A history and heritage influenced by numerous cultures and civilisations means Brittany is teeming with myths and legends, with inspired storytelling leaving a lasting effect on locals, visitors, and even such notable artists as Gauguin. Whether it’s Romantic tales to stir the emotions or Arthurian adventures to create a sense of passion and wonder in the listeners, there is much to enjoy among the folk traditions.
Into the Enchanted Forest
As Arthurian legends go, the forest at modern-day Paimpont has a reputation like few other regions. The forest formerly known as Broceliande, which covers more than 18,000 acres, was where the Knights of the Round Table set out on their quest to recover the Holy Grail. Under orders from King Arthur, the Knights came across the most famous inhabitant of the forest, Merlin, who himself would first meet the enchantress Viviane in the forest. He constructed a crystal citadel beneath the lake at Concoret, the very same lake where Lancelot encountered the ‘Lady of the Lake’.
Details and legends surrounding the fabled exploits of King Arthur, Merlin, and the Knights of the Round Table have been prominent throughout the ages, and the Church of the Holy Grail at nearby Trehorenteuc is particularly inspired by these stories of adventure.
Saints and sinners
Such was the means of recounting stories orally throughout Brittany, many legends have undergone subtle changes as the centuries passed. Of course, this has not diminished their interest, and many hold particular fascination to this day. Breton legends surrounding the religious men of the Dark Ages, for example, are recounted locally, with the stories of battling demons and wicked villagers among the most renowned stories told to children and visitors alike.
Similarly, tales of woe and suffering maintain a presence among the legends of Brittany. The story of the city of Ys and the tragic tale of King Gradlon is regarded as one of the most powerful, with the supposed construction of a churchless town on the waves ultimately leading to tragedy in the Bay of Douarnenez.
Storytelling among the Breton people represents a tradition that shows no sign of abating. Whether it’s the star-crossed lovers Tristan and Ysolde, the adventures of King Arthur, or stories of demons and witchcraft, there are legends among the towns and villages of Brittany that are certain to excite and inspire all ages.