The 5-minute essential guide to Brittany's legends

In Brittany, from the Forest of Brocéliande to the Monts d’Arrée, magic is just part of the scenery. Merlin, Arthur, and the valiant knights of the Round Table are no strangers here. Take 5 minutes to experience the legend.

Comper, home to the Lady of the Lake

Here is where the Fairy Viviane, Lady of the Lake, appeared. She was Merlin’s student, and he fell madly in love with her. Because of her beautiful eyes, he built a crystal palace, hidden in the deep waters of the lake by the chateau. You’re welcome to dive in to check it out...

The Golden Tree

In 1990, the Val sans Retour, legendary place of Brocéliande, where Morgane Le Fay is said to have imprisoned unfaithful lovers, was ravaged by a fire. An extensive reforestation project was launched. To mark this renaissance, the sculptor François Davin created the Golden Tree. The charred trunk of a chestnut tree was covered in 5000 gold leaves to
symbolize the vitality of nature.

A gargantuan blockfield!

The only way to describe Huelgoat is granite chaos. Gargantua, the giant from Rabelais’ famous novel of the same name, grew angry when the people living in the forest prepared him a meal that was far too small to satisfy his ogre’s appetite. In his rage, he threw huge boulders in all directions, leaving them to pile up.

A hike to the gates of hell

With its marshes, ridgelines, and peat bogs, you’d sell your soul to see the landscape in the Monts d’Arrée.Legend has it that the deceased who came back to haunt the living would be thrown in the Elez which would carry them off to hell. Ankou, which represents death in the Breton psyche, has been known to roam here. Be careful! Crossing Ankou’s path or hearing his lurching cart creak along is said to announce the death of a loved one.

The valley d'amour

Between the Forest of Brocéliande and the heath of Coëtquidan lies the Aff valley. Here is where Queen Guinevere opened her heart to Lancelot. It could very well be the perfect spot for a declaration of love.

Ys: 20,000 leagues under the sea

If you hear the sound of bells while enjoying a spot of fishing in Douarnenez, they are without doubt coming from Ys. But don’t try to follow them, the city of Ys was reclaimed by the waves. King Gradlon built the city below sea level for his daughter, Dahut. But she turned it into a city of debauched pleasures, inviting the wrath of the devil. In disguise, the devil seduced Dahut and who gave him the key to the lock. He opened the floodgates and the city and is inhabitants were drowned.

The “Magic Bubble” Fountain

Barenton fountain springs forth in the heart of the Forest of Brocéliande. It is said that its sparkling waters can cure the sick, let the mad become sane again and help the lonely find their heart’s one true love...

A Bad Mother!

The story behind Lanleff church is unusual to say the least. Two circular perimeters form the ambulatory, while the space within the walls remains open to the elements. But that’s not all. Legend has it that a woman, greedy or driven mad by ill fortune, made a pact with the devil. She agreed to trade her child for a few pieces of gold. And so she did, but when the bad mother tried to pick up the gold crowns, she was severely burned. Freshly minted in the flames of hell, the coins fell onto the edge of the fountain, where they shall remain forever more. If you wet the stone, you will see them reappear.

A playlist for further listening

  • Must-see series: For French-speakers: Kaamelot. For everyone else: Monty Python’s Flying Circus. Two quirky interpretations of the tales and legends of the Round Table.
  • A bedtime story: L’Arbre d’Or (The Golden tree), Ar Wezenn aour, by Wilfrid Lermenier, Harmattan.
  • A museum: The Arthurian Centre (External link) , found inside the Comper Castle.