Mut ant este noble Barun
Cil de Bretaine il Bretun. Marie de France.
Thise oldé gentil Bretons in hir dayes
Of diverse aventurès maden layes. Chaucer
Brittany, the ancient Armorica, retains perhaps as unmixed a population as any part of
Western Europe. Its language has been, however, like the Welsh and the Celtic dialects, greatly affected
by the Latin and Teutonic. The ancient intercourse kept up with Wales and Cornwall by the Bretons, who
were in a great measure colonists from these parts of Britain, caused the traditions and poetry of the
latter to be current and familiar in Little Britain, as that country was then called. To poetry and music,
indeed, the whole Celto-Cymric race seem to have been strongly addicted; and, independently of the
materials which Brittany may have supplied for the history of Geoffrey of Monmouth, many other true or
romantic adventures were narrated by the Breton poets in their Lais. Several of these Lais were translated
into French verse in the thirteenth century by a poetess named Marie de France, resident at the court of
the English monarchs of the house of Plantagenet, to one of whom, probably Henry the Third, her Lais are
dedicated.1 This circumstance may account for the Lais being better known in England than in
France. The only manuscript containing any number of them is in the Harleian Library; for those of France
contain but five Lais. The Lai du Fresne was translated into English; and from the Lai de Lanval and Lai
de Graelent--which last by the way is not in the Harleian Collection--Chestre made his Launfal Miles, or
Sir Launfal Chaucer perhaps took the concluding circumstance of his Dream from the Lai de Eliduc.
In some of these Lais we meet with what may be regarded as Fairy machinery. The word Fée,
indeed, occurs only once; but in the Lais de Gugemer, de Lanval, d'Ywenec, and de Graelent, personages
are to be met with differing in nothing from the Fays of Romance, and who, like them, appear to be human
beings endowed with superior powers.
The origin of the Breton Korrigan, as they are called, has been sought, and not improbably,
in the Gallicenae2 or ancient Gaul, of whom Pomponius Mela thus writes:-
"Sena3 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 Gallicenae, and are thought to be endowed with singular powers, so as to raise by
their charms 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 to navigators who go
thither purposely to consult them."4
We have here certainly all the attributes of the Damoiselles of the Lais of Marie de France.
The doe whom Gugemer wounds speaks with a human voice. The lady who loved Lanval took him away into an
island, and Graelent and his mistress crossed a deep and broad river to arrive at her country, which
perhaps was also an island in the original Breton Lai. The part most difficult of explanation is the
secret manner in which these dames used to visit their lovers; but perhaps the key is to be found in the
Lai d'Ywenec, of which, chiefly on that account, we give an analysis. The hero of that Lai differs not in
point of power from these ladies, and as he is a real man, with the power of assuming at will the shape of
a bird, so it is likely they were real women, and that it was in the bird-shape they entered the chambers
of their lovers. Graelent's mistress says to him,5
I shall love you trewely;
But one thing I forbid straitly,
You must not utter a word apérte
Which might our love make discovérte.
I will give unto you richly,
Gold and silver, clothes, and fee.
Much love shall be between us two--
Night and day I'll go to you:
You'll see me come to you always--
With me laugh and talk you may.
You shall no comrade have to see,
Or who shall know my privacy,
* * *
Take care now that you do not boast
Of things by which I may be lost.
The lady says to Lanval,
When you would speak to me of ought--
You must in no place form the thought
Where no one could meet his amie
Without reproach and villainie--
I will be presently with you,
All your commands ready to do;
No one but you will me see,
Or hear the words that come from me.
She also bad previously imposed on the knight the obligation of secresy.
As a further proof of the identity of the Korrigan and the Gallicenae, it may be remarked,
that in the evidently very ancient Breton poem, Ar-Rannou, or The Series, we meet the following
passage:--"There are nine Korrigen, who dance, with flowers in their hair, and robes of white
wool, around the fountain, by the light of the full moon."6
I have in thought and purpose too,
Of Ywenec to tellon you--
Of whom he born was, his sire's fame,
How first he to his mother came.
He who did beget Ywenec
Y-clepod was Eudemarec.
There formerly lived in Britain a man who was rich and old. He was Avoez or governor of
Caerwent on the Doglas, and lord of the surrounding country. Desirous of having an heir to his estates,
he espoused a maiden "courteous and sage, and passing fair." She was given to him because he
was rich, and loved by him for her beauty. Why should I say more, but that her match was not to be found
between Lincoln and Ireland? "Great sin did they who gave her him," adds the poet.
On account of her rare beauty, the jealous husband now turned all his thoughts to keeping
her safe. To this end he shut her up in his tower, in a large room, to which no one had access but
himself and his sister, an old widow, without whose permission the young wife was forbidden to speak to
any even of her female attendants. In this tower the suspicious husband immured his lovely bride for
seven years, during which time they had no children, nor did she ever leave her confinement on any account.
She had neither chamberlain nor huissier to light the tapers in her chamber when she would retire, and the
poor lady passed her time weeping, sighing, and lamenting; and from grief and neglect of herself losing
all her beauty.
The month of April was entering,
When every bird begins to sing;
Her lord arose at early day,
And to the wood he takes his way.
Before he set out he called up the old dame to fasten the door after him. This done, she took
her psalter and retired to another room to chant it. The imprisoned lady awoke in tears, seeing the
brightness of the sun, and thus began her moan:
Alas! said she, why born was l?
Right grievous is my destiny:
In this towére imprisoned,
I ne'er shall leave it till I'm dead.
She marvels at the unreasonable jealousy of her old husband, curses her parents, and all
concerned in giving her to a man not only so unamiable, but who was of so tough a constitution that the
chance of his dying seemed infinitely remote.
When baptised he was to be,
In hell's rivere deep dipt was he;
Hard are his sinews, hard each vein,
And lively blood they all contain.
Oft have I heard the people tell,
That in this country there befell
Adventures in the days of yore,
That did to joy grieved hearts restore;
Knights met with damsels, fair and gent,
In all things unto their talent;
And dames met lovers courteous,
Handsome, and brave, and generous;
So that they never blamed were,
For save themselves none saw them e'er.7
If this may be, or ever was,
Or any it befallen has,
May God, who hath all might and power,
My wish perform for me this hour.
Scarcely had she uttered this pious wish, when she perceived the shadow of a large bird at a
narrow window. The bird now flew into the room. He had jesses on his legs, and appeared to be a
hawk.8 He placed himself before the lady, and in a few minutes after became a handsome gentle
knight. The lady was terrified at the sight, and covered her head; but the knight was courteous, and
Lady, said he, be not thus stirred;
A goss-hawk is a gentle bird.
If my secréte should be obscure,
Attend, and I will you assure;
Maketh now of me your lovére,
For that it is I am come here.
Long have I loved you and admired,
And in my heart have much desired;
I ne'er have loved save you alone,
And save you never shall love none;
But I could never come to you,
Nor from own countrie issue,
If you had not required me:
Your lover now I may well be.
The lady was now re-assured: she uncovered her head, and told the knight she would accept
him as her Dru, if she were satisfied that he believed in God. On this head, he assures her,
I in the Créator believe,
Who did from misery us relieve,
In which us Adam our sire put,
By eating of that bitter fruit:
He is, and was, and ever he
To sinners life and light will be.
And to put the matter out of all doubt, he directs her to feign sickness, and send for the
chaplain, when he undertakes to assume her form, and receive the holy Sacrament. The dame does
accordingly; and the old woman, after many objections, at length sends for the chaplain.
And he with all due speed did hie,
And brought the Corpus Domini.
The knight received the holy sign,
And from the chalice drank the wine9
The chaplain then his way is gone--
The old dame shut the doors anon.
The scruples of the lady being now entirely removed, she grants le don d'amoureuse
merci, and the bliss of the lovers is complete. At length the knight takes his leave, and in reply to
the lady's question, of when she should see him again, he tells her that she has only to wish for him, and
the wish will be fulfilled by his appearance;10 but he warns her to beware of the old woman,
who will closely watch her, assuring her at the same time that a discovery will be his certain death.
The lady now bids adieu to all sadness and melancholy, and gradually regains all her former
beauty. She desires no longer to leave her tower; for, night or day, she has only to express a wish, and
her knight is with her. The old lord marvels greatly at this sudden change, and begins to distrust the
fidelity of his sister. On revealing his suspicions, her replies fully satisfy him on that head, and they
concert between them how to watch the young wife, and to discover her secret. After an interval of three
days, the old lord tells his wife that the king has sent for him, and that he must attend him, but will
soon return. He sets out, and the old woman having closed the door as usual after him, gets behind a
curtain to watch. The lady now wishes for her lover, and instantly he is with her, and they continue
together till it is time to rise. He then departs, leaving the spy, who had seen how he came and went,
terrified at the strange metamorphosis.
When the husband, who was at no great distance, came home, his spy informed him of the
strange affair. Greatly grieved and incensed at this, he began to meditate the destruction of his rival.
He accordingly got four pikes made, with steel-heads so sharp that
No razor under heaven's sheen
Was ever yet so sharp and keen.
These he set at the window through which the knight was used to enter. Next day he feigns to
go to the chase, the old woman returns to her bed to sleep, and the lady anxiously expects "him whom
she loveth loyally,"
And says that he may come safely,
And with her at all leisure be.
So said, so done: the bird was at the window; but alas! too eager for caution, he overlooked
the pikes, and, flying against them, was mortally wounded. Still he entered the chamber and threw himself
on the bed, which his blood soon filled, and thus addressed his distracted mistress:
He said unto her-- " My sweet friend,
For you my life comes to an end;
I often told you 't would be so,
That your fair cheer would work us woe."
When she heard this she swooned away,
And long time there for dead she lay;
Her gently to herself he brought,
And said, that grief availeth nought;
That she by him a son would bear,
Valiant and wise, and debonair;
He would dispel her sorrows all.
Ywenec she should him call.
He wouldè vengeance for their sake
Upon their trait'rous enemy take.11
Exhausted with loss of blood, he can stay no longer. He departs; and the lady, uttering loud
cries of woe, leaps after him, unapparelled as she is, out of the window, which was twenty feet from the
ground, and pursues him by the traces of his blood.
Along his path strayed the dame,
Until unto a hill she came.12
Into this hill one entrance led;
It with the blood was all sprinkled.
Before her she can nothing see;
Whereat she thinketh full surely
Her lover thither is gone in.
She entereth with mickle teen;
Within it light ne found she none;
Thorow it still she goeth on,
Until she from the hill issued
In a fair meadow, rich and good.
With blood she stained found the grass,
At which she much dismayed was;
The trace lay of it on the ground.
Quite near she there a city found;
With walls it was enclosed all--
There was not house, nor tower, nor hall,
That did not seem of silver fair:
The Mandevent13 right wealthy are.
Before the town lay marshes rude,
The forest, and wild solitude.
On the other side, toward the donjón,
The water all around did run;
And here the shippès did enter,
More thannè three hundréd they were.
The lower gate wide open lay;
Therein the lady took her way,
Stil following the blood, that fell
The townè thorow to the castél.
Unto her spake there no one,
Ne man nor woman found she none.
She to the palace came; with blood
The steps she found were all embrued;
She entered then a low chambére;
A knight she found fast sleeping there;
She knew him not--she passed on--
To a larger chamber came anon;
A bed, and nothing more, there found,
A knight was on it sleeping sound.
Still farther passed on the dame;
Unto the third chambére she came,
Where she gan find her lover's bed.
The posts were gold enamelled;
I could not price the clothes aright:
The chandeliers and tapers bright,
Which night and day burned constantly,
Were worth the gold of a citee.
She finds her lover at the point of death.
At seeing his wretched state the unhappy lady swoons again. The expiring knight endeavours
to console her; and, foretelling his own death on that day, directs her to depart, lest his people in
their grief should ill treat her as the cause of his death. She, however, protests that she will stay and
die with him, as, if she returns, her husband will put her to death. The knight repeats his consolations,
and gives her a ring, which, while she wears, her husband will retain no remembrance of what relates to
her. At the same time he gives her his sword, which she is to keep safely and to give to her son when
grown up and become a valiant knight. He says, she then
Unto a festival will go;
Her lord will thither wend also;
Unto an abbey they will come,
Where they will see a stately tomb,
Will learn the story of the dead,
And how he was there buried.
There thou the sword shalt to him reach,
And all the adventure then teach,
How he was born, who was his sire;
His deeds enough will then admire.
He then gave her a dress of fine silk, and insisted on her departure. She is with difficulty
induced to leave him, and is hardly half a league from the place when she hears the bells tolling, and the
cries of grief of the people for the death of their lord. She faints four times, but at length recovering
retraces her steps, and returns to her tower. Her husband makes no inquiry, and gives her no farther
uneasiness. She bare a son, as Eudemarec had foretold, and named him Ywenec. As he grew up, there was not
his peer in the kingdom for beauty, valour, and generosity.
After Ywenec had been dubbed a knight, his supposed father was summoned to attend the feast
of St. Aaron at Carlion. He went, accompanied by his wife and Ywenec. On their way, they stopped at a
rich abbey, where they were received with the utmost hospitality. Next day, when they asked to depart,
the abbot entreated them to stay a little longer till he should show them the rest of the abbey. They
consented, and after dinner,
On entering the chapter-room,
They found a large and stately tomb,
Covered with rich tapestry,
Bordered with gold embroidery.
At head and feet and sides there were
Twenty tapers burning clear;
Of fine gold were the chandeliers;
Of amethyst were the censéres,
With which they incensed alwáy,
For great honour, this tomb each day.
The curiosity of the visitors was excited by the sight of this magnificent tomb, and they
learned, on inquiry, that therein lay one of the noblest and most valiant knights that had ever lived.
He had been king of that country, and had been slain at Caerwent for the love of a lady, leaving a vacancy
in the throne which had never been since filled, it being reserved, according to his last commands, for
his son by that lady.
When the Dame heard this, she called aloud to her son,
"Fair son, you now have heard," she said,
"That God hath us to this place led.
It is your father here doth lie,
Whom this old man slew wrongfully."
She then gave him the sword she had kept so long, relating the whole story to him. At the
conclusion she fainted on the tomb, and expired. Filled with rage and grief, Ywenec at one blow struck
off the head of the old man, and avenged both his father and mother. The lady was buried in the coffin
with him whom she had loved, and the people joyfully acknowledged Ywenec as king of the country.
Long time after maden they,
Who heard this adventure, a Lay
Of the grief and the dolour
That for love these did endure.
There are still to be seen in Brittany the rock, the cavern, the fountain, the hole, the
valley, etc., of the Fées.
The forest of Brezeliande, near Quintin, was, in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries,
regarded as the chief seat of Breton wonders. It contained the tomb of Merlin. Robert de Ware, hearing of
the wonders of this forest, visited it; but, by his own account, to little purpose.
La allai je merveilles querre (chercher),
Vis lit forêt et via la terre;
Merveilles quis (cherchai) main ne troval,
Fol m'en revins, fol y allai;
Fol y allai, fol men revins,
Folie quis, por fol me tins.14
There were also the Fountain of Berenton and the Perron (block, or steps)
En Bretagne ce treuve-on
Une Fontaine et un Perron;
Quant on gette l'iaue (eau) dessus
Si vente et tonne et repluit jus (à bas).
Huon do Méry was more fortunate than Ware. He sprinkled the Perron from the golden basin
which hung from the oak that shaded it, and beheld all the marvels.15
Such is the result of our inquiries respecting the Fairy system of the "oldè gentil
Bretons." Owing to the praiseworthy labours of a Breton gentleman of the present day,16
we are enabled to give the following account of it as it actually prevails in Brittany.
Our author divides the Breton fairies into two classes,--the Fays (Fées) and the
Dwarfs (Nains); of which the Breton name seems to be Korrig or Korrigan, and Korr or
Korred.17 The former he identifies, as we have seen, very plausibly, with the Gallicenae of
Mela; for he says that the ancient Welsh bards declare that they reverenced a being of the female sex
named Korid-gwen, i.e. Korid-woman, to whom they assigned nine virgins as attendants. To this
being Taliesin gives a magic vase, the edges of which are adorned with pearl, and it contains the
wondrous water of bardic genius and of universal knowledge.
The Korrigan, our authority further states, can predict the future, assume any form they
please, move from place to place with the rapidity of thought, cure maladies by the aid of charms which
they communicate to their favourites. Their size is said not to exceed two feet, but their proportions
are most exact; and they have long flowing hair, which they comb out with great care. Their only dress
is a long white veil, which they wind round their body. Seen at night, or in the dusk of the evening,
their beauty is great; but in the daylight their eyes appear red, their hair white, and their faces
wrinkled; hence they rarely let themselves be seen by day. They are fond of music, and have fine voices,
but are not much given to dancing. Their favourite haunts are the springs, by which they sit and comb
their hair. They are said to celebrate there every returning spring a great nocturnal festival. On the
sod at its brink is spread a table-cloth white as the driven snow, covered with the most delicious viands.
In the centre is a crystal cup, which emits such light that there is no need of lamps. At the end of the
banquet a cup goes round filled with a liquor, one drop of which would make one as wise as God himself.
At the approach of a mortal the whole vanishes.
Like fairies in general the Korrigan steal children, against which the remedy usually
employed is, to place the child under the protection of the Virgin, by putting a rosary or a scapulary
about its neck. They are also fond of uniting themselves with handsome young men to regenerate, as the
peasants say, their accursed race. The general belief respecting them is, that they were great princesses
who, having refused to embrace Christianity when it was preached in Armorica by the Apostles, were struck
by the curse of God. Hence it is that they are said to be animated by a violent hatred of religion and the
clergy. The sight of a soutane, or the sound of a bell, puts them to flight; but the object of
greatest abhorrence to them is the Holy Virgin. The last trait to be noticed of these beings is, that,
like simiilar beings in other countries, their breath is deadly.
The reader must have observed. the strong resemblance which the Korrigan bear to the Elle-
maids of Scandinavia. In like manner the Korred are very similar to the Trolls.18 These are
usually represented as short and stumpy with shaggy hair, dark wrinkled faces, little deep-set eyes, but
bright as carbuncles. Their voice is cracked and hollow:
their hands have claws like a cat's; their feet are horny like those
of a goat. They are expert smiths and coiners; the are said to have
great treasures in the dolmen19 in which they dwell, and of
which they are regarded as the builders. They dance around them by
night, and wo to the belated peasant who, passing by, is forced to
join in their roundel; he usually dies of exhaustion. Wednesday is
their holiday; the first Wednesday in May their annual festival,
which they celebrate with dancing, singing, and music. They have the
same aversion to holy things as the Korrigan; like them, too, they
can fortell events to come. The Korrid is always furnished with a
large leathern purse, which is said to be full of gold; but if any
one succeeds in getting it from him, he finds nothing in it but hair
and a pair of scissors.
The Bretons also believe in Mermaids; they name them Morgan (sea-women) and Morverc'h
(sea-daughters), and say that they draw down to their palaces of gold and crystal at the bottom of
the sea or of ponds, those who venture imprudently too neat the edge of the water. Like the mermaids they
sing and comb their golden hair. In one of the ballads we read, "Fisher, hast thou seen the mermaid
combing her hair, yellow as gold, by the noontide sun, at the edge of the water?" "I have seen
the fair mermaid. I have also heard her singing; her songs were plaintive as the waves
In M. Villemarqué's collection there are three ballads relating to the Korrigan and
The following is a faithful translation of the first of them in the exact measure of the original. All
the Breton poetry is rimed, very frequently in triads or tercets.
Lord Nann And The
The Lord Nann and his bride so fair
In early youth united were,
In early youth divided were.
The lady lay-in yesternight
Of twins, their skin as snow was white,
A boy and girl, that glad his sight.
"What doth thy heart desire, loved one,
For giving me so fair a son?
Say, and at once it shall be done.
"A woodcock from the pool of the glyn,
Or roebuck from the forest green?
"The roebuck's flesh is savoury,
But for it thou to the wood should'st hie."
Lord Nann when he these words did hear,
He forthwith grasped his oaken spear,
And vaulting on his coal-black steed
Unto the green-wood hied with speed.
When he unto the wood drew nigh,
A fair white doe he there did spy,
And after her such chase he made,
The ground it shook beneath their tread.
And after her such chase made he,
From his brows the water copiously
And from his horse's sides ran down.
The evening had now come on,
And he came where a streamlet flowed
Fast by a Korrigan's abode;
And grassy turf spread all around.
To quench his thirst he sprang to ground.
The Korrig at her fount sat there
A-combing of her long fair hair.
She combed it with a comb of gold--
These ladies ne'er are poor, we 're told.
"Rash man," cried she, "how dost thou dare
To come disturb my waters fair!
"Thou shalt unto me plight thy fay,
Or seven years thou shalt waste away,
Or thou shalt die ere the third day."
"To thee my faith plight will I ne'er,
For I am married now a year.
"I shall not surely waste away,
Nor shall I die ere the third day;
"I shall not die within three days,
But when it unto God shall please."--
"Good mother, mine, if you love me,
See that my bed made ready be,
For I have ta'en a malady.
"Let not one word to my wife be told;
In three days I shall lie in the mould,
A Korrigan has thus foretold."
And when three days were past and gone,
The young wife asked this question,--
"My mother-in-law, now tell me why
The bells all ring thus constantly?
"And why the priests a low mass sing,
All clad in white, as the bells ring?"
"Last night a poor man died whom we
A lodging gave through charity."
"My mother-in-law, tell me, I pray,
My Lord Nann whither is he gone away?"
"My daughter, to the town he 'a gone,
To see thee he will come anon."
"Good mother-in-law, to church to fare,
Shall I my red or blue gown wear?"
"The custom now is, daughter dear,
At church always in black to appear."
As they crossed o'er the churchyard-wall,
On her husband's grave her eye did fall.
"Who is now dead of our family,
That thus fresh dug our ground I see?"
"Alas! my child, the truth can l
Not hide: thy husband there doth lie."
On her two knees herself she cast
And rose no more, she breathed her last.
It was a marvel to see, men say,
The night that followed the day,
The lady in earth by her lord lay,
To see two oak-trees themselves rear
From the new-made grave into the air;
And on their branches two doves white,
Who there were hopping gay and light;
Which sang when rose the morning-ray
And then toward heaven sped away.
This ballad is very remarkable. Its similarity to that of Sir Olaf, so celebrated in
Scandinavia, and of which we have already given two variations out of fifteen, must strike every one; in
its concluding stanzas also it resembles other Scandinavian and English ballads. On the other hand, the
White Doe and the Korrigan at the fount remind us of the Lais of Marie de France. Our opinion on the whole
is, that the ballad belongs to Scandinavia, whence it was brought at an early period--by the Normans, we
might say only for its Christian air in both countries--and naturalised in the usual manner. It is rather
strange that there is neither an English nor a Scottish version of it.
The next lay, which is entirely composed in tercets, is the story of a changeling. In order
to recover her own child the mother is advised by the Virgin, to whom she has prayed, to prepare a meal
for ten farm-servants in an eggshell, which will make the Korrid speak, and she is then to whip him well
till he cries, and when he does so he will be taken away. The woman does as directed: the Korr asks what
she is about: she tells him: "For ten, dear mother, in an eggshell! I have seen the egg before I saw
the white hen: I have seen the acorn before I saw the tree: I have seen the acorn and I have seen the
shoot: I have seen the oak in the wood of Brézal, but never saw I such a thing as this." "Thou
hast seen too many things, my son," replied she, and began to whip him, when one came crying,
"Don't beat him, give him back to me; I have not done yours any injury. He is king in our country.
" When the woman went home she found her own child sleeping sweetly in the cradle. He opened his
eyes and said, "Ah! mother, I have been a long time asleep!"
Among the Welsh legends above related, that of the Fairies Banished has some resemblance to
this; but M. Villemarqué says that he was told a changeling-story by the Glamorgan peasantry, precisely
the same as the Breton legend. In it the changeling is heard muttering to himself in a cracked voice,
"I have seen the acorn before I saw the oak: I have seen the egg before I saw the white hen: I have
never seen the like of this." It is remarkable that these words form a rimed triad or tercet nearly
the same with that in the Breton ballad,21 whence M. Villemarqué is led to suspect that the
legend is anterior to the seventh century, the epoch of the separation of the Britons of Wales and
Armorica. But as changelings seem to have come from the North, we cannot consent to receive this theory.
He also quotes from Geoffrey of Monmouth's Life of Merlin, "There is in this forest," said
Merlin the Wild, "an oak laden with years: I saw it when it was beginning to grow... I saw the acorn
whence it rose, germinate and become a twig... I have then lived a long time." This would, in our
opinion, tend to show that this was an ordinary formula in the British language.
The third, and last of those ballads tells, and not without humour, how
i.e., Long-Paskou, the tailor, one Friday evening, entered the abode of the
Korred, and there dug up
and carried, home a concealed treasure. They pursued him, and came into the court-yard dancing with might
and main, and singing,--
Dilun, dimeurs, dimerc'her
Ha diriaou, ha digwoner.
Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday,
And Thursday, and Friday.
Funding the door secured22 they mount the roof and break a hole through which
they get in, and resume their dance on the floor, still singing, Monday, Tuesday, etc., and calling on
the tailor to come and join them and they would teach him a dance that would crack his back-bone, and
they end by telling him that the money of the Korr is good for nothing.
Another version says, that it was a baker who stole the treasure, and, more cunning than the
tailor, be strewed the floor of his house with hot ashes and cinders on which the Korred burned their
feet. This made them scamper off, but before they went they smashed all his crockery and earthenware.
Their words were, "In Iannik-ann-Trevou's house we burnt our horny feet and made a fine mess of his
The following legend will explain the song of the Korred.
The Dance And Song Of The Korred
The valley of Goel was a celebrated haunt of the Korred.
23 It was thought dangerous to pass through it at night lest one should be forced to join in
their dances, and thus perhaps lose his life. One evening, however, a peasant and his wife thoughtlessly
did so, and they soon found themselves enveloped by the dancing sprites, who kept singing--
Lez y, Lez hon,
Bas an arer zo gant hon;
Lez on, Lez y,
Bas an arer zo gant y.
Let him go, let him go,
For he has the wand of the plough;
Let her go, let her go,
For she has the wand of the plough.
It seems the man had in his band the fourche, or short stick, which is used. as a
plough-paddle in Brittany, and this was a protection, for the dancers made way for them to go out of the
When this became known, many persons having fortified themselves with a fourche,
gratified their curiosity by witnessing the dance of the Korred. Among the rest were two tailors, Peric
and Jean, who, being merry fellows, dared each other to join in the dance. They drew lots, and the lot
fell upon Peric, a humpbacked red-haired, but bold stout little fellow. He went up to the Korred and
asked permission to take share in their dance. They granted it, and all went whirling round and round,
Dilun, Dimeurs, Dimerc'her.
Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday.
Perle, weary of the monotony, when there was a slight pause at the last word, added
Ha Diriaou, ha Digwener.
And Thursday and Friday.
Mat! mat! (good! good!) cried they, and gathering round him, they offered him his
choice of beauty, rank, or riches. He laughed, and only asked them to remove his hump and change the
colour of his hair. They forthwith took hold of him and tossed him up into the air, throwing him from
hand to hand till at last he lighted on his feet with a flat back and fine long black hair.
When Jean saw and heard of the change he resolved to try what he could get from the
potent Korred, so a few evenings after he went and was admitted to the dance, which now went to the words
as enlarged by Peric. To make his addition he shouted out,
Ha Disadarn, ha Disul
And Saturday and Sunday.
"What more? what more?" cried the Korred, but he only went on repeating the words.
They then asked him what he would have, and he replied riches. They tossed him up, and kept bandying him
about till he cried for mercy, and on coming to the ground, he found he had got Peric's hump and red
It seems that the Korred were condemned to this continual dancing, 0which was never to cease
till a mortal should join in their dance, and after naming all the days of the week, should add, Ha
cetu chu er sizun, "And now the week is ended." They punished Jean for coming so near the
end and then disappointing them.24
We add the following circumstances from other authorities:
At Carnac, near Quiberon, says M. de Cambry, in the department of
Morbihan, on the sea-shore,
is the Temple of Carnac, called in Breton "Ti Goriquet" (House of the Gorics), one of
the most remarkable Celtic monuments extant. It is composed of more than four thousand large stones,
standing erect in an arid plain, where neither tree nor shrub is to be seen, and not even a pebble is to
be found in the soil on which they stand. If the inhabitants are asked concerning, this wonderful
monument, they say it is an old camp of Caesar's, an army turned into stone, or that it is the work of
the Crions or Gorics. These they describe as little men between two and three feet high, who carried
these enormous masses on their hands; for, though little, they are stronger than giants. Every night they
dance around the stones; and woe betide the traveller who approaches within their reach! he is forced to
join in the dance, where he is whirled about till, breathless and exhausted, he falls down, amidst the
peals of laughter of the Crions. All vanish with the break of day.25
In the ruins of Tresmaiouen dwell the Courils.26 They are of a malignant
disposition, but great lovers of dancing. At night they sport around the Druidical monuments. The
unfortunate shepherd that approaches them must dance their rounds with them till cock-crow; and the
instances are not few of persons thus ensnared who have been found next morning dead with exhaustion and
fatigue. Woe also to the ill-fated maiden who draws near the Couril dance! nine months after, the family
counts one member more. Yet so great is the power and cunning of these Dwarfs, that the young stranger
bears no resemblance to them, but they impart to it the features of some lad of the village.
A number of little men, not more than a foot high, dwell under the castle of
live in holes in the ground, whither they may often be seen going, and beating on basins. They possess
great treasures, which they sometimes bring out; and if any one pass by at the time, allow him to take
one handful, but no more. Should any one attempt to fill his pockets, the money vanishes, and he is
instantly assailed by a shower of boxes in the ear from invisible hands.
The Bretons also say that there are spirits who silently skim the milk-pans in the dairies.
They likewise speak of Sand Yan y Tad (St. John and Father), who carry five lights at their finger
-ends, which they make spin round and round like a wheel.27
There is a species of malignant beings, called Night-washers (Eur cunnerez noz),
who appear on the banks of streams, and call on the passers-by to aid them to wash the linen of the dead.
If any one refuses, they drag him into the water and break his arms.
About Morlaix the people are afraid of evil beings they call Teurst. One of these, called
Teursapouliet, appears in the likeness of some domestic animal.28 In the district of Vannes is
a colossal spirit called Teus29, or Bugelnoz, who appears clothed in white between midnight
and two in the morning. His office is to rescue victims from the Devil. He spreads his mantle over them,
and they are secure. The Devil comes over the ocean; but, unable to endure the look of the good spirit,
he sinks down again, and, the object of the spirit accomplished, he vanishes.
1. Poésies de Marie de France, par De Roquefort. Paris, 1820. If any one should
suspect that these are not genuine translations from the Breton, his doubts will be dispelled by reading
the original of the Lai du Laustic in the Barzan-Breiz (i. 24) presently to be noticed.
2. The Bas-Breton Korrigan or Korrigwen differs, as we may see, but little from
Gallican. Strabo (i. p .304) says that Denieter and Kora were worshipped in an island in these
3. Sena is supposed to be L'lsle des Saints, nearly opposite Brest.
4. Pomp. Mela, iii. 6.
5. It might seem hardly necessary to inform the reader that these verses and those that follow, are our
own translations, from Marie de France. Yet some have taken them for old English verses.
E korole nao c'horrigan,
Bleunvek ho bleo, gwisket gloan,
Kelc'h ar feunteun, d'al loar-gann.
Villemarqué, Barzan-Breiz, i. 8
The c'h expresses the guttural.
7. This manifestly alludes to Laval or Graeleat, or similar stories.
8. It follows, in M. de Roquefort's edition,
"Deci ne muez fu ou déeis"
Of which we can make no sense, and the French translation gives no aid. In the Harleian MS. it is
"De cinc muez fu ou de sis,"
which is more intelligible.
9. This tends to prove that this is a translation from the Breton; for Innocent III., in whose pontificate
the cup was first refused to the laity, died in 1216, when Henry III., to whom Marie is supposed to have
dedicated her Lais, was a child.
10. The same was the case with the Wünschelweib (Wish-woman) of German romance.
Swenne du einêst wünachest nach mir,
So bin ich endelichen bi dir,
says the lady to the Staufenberger. She adds,
War ich wil da bin ich,
Den Wunsch hat mir Got gegeben.
He finds it to be true,
Er wünschte nach der frouwen sin,
Bi im so war diu schiune sin.
GRIMM, Deut. Mythol, p. 391.
11. In the Shah-nameh, Siyawush, when he foresees his own death by the treachery of
Afrasiab, tells his
wife Ferengis, the daughter of that monarch, that she will bear a son whom she is to name Ky
who will avenge the death of his father: see Görres, Heldenbuch von Iran, ii. 32.
Desi k'a une hoge vint:
En cele hoge ot une entree.
M. de Roquefort, in his Glossaire de Ia Langue Romaine, correctly renders hoge by colline.
In his translation of this Lai he renders it by cabane, not, perhaps, understanding how a hill
could be pervious. The story, however, of Prince Ahmed, and the romance of Orfeo and
Heurodis, are good
authority on this point.
13. In the Harleian MS. Mandement. M. Ce Roquefort confesses his total ignorance of this people; we follow
his example. May it not, however, be connected with manant, and merely signify people,
14. Roman de Roux, v. ii. 234.
15. See Roquefort, Supplément au Glossaire de la Langue Romaine s.v.
16. Barzan-Breiz, Chants Populaires de la Bretagne, recueilles et publiés par Th. Hersart de la
Villemarqué. Paris, 1846. This is a most valuable work and deserving to take its place with the Ballads
of Scotland, Scandinavia, and Servia, to none of which is it inferior. To the credit of France the edition
which we use is the fourth. How different would the fate of such a work be in this country!
17. We make this distinction, because in the ballads in which the personage is a Fay, the word used is
Korrigan or Korrig, while in that in which the Dwarfs are actors, the words are Korr and
Korred. But the
truth is, they are all but different forms of Korr. They are all the same, singular and plural. The Breton
changes its first consonant like the Irish. We also meet with Crion, Goric,
Couril, as names of these
beings, but they are only forms of those given above.
18. Hence we may infer that they came originally from Scandinavia, communicated most probably by the
19. Stone-tables. They are called by the same name in Devon and Cornwall; is Irish their appellation is
20. Barzan-Breiz., l. xlix. 69.
Gweliz mez ken gwelet derven,
Gweliz vi ken gwelet iar wenn,
Erioez ne williz evelhenn.
Gweliz vi ken guelot iar wenn,
Gweliz mez ken gwelet gwezen.
Gweliz mez ha gweliz gwial,
Gweliz derven e Koat Brezal,
Biskoaz na weliz kemend all.
22. The tailor cries "Shut the door! Here are the little Duz of the night" (Setu ann
Duizigou nouz), and St. Augustine (De Civ. Dei, c. xxiii.) speaks of "Daemones quos
Duscios Galli nuncupant." It may remind us of our own word Deuce.
23. In the original the word is Korrigan.
24. From an article signed H--Y in a cheap publication called Tracts for the People. The writer says he
heard it in the neighbourhood of the Vale of Goel, and it has every appearance of being genuine.
Villemarqué (i. 61) mentions the last circumstance as to the end of the penance of the
25. Monumens Celtiques, p. 2. An old sailor told M. de Cambry, that one of these stones covers an immense
treasure, and that these thousands of them have been set up the better to conceal it. He added that a
calculation, the key to which was to be found in the Tower of London, would alone indicate the spot where
the treasure lies.
26. For what follows we are indebted to the MS. communication of Dr. W. Grimm. He quotes as his authority
the Zeitung der Gesellschafter for 1826.
27. The former seems to be a house spirit, the Goblin, Follet, or Lutin of the, north of
France; the latter is apparently the Ignis Fatuus.
28. So the Yorkshire Bar-guest
29. See above, p.438.