklore’ they could bring danger, for the Korrigan fairies are:

’immoral and might as readily steal a person or child as tell a fortune’.

For centuries the people of Brittany have been entertained by tales told by travelling tailors. Stories have been recounted, around the haven of warming fires, of Korrigans stealing new born babies leaving their own infants in their place. Of killing innocents with their deadly breath and cursing weary travellers to their doom.

Impish and demanding

The stories vary but there are some things of importance that every visitor to Brittany should learn from them:

Korrigans hate religion and everything associated with it. They refused to be converted to Christianity when the Apostles came to Brittany. It’s said that the Virgin Mary chased them away from their water fountains. She became their ultimate enemy and as Saturday masses are customarily dedicated to Mary, they are particularly naughty on this day. If you come across a Korrigan combing its hair or counting its treasures on a Saturday, you should fear for your life.

Yet if you are a man, common folklore will have you doomed already. It’s said, men, unable to resist the Korrigan’s beauty, will be lured into the Korrigans beds and ultimately, to their death. Dr James MacKillop, in his ‘Dictionary of Celtic Mythology’, describes the Korrigan as a;

Wanton, Impish, sprightly female fairy of Breton folklore who desires sexual union with humans.  Each Korrigan has the power to enmesh the heart of the most constant swain (country youth, lover or suitor) and doom him to perish for love of her.’

Resistance is futile

Sadly, though we learn from the tale of the Seigneur of Nann that a refusal to sleep with a Korrigan will not save you either…

The Seigneur was married to a woman whom he loved. One day during a ride to gather May-blossoms upon his wife’s request, he became thirsty and drank water from a fountain where he came across a Korrigan who demanded that he sleep with her. The Seigneur angrily refused because he was faithful to his wife and rode away after hearing that he was fated to die. The Seigneur, feeling ill even as he drew homeward, said to his waiting mother, ‘My good mother, if you love me, make my bed. I am sick unto death. Say not a word to my bride. For within three days I shall be laid in the grave. A Korrigan has done me evil.’

As requested the curse was kept secret from his wife for three days. When the Seigneur’s mother finally told her daughter-in-law the truth, the wife died of a broken heart and was buried beside her husband.

Magical beings of Brittany

You may now decide, knowing what you know, that it is safer to just avoid the Korrigan altogether. But this is not always easy to do for a Korrigan may not always look like a Korrigan. Some say that they are able to take on any shape and move location at the speed of the mind. And, not content with changing their own appearance they also have the ability to transform a leafy forest into a delightful castle or palace in which they may sit and wait for a poor unsuspecting soul to be tempted and overcome. Only a ray of daylight can dissolve the magnificence.

I hope that you now have a little understanding of the ways of the Korrigan and feel able to protect yourself as the light fades on the enchanting countryside of Brittany. But please remember, the Korrigans are not alone.

There are cousins known as Les Lutins who are equally as mischievous and troublesome. Do not be surprised if they trip up your bicycle or scare your children. Many say there are giants, though they are never seen, the chaotic boulders strewn across the land are evidence enough for some of their tomfooleries. Not all of Brittany’s legends are mean, the Bugul Noz is a fairy spirit who lives in the woodlands. He is not malicious, but his appearance is said to be so vile that even animals avoid him. Aware of his hideous form he stays alone and shouts out to warn humans of his approach so as not to scare. And mermaids known as Les Sirenes have been said to save people on occasion.

Whether you believe, or not, lots of brilliant stories have been written, and the captivating story telling tradition continues in Brittany with many museums and tourist offices organising evening story telling sessions.

Sleep well dear readers but remember if you fall off your bike unexpectedly or come across a majestic grand chateau in Brittany’s twilight – it may not always be what it seems.

Allison lives in West Yorkshire with her husband, 2 children and over-indulged sausage dog Winston. To satisfy her passion for all things French they spend as much time as they can touring the French roads. She is an experienced writer who specialises in lifestyle and travel and contributes to national and online newspapers and magazines. In addition to writing, she also proofreads novels, short stories and articles for other writers.

Related Articles

How the French do politics

I live part of the year in Provence and one day I was reading Le Monde and a headline about a “sexy politician” caught my eye. “Well, those are two words you don’t see together very often,” I thought. So I read the article and found out that there had been a poll asking French […]

Continue Reading

A quiet bistro in Paris

A quiet bistro in Paris

Written by on February 21, 2019 in Guest Blogs

It was lunchtime in the Saint-Germain-des-Prés area of Paris, and I was ravenous looking for a place to eat away from the usual tourist traps. I turned down a quiet street and saw the most unassuming bistro. In fact, I wouldn’t usually have considered going in but I decided to take a chance. As soon […]

Continue Reading

A potted history of the Cathars

A potted history of the Cathars

Written by on February 18, 2019 in Guest Blogs

Catharism has been described as “the most successful heresy in history”. In Languedoc, “Pays Cathare” signs dot the countryside. One cannot drive far in any direction without coming upon the ruins of a Cathar fortress. Who were the Cathars? “Cathar” is allegedly derived from the Greek word, katharos, meaning “pure”. The Cathars were also known […]

Continue Reading

The Transhumance of Provence

The Transhumance of Provence

Written by on February 15, 2019 in Guest Blogs

The people of Provence have been raising sheep for centuries. You see flocks of them all over the countryside, grazing under the watchful eye of shepherds. But Provencal summers are scorching hot and sheep have heavy wool coats so they’re moved to cooler pastures. The transhumance in Provence The answer  to dealing with the heat, […]

Continue Reading

The Four Queens of Provence

The Four Queens of Provence

Written by on January 14, 2019 in Guest Blogs

There have been many famous families in history. Take the Curies, for example: Marie Curie won two Nobel Prizes and her husband, daughter and grandson each won one. Quite the talented family! And then there are the Wright brothers and the Brontë sisters. And let’s not forget those comic masters, the Marx brothers. But imagine […]

Continue Reading

Subscribe

If you enjoyed this article, subscribe now to receive more just like it.

Subscribe via RSS Feed

Comments are closed.

Top