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Breton Mythology and Folklore

A Korrigan is a female fairy or dwarf-like spirit
Ankou - Picture source

Ankou - Ankou is a personification of death mainly in Breton mythology. It is said that he is the one who collects the souls of the dead and aids them on their journey to the next world, in his old rickety cart. The cart is pulled along either by two horses, one is old and thin, while the other is youthful and strong, or four black horses of unspecified age. According to legend he is tall, and wears a wide-brimmed hat and long coat. Some tales have it that he has two companions, who are skeletons in some versions, following behind his cart and tossing into it souls.

There are many tales involving Ankou. According to some he was the first child of Adam and Eve.
One says that there were three drunk friends walking home one night, when they came across an old man on a rickety cart. Two of the men started shouting at Ankou, and then throwing stones, when they broke the axle on his cart they ran off.

The third friend felt bad, and so wanting to help Ankou, first found a branch to replace the broken axle, and then gave Ankou his shoe-laces to tie it to the cart with. The next morning, the two friends who were throwing stones at Ankou were dead, while the one who stayed to help only had his hair turned white. He would never speak in detail about how it happened.
Barzaz Breiz

Barzaz Breiz - The Barzaz Breiz ( "The Plaints of Brittany", Barz refers to "barde" and Breiz means "Brittany") is the collection of Breton folk tales, legends and music collected by Théodore Hersart de la Villemarqué and published in 1839. Hersart grew up in the manor of Plessix in Nizon, near Pont-Aven, half Breton himself. He made a collection of popular songs collected from oral tradition, but was criticised by a later generation of Breton cultural nationalists as having invented a great deal, for he was also half French aristocrat. His rediscovered notebooks have confirmed the authenticity of his finds.

In this book, La Villemarqué reported the score (chorus line) of the songs associated to the texts. It was one of the first attempt to collect and print Breton traditional music, except religious hymns.

Until his publication the "matter of Brittany" was known only from its translation into French romances of the 13th and 14th centuries, in which much of the culture was also transformed to suit Gallic hearers.

The collection achieved a wide distribution, as the Romantic generation that "discovered" the Basque language was beginning to be curious about all the submerged cultures of Europe and the pagan survivals just under the surface of folk Catholicism. The Barzaz Breiz brought Breton folk culture for the first time into European awareness. One of the oldest of the collected songs was the legend of Ys.

Camma - In Celtic mythology, particularly Breton, Camma was a hunting goddess.

Hoel and the Arthurian legend

Hoel is associated with Arthur's retinue in Welsh texts like the Dream of Rhonabwy, Geraint and Enid, and Peredur son of Efrawg, and is an important figure in Geoffrey of Monmouth's work of pseudohistory, Historia Regum Britanniae . Geoffrey confuses Hoel's relationship to Arthur over the course of his narrative; at first, it appears he is the son of Budic of Brittany and Aurelius Ambrosius and Uther Pendragon's sister, and therefore Arthur's first cousin. Later, however, Geoffrey claims Arthur's sister Anna married Budic, making Hoel Arthur's nephew. This confusion is picked up by Geoffrey's followers like Wace and Layamon; most later texts are content to call him Arthur's "cousin".
In Geoffrey, Hoel is Arthur's staunch ally, a Breton kinsman who comes to his aid in Britain to help quell the revolts that arose after the young king's coronation. He proves himself to be a capable general and a respected ruler. His niece is raped and killed by the Giant of Mont Saint Michel, and Arthur sets off himself to slay the giant with the aid of his knights Kay and Bedivere. When Arthur returns to Britain to fight his traitorous nephew Mordred, he leaves Hoel in charge of Gaul.

Hoel and Tristan and Iseult

Hoel was later attached to the Tristan and Iseult legend by poets including Beroul and Thomas of Britain. In these stories, Hoel is duke of Brittany and the father of Tristan's unloved wife Iseult of the White Hands. He takes Tristan in when the young knight has been forced to leave King Mark's kingdom, and Tristan helps him in battle and becomes fast friends with his son Kahedin and his daughter Iseult. Tristan convinces himself to marry this second Iseult, mostly because she shares the name of his first love. In early versions of the story, Tristan remains in Hoel's land until he dies of poison (minutes before the first Iseult, a great healer, arrived to cure him); the Prose-Tristan has the hero returning to Britain and to his first love, never to see his wife again. This version was followed by the Post-Vulgate Cycle and Sir Thomas Malory's Le Morte d'Arthur.


In Breton folklore, a Korrigan is a female fairy or dwarf-like spirit. Korr means dwarf and ig is a diminutive and the suffix an is an hypocoristic.

Korrigans have beautiful hair and red flashing eyes. They are sometimes described as important princesses or druidesses who were opposed to Christianity when the Apostles came to convert Brittany. They hate priests, churches, and especially the Virgin Mary. They can predict the future, change shape, and move at lightning speed. Like sirens and mermaids, they sing and comb their long hair, and they haunt fountains and wells. They have the power of making men fall in love with them, but they then kill the ones who do. In many popular tales, they are eager to deceive the imprudent mortals who see them dancing or looking after a treasure, and fond of stealing human children, substituting them with changelings. On the night of 31st October (All Souls' Night), they are said to be lurking near dolmens, waiting for victims.

This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License . It uses material from the Wikipedia article Breton Mythology and Folklore . More from Wikipedia

Breton Culture & Traditions Home Page

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