From the third century, Celts from Wales and Cornwall began to emigrate to the area named Armorica during Roman occupation, but later named Brittany, in North West France. Brittany was split between five Celtic tribes. Breton mythology is the collection of heroic tales originating in Brittany. The Bretons had many gods and mythical creatures associated with nature. This mythological background was accepted by Romans, but when Christianity arrived lots of grand epics were lost and pagan landmarks were either destroyed or Christianised.
However some Breton Celtic folklore has survived such as: -
- Ankou - a grim reaper type figure that collects the souls of the deceased. The last person to die in a parish takes over the role of the Ankou. The Ankou appears as a tall, haggard skeleton with long white hair and a revolving head, enable to see in all directions, who drives a cart and stops at the house of someone who is about to die. It knocks on the door (sometimes heard by the living), before it takes away the dead in the cart with help from two ghostly companions.
- Bugul Noz - a fairy spirit who lives in the woodlands of Brittany. He is the last of his kind, but his ugly appearance is so awful that woodland animals avoid him. He is kind and gentle, but always alone. He cries out to warn humans of his approach, so not to frighten them. In fact, some humans have instantly died on seeing him.
- Cannard Noz (“night ducks”) – three small, webbed feet washerwomen, dressed in green who go to the water’s edge at midnight to wash shrouds of those about to die.
- Korrigan – water spirits that dance around fountains and wells. They are very beautiful at dusk or night with long flowing hair and the power to make men fall in love with them, but lure them to their death. However they avoid being seen during the day when their true appearance is as red-eyed, white-haired, wrinkled hags.
Many Arthurian legends also take place in Brittany. For example: –
- Sir Lancelot spent his childhood in the forest of Brocéliande, Brittany.
- Arthur’s half-sister, Morgan Le Fey, after being betrayed by her lover, put a spell on Le Val Sans Retour(“The Valley Without Return”), causing unfaithful lovers to be imprisoned in the valley.
- Tristan married a Princess in Brittany, breaking the love enchantment put on him by Iseult.