THE FAIRY MYTHOLOGY
Porquol faut-il s'dmerveiller
The Fairy mythology of France may be divided, as respects its locality, into two parts, that
of Northern and that of Southern France, the Langue d'Oil and the Langue d'Oc. We will commence with the
latter, as adjacent to Spain. Of its mythology, Gervase of Tilbury, who resided in the kingdom of Arles,
has left us some interesting particulars, and other authorities enable us to trace it down to the present
day. Speaking of the inhabitants of Arles, Gervase thus expresses himself:
Que la raison la mteux sensée,
Lasse souvent do veiller,
Par des contes d'ogre et de fée
Prenne plaisir à sommelier?
"They also commonly assert, that the Dracs assume the human form, and come early into
the public market-place without any one being thereby disturbed. These, they say, have their abode in the
caverns of rivers, and occasionally, floating along the stream in the form of gold rings or cups, entice
women or boys who are bathing on the banks of the river; for, while they endeavour to grasp what they
see, they are suddenly seized and dragged down to the bottom: and this, they say, happens to none more
than to suckling women, who are taken by the Dracs to rear their unlucky offspring; and sometimes, after
they have spent seven years there, they return to our hemisphere. These women say that they lived with the
Dracs and their wives in ample palaces, in the caverns and banks of riven. We have ourselves seen one of
these women, who was taken away while washing clothes on the banks of the Rhone. A wooden bowl floated
along by her, and, in endeavouring to catch it, having got out into the deep water, she was carried down
by a Drac, and made nurse to his son below the water She returned uninjured, and wäs hardly recognised by
her husband and friends after seven years' absence.
"After her return she related very wonderful things, such as that the Dracs lived on
people they had carried off, and turned themselves into human forms; and she said that one day, when the
Drac gave her an eel-pasty to eat, she happened to put her fingers, that were greasy with the fat, to one
of her eyes and one side of her face, and she immediately I became endowed with most clear and distinct
vision under the water. When the third year of her time was expired, and she had returned to her family,
she very early one morning met the Drac in the market-place of Beaucaire. She knew him at once, and
saluting him, inquired about the health of her mistress and the child. To this the Drac replied:
'Harkye,' said he, 'with which eye do you see me?' She, pointed to the eye she had touched with the fat:
the Drac, immediately thrust his finger into it, and he was no longer visible to any one.
Respecting the Dracs, Gervase farther adds:
"There is also on the banks of the Rhone, under a house, at the North-gate of the city
of Arles, a great pool of the river . . . . In these deep places, they say that the Dracs are often seen
of bright nights, in the shape of men. A few years ago there was, for three successive days, openly heard
the following words in the place outside the gate of the city, which I have mentioned, while the figure
as it were of a man ran along the bank: 'The hour is passed, and the man does not come.' On the third day,
about the ninth hour, while that figure of a man raised his voice higher than usual, a young man ran
simply to the bank, plunged in, and was swallowed up; and the voice was heard no more."
The word Drac is apparently derived from Draco; but we are inclined to see its origin in the
Northern Duerg. We must recollect that the Visigoths long occupied Provence and Languedoc. It is,
we apprehend, still in use. Fa le.Drac, in Provençal, signifies Fairre le diable.2
Goudelin, a provençal poet of the seventeenth century, begins his Castel en l'Ayre with these lines:
Belomen qu' yeu faré le Drac
The following curious narrative also occurs in Gervase's work, and might seem to belong to
Se jamay trobi dins un sac
Cinc o siés milante pistolos
Espessos como de redolos.
"Seamen tell that one time as a ship was sailing in the Mediterranean sea, which sea we
call ours, she was surrounded by an immense number of porpoises (delphinos), and that when an
active young man, one of the crew, had wounded one of them with a weapon, and all the rest of them had
rapidly sought the bottom, a sudden and awful tempest enveloped the ship. While the sailors were in doubt
of their lives, lo! one in the form of a knight came borne on a steed on the sea, and demanded that, for
the salvation ef all the rest, the person who had wounded the porpoise should be delivered up to him.
The sailors were in an agony between their own danger and their aversion to expose their comrade to death,
which seemed to them to be most cruel, and they thought it infamous to consult their own safety at the
expense of the life of another. At last the man himself, deeming it better that all should be saved at
the cost of one, as they were guiltless, than that such a number of people should run the risk of
destruction on account of his folly, and lest by defending him they should become guilty, devoted himself
to the death he merited, and voluntarily mounted the horse behind the rider, who went over the firm water,
taking his road along it as if it had been the solid land. In a short time he reached a distant region,
where he found lying in a magnificent bed the knight whom he had wounded the day before as a porpoise.
He was directed by his guide to pull out the weapon which was sticking in the wound, and when he had done
so, the,guilty right hand gave aid to the wound. This being done, the sailor was speedily brought
back to the ship, and restored to his companions. Hence it is, that from that time forth sailors have
ceased to hunt the porpoises."3
Gervase also describes the Kobold, or House-spirit, the Esprit Follet, or Goblin of the
North of France.
"There are," says he, "other demons, commonly called Follets, who inhabit the
houses of simple country people, and can be kept away neither by water nor exorcisms; and as they are not
seen, they pelt people as they are going in at the door with stones, sticks, and domestic utensils. Their
words are heard like those of men, but their form does not appear. I remember to have met several
wonderful stories of them in the Vita Abbreviata, et Miraculis beatissimi Antonii."4
Elsewhere5 he speaks of the beings which he says are called Lamiae, who, he
relates, are used to enter houses suddenly, ransack the jars and tubs, pots and pitchers, take the
children out of the cradles, light lamps or candles, and sometimes oppress those who are sleeping.
Either Gervase mistook, or the Fadas of the south of France were regarded as beings different
from mankind. The former is, perhaps, the more likely supposition. He thus speaks of them: "This,
indeed, we know to be proved every day by men who are beyond all exception; that we have heard of some who
were lovers of phantoms of this kind which they call Fadas;6 and when they married other women,
they died before consummating the marriage. We have seen most of them live in great temporal felicity,
who when they with-drew themselves from the embraces of these Fadas, or discovered the secret, lost not
only their temporal prosperity, but even the comfort of wretched lifé."7
"In the legend of St. Armentaire, composed about 1800, by Raymond, a gentleman of
Provence, we read of the Fée Esterelle, and of the sacrifices to her, who used to give barren women
beverages to drink, to make them fruitful; and of a stone called La Lauza de la Fuda; that is the
Fairy-stone on which they used to sacrifice to her."8
Even at the present day the belief in the Fadas seems to linger in Provence and the adjoining
"On the night of the 31st of December," says Du Mege,9 the "Fees
(Hadas) enter the dwellings of their worshipers. They bear good-luck in their right, ill-luck in
their left-hand. Care has been taken to prepare for them in a clean retired. room, such a repast as is
suited to them. The doors and windows are left open; a white cloth is laid on a table with a loaf, a
knife, a vessel full of water or wine, and a cup. A lighted candle or wax taper is set in the centre of
the table. It is the general belief that those who present them with the best food may expect all kinds
of prosperity for their property and their family; while those who acquit themselves grudgingly of their
duty toward the Fées, or who neglect to make preparations worthy of these divinities, may expect the
From the following passage of the Roman de Guillaume au Court-Nez it would appear that three
was the number of the Hadas.
Coustume avoient lee gens, par véritez,
Some years ago a lady, named Marie Aycard, published a volume named "Ballades et Chants
populaires de la Provence," two of which seem to be founded on popular legends. She names the one La
Fée aux Cheveux Verts, and in it relates the story of a young mariner of Marseilles who was in the habit
of rowing out to sea by himself in the evening. On one of these occasions he felt himself drawn down by
an invisible power, and on reaching the bottom found himself at the gate of a splendid palace, where he
was received by a most beautiful fairy, only her hair was green. She at once told him her love, to which
he responded as she wished, and after detaining him some time she dismissed him, giving him two fishes,
that he might account for his absence by saying that he had been fishing The same invisible power brought
him back to his boat, and he reached home at sunrise. The size and form of his fishes, such as had never
been seen, excited general wonder; but he feared the fairy too much to reveal his secret. An invincible
attraction still drew him to the submarine palace, but at last he saw a maiden whose charms, in his eyes,
eclipsed those of the fairy. He now fled the sea shore, but every time he approached his mistress he
received an invisible blow, and he continually was haunted by threatening voices. At length he felt an
irresistible desire to go out again to sea. When there he was drawn down as before to the palace, but the
fairy now was changed, and saying, "You have betrayed me--you shall die," she caused him to be
devoured by the sea-monsters. But other accounts say that she kept him with her till age had furrowed his
brow with wrinkles, and then sent him back to poverty on earth.
Et en Provence et en autres regnez.
Tables métoient et siéges ordenez,
Et sur la table iij blans pains bulétez,
Iij poz do vine et iij hénez de lès
Et par encoste iert li enfès posez.10
The other legend named Le Lutin tells how seven little boys, regardless of the warnings of
their old grandmother, would go out at night on various affairs. As they went along a pretty little black
horse came up to them, and they all were induced to mount on his back. When they met any of their
playmates they invited them also to mount, and the back of the little horse, stretched so that at last he
had on him not less than thirty little boys. He then made with all speed for the sea, and plunging into
it with them they were all drowned.11
Passing to Auvergne we find Gregory of Tours in the sixth century thus relating an event
which happened in his youth. A man was going one morning to the forest, and he took the precaution to
have his breakfast, which he was taking with him, blessed before he set out. Coming to the river, before
it was yet day, he drove his bullock-cart into the ferry-boat (in ponte qui super navem est), and
when he was about half-way over he heard a voice saying, "Down with him! down with him! be quick!
" (Merge, merge, ne moreris!) to which another replied, "I should have done it without
your telling me if something holy did not prevent me; for I would have you to know that he is fortified
with the priest's blessing, so that I cannot hurt him."12
Miss Costello13 heard in Auvergne a story of a changeling, which the mother, by
the direction of the Curé, took to the market-place, where she whipped it well, till its mother, La Fée
du Grand Cascade, brought her back her own child. She also relates at great length a legend which she
styles La Blonde de in Roche, in which a young lady, instructed by her nurse, learns to change her form,
and thus become a companion of the Fées, who are beings of tiny dimensions. Afterwards, when she is
married, they take away her children, but she manages to recover them.
"La Tioul de las Fadas is within five and a half leagues of St. Flour, at Pirols, a
village of Haute Auvergne. It is composed of six large rude stones, covered by a seventh, larger and more
massive than the rest; it is twelve feet long, and eight and a half wide. The tradition relates that a Fée
who was fond of keeping her sheep on the spot occupied by this monument, resolved to shelter herself from
the wind and ram. For this purpose she went far, very far, (bien loin, bien loin) in search of such
masses of granite, as six yoke of oxen could not move, and she gave them the form of a little house. She
carried, it is said, the largest and heaviest of them on the top of her spindle, and so little was she
incommoded by the weight of it, that she continued to spin all the way."14
The following legend is traditional in Périgord:
Embosomed in the forest of the canton of La Double, near the road leading from Périgueux to
Ribérac, is a monument named Roque Brun. It consists of four enormous rocks placed two and two, so as to
form an alley ten feet long and six wide. A fifth rock, higher and thicker than the others, closes this
space on the west. The whole is covered by a huge mass of rock, at least twelve feet by seven, and from
three to four feet thick. There can be no doubt of its being the work of man, and it is remarkable that
the stone composing it is different from that of the soil on which it stands.15 The tradition
of the canton, however, is, that many thousand years ago there was a Fée who was the sovereign of the
whole country, and having lost her husband in a battle fought in this very place she resolved to bury him
on the spot. She therefore called six of her pages, and ordered them to fetch, each one of these stones,
and to place them in the order which they still maintain. They instantly obeyed, and they carried and
arranged the huge masses as easily as if they had been only rose-leaves. When the tomb was completed, the
Fairy ascended it, and turning to the east, she thrice cursed, in a voice of thunder, whoever, should
henceforth dare even to touch this monument of her royal spouse. Many an instance is still recorded by the
peasantry of those who dared and were puxiished.16
The Fairy-lore of the North of France, at least of Normandy, is, as was to be expected,
similar to that of the other portions of the Gotho-German race. We meet it in the fées or fairies,
and the lutins or gobelins, which answer to the Kobolds, Nisses, and such like of those
The Fees are small and handsome in person; they are fond of dancing in the night-time, and
in their dances which are circular they form the Cercles des Fées, or fairy-rings. If any one
approaches their dance, he is irresistibly impelled to take part in it. He is admitted with the greatest
courtesy; but as the whirling movement increases, and goes faster and faster, his head becomes giddy, and
he falls to the ground utterly exhausted. Sometimes the fées amuse themselves by flinging him up
to a great height in the air, and, if not killed by the fall, he is found next morning full of bruises.
These little beings, it is also said, haunt solitary springs, where they wash their linen, which they
then dry by way of preference on the Druidic stones, if at hand, and lay up in the hollows of rocks or
barrows, thence named Chambres or Grottes des Fées. But, further, it is said of them, like
the Lutins, they select particular farms to which they resort at night, and there making use of
horses, harness and utensils of all kinds, they employ themselves at various kinds of work, of which,
however, no traces remain in the morning. They are fond of mounting and galloping the horses; their seat
is on the neck, and they tie together locks of the mane to form stirrups. Their presence, however, always
brings luck, the cattle thrive where they are, the utensils of which they have made use, if broken are
mended and made as good as new. They are altogether most kind and obliging, and have been known to give
cakes to those to whom they have taken a fancy.
The Fées of Normandy are, like others, guilty of child-changing. A countrywoman as she was
one day carrying her child on her arm met a Fée similarly engaged, who proposed an exchange. But she
would not consent, even though, she said, the Fée's babe were nine times finer than her own. A
few days after, having left her child in the house when she went to work in the fields, it appeared to
her on her return that it had been changed. She immediately consulted a neighbour, who to put the matter
to the proof, broke a dozen eggs and ranged the shells before the child, who instantly began to cry out,
Oh! what a number of cream-pots! Oh! what a number of cream-pots! The matter was now beyond doubt,
and the neighbour next advised to make it cry lustily in order to bring its real mother to it. This also
succeeded; the Fee came imploring them to spare her child, and the real one should be restored.
There is another kind of Fées known in Normandy by the name of Dames Blanches, or
White Ladies, who are of a less benevolent character. These lurk in narrow places, such as ravines, fords
and bridges, where passengers cannot well avoid them, and there seek to attract their attention. The Dame
Blanche sometimes requires him whom she thus meets to join her in a dance, or to hand her over a plank.
If he does so she makes him many courtesies, and then vanishes. One of these ladies named La Dame d'
Aprigny, used to appear in a winding narrow ravine which occupied the place of the present Rue Saint
Quentin at Bayeux, where, by her involved dances, she prevented any one from passing. She meantime held
out her hand, inviting him to join her, and if he did so she dismissed him after a round or two; but if
he drew back, she seized him and flung him into one of the ditches which were full of briars and thorns.
Another Dame Blanche took her station on a narrow wooden bridge over the Dive, in the district of Falaise,
named the Pont d' Angot. She sat on it and would not allow any one to pass unless he went on his knees to
her; if he refused, the Fee gave him over to the lutins, the cats, owls, and other beings which,
under her sway, haunt the place, by whom he was cruelly tormented.
Near the village of Puys, half a league to the north-east of Dieppe, there is a high plateau,
surrounded on all sides by large entrencbments, except that over the sea, where the cliffs render it
inaccessible. It is named La Cité de Limes or La Camp de César or simply Le Catel
or Castel. Tradition tells that the Fées used to hold a fair there, at which all sorts of magic
articles from their secret stores were offered for sale, and the most courteous entreaties and
blandishments were employed to induce those who frequented it to become purchasers. But the moment any
one did so, and stretched forth his hand to take the article he had selected, the perfidious Fées seized
him and hurled him down the cliffs.
Such are the accounts of the Fées stifi current in Normandy. To these we may add that of
Dame Abonde or Itabonde, current in the middle ages. William of Auvergne, bishop of Paris, who died in
the year 1248, thus writes:
"Sunt et aliae ludificationes malignorum spiritorum quas faciunt interdum in nemoribus
et locis amoenis, et frondosis arboribus, ubi apparent in similtudine puellarum aut matronarum
ornatu muliebri et candido; interdum etiam in stabulis, cum luminaribus cereis, ex quibus apparent
distillationes in comis et collis equorum et comae ipsorum diligenter tricatae; et audies eos, qui
talia se vidisse fatentur, dicentes veram ceram esse quae de luminaribus hujusmodi stillaverat. De illis
vero substantiis quae apparent in domibus quas dominas nocturnas et principem earum vocant Dominam
Abundiam pro eo quod domibus, quas frequentant, abundantiam bonorum temporalium praestare putantur
non aliter tibi sentiendum est neque aliter quam quemadmodum de illis audivisti. Quapropter eo usque
invaluit stultitia hominum et insania vetularum ut vasa vini et receptacula ciborum discooperta relinquant,
et omnino nec obstruent neque claudant eis noctibus quibus ad domos suos eas credunt adventuras; ea de
causa videlicet ut cibos et potus quasi paratos inveniant, et eos absque difilcultate apparitionis pro
Dame Abonde is also mentioned in the same century in the celebrated Roman de la Rose as
Qui les cinc sens ainsine decoit
In these places we find that Abundia is a queen or ruler over a band of what we may call
fairies, who enter houses at night, feast there, twist the horses' manes, etc. This may remind us at once
of Shakespeare's Queen Mab, whom, though only acquainted with Habundia through a passage in
Heywood,20 we conjectured to have derived her name from that of this French dame.21
Chaucer, by the way, always spells habundance with an h, which may have become m as
it does n in Numps from Humphrey; so Edward makes Ned, Oliver Noll, etc.
Par les fantosmes qu'il recoit,
Dont maintes gens par br folie
Cuident estre par nuit estries (allés)
Errans avecques Dame Habonde.
Et dient que par tout le monde
Si tiers enfant de nacion (naisaance)
Sunt de ceste condicion,
Qu'ils vont trois fois en la semaine,
Li cum destinée lea maine (mène),
Et par tous ces ostex (hotels) se boutent,
Ne cles ne barres ne redoutent.
Ains sen entrent par lea fendaces (fentes)
Par chatieres et par crevaces.
Et se partent des cors les ames
Et vont avec lea bonnes dames
Par leur forains et par maisons.
Et le prcuvent par tiex (ces) raisons:
Que les diversités veues
Ne sont pas en lor liz (lits) venues,
Ains (anzi It.) sunt lor ames que laborent
Et par le monde ainsinc sen corent.19
The Lutin or Gobelin22 of Normandy hardly differs in any respect from the domestic
spirit of Scandinavia and Germany. He is fond of children and horses; and if the proverb
Ou il y a belle fille et bon yin
lie not, of young maidens also. He caresses the children, and gives them nice things to eat,
but he also whips and. pinches them if naughty.23 He takes great care of the horses, gallops
them at times, and lutines their manes, i.e., elfs or plaits and twists them in an
inexplicable manner. So fond, indeed, is he of this amusement, that it is related that when one time two
young girls fell asleep in a stable, he lutined their hair in such a way that they had to cut it
all off. Sometimes the Lutin takes the form of a young villager, and struts about with great complacency.
On such occasions it is necessary to call him Bon Garçon, a thing the Norman peasant never neglects to do.
At other times he appears under the form of a horse ready bridled and saddled. If any peasant, weary after
his day's work, is induced to mount him in order to ride home, he begins to kick and fling and. rear and
bound, and ends by jerking him into a marsh or a ditch full of water. When he takes this form he is called
Le Cheval Bayard, probably after the famous steed of the Paladin Rinaldo.
Là aussi hante le lutin
The following tradition of "Le Lutin, ou le Fé amoureux," is related in the
neighbourhood of Argentan:
A Fé was fond of a pretty young paysanne, and used to come every evening when she was
spinning at her fireside, and take his seat on a stool opposite to her, and. keep gazing on her fair face.
The ungrateful object of this respectful attention, however, told her husband the whole story, and in his
jealous mood. he resolved to have his revenge of the amorous Lutin. Accordingly, he heated the girdel
(galetiere) red-hot, and placed it on the seat which he used to occupy, and then dressing himself
in his wife's clothes, he sat in her place, and began to spin as well as he could. The Fé came as usual,
and instantly perceived the change. "Where," said he, "is La-belle belle of yesterday
evening, who draws, draws, and keeps always twirling, while you, you turn, turn, and never twirl?"
He, however, went and took his usual seat, but immediately jumped up, screaming with pain. His companions,
who were at hand, inquired the cause. "I am burnt," cried he. "Who burned you?" cried
they. "Myself," replied he; for this the woman had told him was her husband's name. At this they
mocked at him and went away.24
The best way, it is said, to banish a Lutin who haunts a house, is to scatter flax-seed in
the room that he most frequents. His love of neatness and regularity will not allow him to let it lie
there, and he soon gets tired of picking it up, and so be goes away.
A Lutin, named the Nain Rouge, haunts the coast of Normandy. He is kind in his way to the
fishermen, and often gives them valuable aid; but be punishes those who do not treat him with proper
respect. Two fishermen who lived near Dieppe, were going one day to Pollet. On their way they found a
little boy sitting on the road-side; they asked him what he was doing there. "I am resting
myself" said he, "for I am going to Berneville" (a village within a league of Pollet.) They
invited him to join company; he agreed, and amused them greatly with his tricks as they went alone. At
last, when they came to a pond near Berneville, the malicious urchin caught up one of them, and flung him,
like a shuttlecock, up into the air over it; but, to his great disappointment, he saw him land safe and
sound at the other side. "Thank your patron-Saint," cried he, with his cracked voice, "for
putting it into your mind to take some holy water when you were getting up this morning. But for that
you'd have got a nice dip."
A parcel of children were playing on the strand at Pollet, when Le Petit Homme Rouge came by.
They began to make game of him, and he instantly commenced pelting them with stones at such a rate that
they found it necessary to seek refuge in a fishing-boat, where, for the space of an hour, as they
crouched under the hatches, they heard the shower of stones falling so that they were sure the boat must
be buried under them. At length the noise ceased, and when they ventured to peep out, not a stone was to
There is also in Normandy a kind of spirits called Lubins, which take the form of wolves,
and enter the churchyards under the guidance of a chief who is quite black. They are very timorous, and
at the least noise they fly, crying ".Robert eat mort! Robert est mort!" People say of a
timorous man, "Il a peur de Lubin!"25
A belief in Fées, similar to those which we nave denominated Fairies of Romance, seems to
have prevailed all over France during the middle ages.
The great Bertrand Duguesclin married a lady named Tiphaine, "extraite do noble lignée,
" says his old biographer; "laqueile avoit environ vingt-quatre ans, ne onques n'avoit été
mariée et éstoit bonne et sage, et moult experte aux arts d'astronomie; aucuns disoient qu'elle éstoit
faée mais non éstoit, mais éstoit sinsi inspirée et de la Grace de Dieu."
One of the chief articles of accusation against the heroic and unfortunate Maid. of Orleans,
was "Que souvent alloit à une belle fontaine au pais de Lorraine, laquelle elle nommoit bonne
fontaine aux Fées nostre Seigneur, et en icelui lieu tous ceulx de pays quand ils avoient fiebvre ils
alloient pour recouvrer garison, et Ia alloit souvent la dite Jehanne la Pucelle, sous un grand arbre qui
la fontaine ombroit, et s'apparurent à elle St. Katerine et St. Marguerite."26 She was
also asked "Si elle sçait rien de ceux qui vont avecq les Fées?"
Of these Fées the most celebrated is Melusina, who was married to the Count of Lusignan.
Toward the end of the fourteenth century, Jean d'Arras collected the traditions relating to her, and
composed what he called her "Chronicle." Stephen, a Dominican of the house of Lusignan, took up
the history written by Jean D'Arras, gave it consistency, and cast such splendour about his heroine, that
several noble houses were ambitious of showing a descent from her. Those of Luxembourg and Rohan even
falsified their genealogies for that purpose; and the house of Sassenage, though it might claim its
descent from a monarch, preferred Melusina, and to gratify them it was feigned that when she quitted
Lusignan she retired to the grot of Sassenage, in Dauphiny.
The following is a slight sketch of the story of the fair Melusina.27
Ange par Ia figure, et serpent par le reste.
The Legend of Melusina
Elinas, king of Albania, to divert his grief for the death of his
wife, amused himself with hunting. One day, at the chase, he went to a fountain to q0uench his thirst:
as he approached it he heard the voice of a woman singing, and on coming to it he found there the
beautiful Fay Pressina.
After some time the Fay bestowed her hand upon him, on the condition that he should never
visit her at the time of her lying-in. She had three daughters at a birth: Melusina, Melior, and Palatina.
Nathas, the king's son by a former wife, hastened to convey the joyful tidings to his father, who, without
reflection, flew to the chamber of the queen, and entered as she was bathing her daughters. Pressina, on
seeing him, cried out that he had broken his word, and she must depart; and taking up her three daughters,
She retired to the Lost Island;28 so called because it was only by chance any,
even those who had repeatedly visited it, could find it. Here she reared her children, taking them every
morning to a high mountain, whence Albania might be seen, and telling them that but for their father's
breach of promise they might have lived happily in the distant land which they beheld. When they were
fifteen years of age, Melusina asked her mother particularly of what their father had been guilty. On
being informed of it, she conceived the design of being revenged on him. Engaging her sisters to join in
her plans, they set out for Albania: arrived there, they took the king and all his wealth, and, by a
charm, inclosed him in a high mountain, called Brandelois. On telling their mother what they had done,
she, to punish them for the unnatural action, condemned Melusina to become every Saturday a serpent,
from the waist downwards, till she should meet a man who would marry her under the condition of never
seeing her on a Saturday, and should keep his promise. She inflicted other judgements on her two sisters,
less severe in proportion to their guilt. Melusina now went roaming through the world in search of the
man who was to deliver her. She passed through the Black Forest, and that of Ardennes, and at last she
arrived in the forest of Colombiers, in Poitou, where all the Fays of the neighbourhood came before her,
telling her they had been waiting for her to reign in that place.
Raymond having accidentally killed the count, his uncle, by the glancing aside of his boar-
spear, was wandering by night in the forest of Colombiers. he arrived at a fountain that rose at the foot
of a high rock. This fountain was called by the people the Fountain of Thirst, or the Fountain of the
Fays,29 on account of the many marvellous things which had happened at it. At the time, when
Raymond arrived at the fountain, three lathes were diverting themselves there by the light of the moon,
the principal of whom was Melusina. Her beauty and her amiable manners quickly won his love: she soothed
him, concealed the deed he had done, and married him, he promising on his oath never to desire to see her
on a Saturday. She assured him that a breach of his oath would for ever deprive him of her whom he so
much loved, and be followed by the unhappiness of both for life. Out of her great wealth, she built for
him, in the neighbourhood of the Fountain of Thirst, where he first saw her, the castle of Lusignan. She
also built La Rochelle, Cloitre Malliers, Mersent, and other places.
But destiny, that would have Melusina single, was incensed against her. The marriage was made
unhappy by the deformity of the children born of one that was enchanted; but still Raymond's love for the
beauty that ravished both heart and eyes remained unshaken. Destiny now renewed her attacks. Raymond's
cousin had excited him to jealousy and to secret concealment, by malicious suggestions of the purport of
the Saturday retirement of the countess. He hid himself; and then saw how the lovely form of Melusina
ended below in a snake, gray and sky-blue, mixed with white. But it was not horror that seized him at the
sight, it was infinite anguish at the reflection that through his breach of faith he might lose his lovely
wife for ever. Yet this misfortune had not speedily come on him, were it not that his son, Geoffroi with
the tooth,30 had burned his brother Freimund, who would stay in the abbey of Malliers, with the
abbot and a hundred monks. At which the afflicted father, count Raymond, when his wife Melusina was
entering his closet to comfort him, broke out into these words against her, before all the courtiers who
attended her:--" Out of my sight, thou pernicious snake and odious serpent! thou contaminator of my
Melusina's former anxiety was now verified, and the evil that had lain so long in ambush had
now fearfully sprung on him and her. At these reproaches she fainted away; and when at length she revived,
full of the profoundest grief, she declared to him that she must now depart from him, and, in obedience
to a decree of destiny, fleet about the earth in pain and suffering, as a spectre, until the day of doom;
and that only when one of her race was to die at Lusignan would she become visible.
Her words at parting were these:
"But one thing will I say unto thee before I part, that thou, and those who for more
than a hundred years shall succeed thee, shall know that whenever I am seen to hover over the fair castle
of Lusignan, then will it be certain that in that very year the castle will get a new lord; and though
people may not perceive me in the air, yet they will see me by the Fountain of Thirst; and thus shall it
be so long as the castle stands in honour and flourishing--especially on the Friday before the lord of the
castle shall die." Immediately, with wailing and loud lamentation, she left the castle of
Lusignan,31 and has ever since existed as a spectre of the night. Raymond died as a hermit on
The president de Boissieu says,32 that she chose for her retreat one of the
mountains of Sassenage, near Grenoble, on account of certain vats that are there, and to which she
communicated a virtue which makes them, at this day, one of the seven wonders of Dauphiné. They are two
in number, of great beauty, and so admirably cut in the rock, that it is easy to see they are not the work
of unaided nature, The virtue which Melusina communicated to them was, that of announcing, by the water
they contain, the abundance or scantiness of the crops. When there is to be an abundant harvest, it rises
over the edges, and overflows; in middling years, the vats are but half full; and when the crops are to
fail, they are quite dry. One of these vats is consecrated to corn, the other to wine.
The popular belief was strong in France that she used to appear on what was called the tower
of Melusina as often as any of the lords of the race of Lusignan was to die; and that when the family was
extinct, and the castle had fallen to the crown, she was seen whenever a king of France was to depart
this life. Mézeray informs us that he was assured of the truth of the appearance of Melusina on this tower
previous to the death of a Lusignan, or a king of France, by people of reputation, and who were not by
any means credulous. She appeared in a mourning dress, and continued for a long time to utter the most
The following passage occurs in Brantôme's Eloge of the Duke of Montpensier, who in 1574
destroyed Lusignan, and several other retreats of the Huguenots:
"I heard, more than forty years ago, an old veteran say, that when the Emperor Charles
V came to France, they brought him by Lusignan for the sake of the recreation of hunting the deer, which
were there in great abundance in fine old parks of France; that he was never tired admiring and praising
the beauty, the size, and the chef d'ceuvre of that house, built, which is more, by such a lady, of whom
he made them tell him several fabulous tales, which are there quite common, even to the good old women
who washed their linen at the fountain, whom Queen Catherine of Medicis, mother to the king, would also
question and listen to. Some told her that they used sometimes to see her come to the fountain to bathe
in it, in the form of a most beautiful woman, and in the dress of a widow. Others said that they used to
see her, but very rarely, and that on Saturday evening, (for in that state she did not let herself be seen
bathing, half her body being that of a very beautiful lady, the other half ending in a snake: others,
that she used to appear a-top of the great tower in a very beautiful form, and as a snake. Some said, that
when any great disaster was to come on the kingdom, or a change of reign, or a death, or misfortune among
her relatives, who were the greatest people of France, and were kings, that three days before she was
heard to cry, with a cry most shrill and terrible, three times.
"This is held to be perfectly true. Several persons of that place, who have heard it,
are positive of it, and hand it from father to son; and say that, even when the siege came on, many
soldiers and men of honour who were there affirmed it. But it was when the order was given to throw down
and destroy her castles that she uttered her loudest cries and wails. This is perfectly true, according
to the saying of people of honour. Since then she has not been heard. Some old wives, however, say she has
appeared to them, but very rarely."
Jean d'Arras declares that Servile, who defended the castle of Lusignan for the English
against the Duke of Bern, swore to that prince, upon his faith and honour, "that, three days before
the surrender of the fortress, there entered into his chamber, though the doors were shut, a large
serpent, enamelled with white and blue, which came and struck its tail several times against the feet of
the bed where he was lying with his wife, who was not at all frightened at it, though he was very much
so; and that when he seized his sword, the serpent changed all at once into a woman, and said to him,
Now, Serville, you who have been at so many sieges and battles, are you afraid! Know that I am the
mistress of this castle, which I have built, and that you must surrender it very soon. When she had
ended these words she resumed her serpent-shape, and glided away so swiftly that he could not perceive
her." The author adds, that the prince told him that other credible people had sworn to him that
they too had seen her at the same time in other places in the neighbourhood, and in the same form.
The old castle of Pirou, on the coast of the Cotentin, in Lower Normandy, likewise owes its
origin to the Fées.33 These were the daughters of a great lord of the country, who was a
celebrated magician. They built the castle long before the time of the invasions of the Northmen, and
dwelt there in peace and unity. But when these pirates began to make their descents on the coast, the
Fees, fearing their violence, changed themselves into wild geese, and thus set them at defiance. They did
not, however, altogether abandon their castle; for the elders of the place assert that every year, on the
first of March, a flock of wild geese returns to take possession of the nests they had hollowed out for
themselves in its walls. It was also said that when a male child was born to the illustrious house of
Pirou, the males of these geese, displaying their finest grey plumage, strutted about on the pavement in
the courts of the castle; while, if it was a girl, the females, in plumage whiter than snow, took
precedence then over the males. If the new-born maiden was to be a nun, it was remarked that one of them
did not join with the rest, but kept alone in a corner, eating little, and deeply sighing.
The following traditions are attached to the castles of Argouges and Rânes, in
One of the lords of Argouges, when out hunting one day, met a bevy of twenty ladies of rare
beauty, all mounted on palfreys white as the driven snow. One of them appeared to be their queen, and the
lord of Argouges became all at once so deeply enamoured of her, that he offered on the spot to marry her.
This lady was fée; she had for a long time past secretly protected the Sire d'Argouges, and even
caused him to come off victorious in a combat with a terrible giant. As she loved the object of her care,
she willingly accepted his troth, but under the express condition that he should never pronounce in her
presence the name of Death. So light a condition caused no difficulty; the marriage took place under the
happiest auspices, and lovely children crowned their union. The fatal word was never heard, and their
happiness seemed without alloy. It came to pass, however, one day at length, that the wedded pair were
preparing to give their presence at a tournament. The lady was long at her toilet, and her husband waited
for her with impatience. At length she made her appearance. "Fair dame," said he, when he saw
her, "you would be a good person to send to fetch Death; for you take long enough to perform what you
are about."35 Hardly had he pronounced the fatal word when, uttering a piercing cry, as
if actually struck by death, the Fée lady disappeared, leaving the mark of her hand on the gate. She comes
every night clad in a white robe, and wanders round and round the castle, uttering deep and continuous
groans, amid which may be heard, in funereal notes, Death! Death!
The same legend, as we have said, adheres to the castle of Ranes, where, however, it was on
the top of a tower that the Fee vanished, leaving, like Melusina, the mark of her foot on the battlements,
where it is still to be seen.
In explication of the former legend, M. Pluque observes, that at the siege of Bayeux by Henry
I., in 1106, Robert d'Argouges vanquished in single combat a German of huge stature; and that the crest of
the house of Argouges is Faith, under the form of a woman naked to the waist, seated in a bark, with the
motto, or war-cry, A la Fé! (i.e. àla foi!) which the people pronounce A la Fée!
So far the genuine French Fees. On the revival of learning they appear to have fallen into
neglect, till the memory of them was awakened by the appearance of the translation of the Italian tales
of Straparola, many of which seem to have become current among the people; and in the end of the
seventeenth century, the Contes des Fées of Perrault, Madame d'Aulnoy, and their imitators and successors,
gave them vogue throughout Europe. These tales are too well known to our readers to require us to make any
observations on them.
1. Otia Imperialia, p. 987
2. Like the Irish Play me Puck
3. Otia limper. p 981: It does not appear that the abode ot these porpoise-knights was beneath the
4. Otia Imper. p. 897. Orthone, the House-spirit, who, according to Froissart, attended the Lord
of Corasse, in Gascony, resembled Hlnzelmann in many points.
6. Hujusmodi larvarum. He classes the Fadas 'with Sylvans and Pans.
7. Page 989. Speaking of the wonderful horse of Giraldus de Cabreriis; Gervase says, Si Fadus e'rat,
i.e. says Leibnitz, incantatus, ut Fadae, Fatae, Fées
8. Cambry, Monumens Celtiques, p. 342. The author says, that Esterelle, as well as all the Fairies, was
the moon. This we very much doubt. He derives her name from the Breton Escler, Brightness, Lauza,
from Lac'h (Irish Clock), a flat stone.
9. Monuments religieux des Voices Tectosages, ap. Mile. Bosquet, Normandie, etc., p. 92
10. See Leroux de Lincy, ap. Mile. Bosquet, p. 93, who adds "In Lower Normandy, in the
arrondissement of Bayeux, they never neglect laying a table for the protecting genius of the babe about
to be born;" see our note on Virg. Buc. iv. 63. In a collection of decrees of Councils made by
Burchard of Worms, who died in 1024, we read as follows: "Fecisti, ut quaedam mulieres in quibusdam
temporibus anni facere solent, ut in domo tua rnensam praepares et tuos cibos et potum cum
tribus cultelluis supra mensam poneres, ut si venissent tres illae sorores quas antiqua
posteritas et antiqua stultitia. Parcas nominavit, ibi reficirentur ... ut credens illas quas tu dicis
esse sorores tibi posse aut hic aut in futuro prodesse?" Grimm. Deut. Mythol. Anhang, p.
xxxviii, where we are also told that these Pares could give a man at his birth the power of becoming a
Werwolf. All this, however, does not prove that they wore the Origin of theFées.
11. This may remind us of the Neck or Kelpie above. It seems confirmatory of our theory respecting the
12. Greg. Tur. De Glor. Confess. ch. xxxi., ap. Grimm. p. 466.
13. Pilgrimage to Auvergne, ii. p. 294, seq.
14. Cambry, Monuments Celtiques, p. 232.
15. It is evidently a cromleach. What is said of the nature of the stones is also true of
16. Lettres de Madame S. à sa Fille. Périgueux, 1830: by M. Jouannet of Bordeaux.
17. See Mile. Bosquet, La Normandie Romanesque et Merveilleuse, and the works there quoted by this learned
and ingenious lady. What follows is so extremely like what we have seen above of the Korrigan of the
adjacent Brittany, that we hope she has been careful not to transfer any of their traits to her Fees.
18. Opera i. 1036; Paris, 1674, ap. Grimm, Deut. Mythol. p. 263.
19. Ap. Grimm, ut sup. Douce (Ill, of Shak. i. 382) was, we believe, the first who
directed attention to Abundia. He quotes from an old fabliau:
Ceste richesse nus abonde,
20. One kind of these the Italians Fate name;
Nos l'avons de par Dame Abonde.
Fée the French; we Sybils; and the same
21. Mr. Thoms prefers a derivation from the Cymric, Mab, boy, child.
Others White Nymphs;
and those that have them seen,
Night Ladies some, of which Habundia queen.
Hierarchie, viii. p.507.
22. There is no satisfactory derivation of Lutin, for we cannot regard as such Grimm's à luctu.
Gobelin, Goblin, or Goubelin, is evidently the same as Kobold. Follet (from fol,
fou) and Farfadet, are other names. Both Gobelin and Lutin were in use in the
11th century. Orderic Vitalis, speaking of the demon whom St. Taurin drove out of the temple of Diana,
says, Hunc vulgus Gobelinum appellat, and Wace (Roman de Rou, v. 9715) says of the familiar
of bishop Manger who excommunicated the Conqueror
Ne sei s'esteit lutin ou non.
23. Mothers also threaten their children with him. Le gobelin vous mangera, le gobelin vous
emportera. Père~ L'ABBE, Etymologie, i. p. 262.
24. In another French tale a man to deceive a Fée, put on his wife's clothes and was minding the child,
but she said as she came in, "Non, tu ne point la belle d'hier au soir, tu ne files, ni ne vogues, ni
ton fuseau ne t'enveloppes," and to punish him she turned some apples that were roasting on the
hearth into peas. Schreiber ap. GRIMM, p. 385.
25. Lubin may be only another form of Lutin, and connected with the English Lob. Its likeness to
loup may have given occasion to the fiction of their taking the lupine form.
27. Histoire de Mélusine, tirée des Chroniques do Poftou. Paris, l698 Dobenek, des Deutschen Mittelalter
28. i.e. Cephalonia, see above, p. 41.
29. It is at this day (1698) corruptly called La Font de Sée; and every year in the month of May a fair
is held in the neighbouring mead, where the pastry-cooks sell figures of women, bien coiffées,
called Merlusines.--French Author's Note
30. A boar's tusk projected from his mouth. According to Brantôme, a figure of him, cut in stone, stood
at the portal of the Mélusine tower, which was destroyed in 1574.
31. At her departure she left the mark of her foot on the stone of one of the windows, where it remained
till the castle was destroyed.
32. In his poem of Melusina, dedicated to Christina of Sweden.
33. Mlle Bosquet, ut sup. p. 100.
34. Mlle. Bosquet, ut sup. p. 98. The castle of Argouges is near Bayeux, that of Rànes is in the
arrondissement of Argentan.
35. This proverbial expression is to be met with in various languages: see Grimm, Deut. Mythol. p.