Breton Legends and Myths

Where do we begin… fairies, korriganed, KerYs, Ankou, ghosts ?

The Breton has a wild imagination and there is a story at every turn. In the past, before TV and PS2, it was usual to tell the stories at night time, we even had professional counter paid to tell stories (that was before politicians). Everyone can imagine stories, from the underworld and the past, told around the fire place.

For the most ‘recognised/official legends’ we couldn’t miss the King Arthur, we even have the place for it, Brocéliande. This forest has numerous places that are related to the story. It was so much into the people believes that one priest in order to use this believe for his parish, built a church containing pictures and symbols all related to the legend.

Merlin the Enchanter

Brocéliande is the mythical name for the existing Forest of Paimpont, located to the South West of Rennes. The remains of a vast forest covering the centre of the peninsula during the Middle Ages, it is the source of many Celtic legends. The Knights of the Round Table found the Forest a worthy setting for their destiny and mission. King Arthur summoned them to find the Holy Grail, hidden in the Brittany woods. Merlin the Enchanter, friend and advisor to the young Arthur, was a privileged guest in Brocéliande. The Fountain of Barenton marks his first encounter with the Fairy, Viviane. Merlin loved Viviane so much that he built for her, under the pool reflecting the Chateau de Comper at Concoret, a crystal citadel. The one also known as the Lady of the Lake brought up Lancelot, future member of Arthur’s Knights of the Round Table. Despite the great difference in their ages, the love of Viviane for the Enchanter was deep and loyal. But finally unable to bear the ravages of time, and using the magic she had learned from Merlin, Viviane bewitched him at the Fountain of Youth, restoring the youthful features of the old Druid. She then imprisoned him in perpetuity in nine magic circles, as solid as rock.

Tristan and Iseult

Tristan, Prince of Léon was sent by his Uncle Marc, King of Cornouailles, to bring Iseult back from Ireland to marry Marc. On board the ship, Tristan and Iseult mistakenly drink a love potion intended to bind Iseult to her betrothed for ever. A passionate love develops between the pair. Endings to the story vary; in some versions Tristan is killed by Marc, enraged by his betrayal; in others Tristan marries and dies at his Chateau in Brittany. Whatever the outcome, Iseult invariably follows Tristan to the grave. Wagner’s opera and the book by Joseph Bédier both celebrate this great love drama.

Ankou (Death)

It appears in different forms: a skeleton or a very thin man, long fingers, wearing a long black robe. Sometimes at night you can hear his chariot full of stones passing near your house. Somebody is not feeling well in your village; the Ankou will take him/her into his chariot and leave a few stones behind.


The korrigans could be the cousins of the leprechauns, small, malicious, sometimes helping and sometimes annoying. They must be the poor side of the family because they don’t give any money.

Ker Ys

That’s our little Atlantis, the story of a city gone under the sea. There is a beautiful song that relates it.

Fountains, stones

There are as many saints as there are fountains, all of them curing from a particular disease or disability. It is said that the church built on the same spots, than their druidic counter parts to facilitate the Christianization of the Bretons. In addition of the fountains (maybe not as efficient though), you can try the stones, it cures a wide range of things (fertility always been in the top 10).


They are as annoying as anywhere else. Making noise, moving chairs, dragging chains. But one of the best know is the Itron Gwenn (White Lady). Not really sure what happened to the poor woman but you sometimes meet her walking along roads while driving. If you take her for a lift, she doesn’t say a word and disappear suddenly. You sometimes see her in castles too.


If you want access to Hell direct, there are many parts of Brittany that have a door to it.