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Folk Tales of Brittany

Elsie Masson

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This is a selection of folk-tales from Brittany by Elsie Masson. Chapters include The Castle Of Comorre; The Basin Of Gold And The Diamond Lance; Lady Yolanda's Thimble; The Witch Of Lok Island; Little White-Thorn And The Talking Bird; Princess Ahez And The Lost City; The Changeling; The Foster Brother; The Hunchback And The Elves; The Four Gifts; The Magic Rocks And The Beggar; The Country Bumpkin And The Hobgoblin; The Wasp, The Winged Needle And The Spider; Yannik, The Fairy Child; and, The Hazel Scepter.

This book has 103 pages in the PDF version, and was originally published in 1929.

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Excerpt from 'Folk Tales of Brittany'

LONG ago in the town of Vannes there lived a king who had an only daughter. Her name was Tréphine. She was the loveliest princess in all of Brittany and all the lands that lay beyond. Moreover, she had never committed a mortal sin. And so the king, her father, would rather have lost all his castles, farms, and horses than to have seen Tréphine unhappy.

One day ambassadors came to the King of Vannes from the country of Cornouaille, from Count Comorre, a powerful ruler at that time. They brought with them gifts of honey, linen thread, and a dozen suckling pigs and gave them to the king, telling him that Count Comorre wished to marry the Princess Tréphine. They said that their master had visited the last fair disguised as a soldier, that he had seen the young princess and had fallen in love with her.

The request for her hand caused the princess and her father the deepest grief. For you must know that Comorre was a wicked and mighty tyrant. He loved to do evil. In deed he was so cruel that when he was a mere boy whenever he went forth from the castle his mother used to rush to the alarm bell in the tower and ring it to warn the townsfolk that he was coming. As he grew older he became more wicked every day so that he was feared and hated by all. But worst of all he had already had four wives whom he had killed.

Therefore the King of Vannes told the ambassadors that his daughter was too young to marry. But the Northerners declared roughly, as was their way, that Comorre would not accept any such excuse, and that he had commanded them to declare war on the King of Vannes if permission were not granted to take the princess back to the castle of the Count. Let the king say no at the peril of his crown.

The king was a brave man, and with fury in his heart he declared that Tréphine should not go. Then quickly he gathered together all his soldiers and his knights to defend his country. Thus did he defy the evil Comorre.

Scarcely had three days passed before Count Comorre marched down on Vannes at the head of his mighty army. The king went forth with his array of knights and soldiers to meet him.

Now when Saint Gildas saw these armed hosts making ready for a bloody fray he went to find the princess who was praying in her oratory. The saint was wearing the mantle that he had used as a boat to sail over the sea, and he was carrying the staff that had been the mast. A fiery aureole was glowing around his head.

Gildas entering the oratory petitioned the princess to avert the battle. He said that the men of Brittany were about to fall upon one another's throats and that she could prevent the death of many Christians if she would agree to marry Comorre.

"Alas, why am I not a beggar maid!" exclaimed the princess, wringing her hands. "Then at least I could marry the beggar of my choice! But if I must marry this oppressor then say for me the offices of the dead. I know the Count will slay me as he has slain his other wives."

But Saint Gildas replied, "Fear nothing, Tréphine. Here is a silver ring as white as silk. It will warn you if Comorre plots villainies against you, for it will then turn as black as a raven's wing. Take courage and save the Bretons from death."

And so the young princess consented to marry Comorre.

The saint went at once to the two armies and told them of Tréphine's decision. The king received the news with sorrow. He did not wish to give his consent to the marriage, in spite of his daughter's resolve. But Count Comorre made him so many promises that at last he agreed to accept him as a son-in-law.

The wedding was celebrated with great festivities. The first day six thousand guests were feasted, and the next day as many more, and the newly married couple waited on them at table.

At last when all the soup pots were emptied and the barrels drunk down to the dregs, the guests went home, and Comorre carried off his young bride as a hawk carries off a little white dove.

Now it happened during the next few months his love for Tréphine made Comorre gentler than you would have expected from the wickedness of his nature. The dungeons of the castle were empty and no one was put to death.

"What has happened to our Count that he no longer revels in tears and bloodshed?" many of his unhappy subjects asked each other. But those who knew him better waited and said nothing.

Tréphine was not happy in spite of her husband's kindness. Every day she went to the chapel of the castle and prayed on the tombs of the four wives of whom the Count was widower. She prayed to God to preserve her from death.

At this time there was a gathering from far and wide of Breton princes at Rennes, and Comorre was compelled to go. On his departure he gave the princess all his keys, even the cellar keys, and, telling her to do as she liked, he set out with a retinue of horsemen and men-at-arms.

He did not return for six months, and he came back to the castle eager to see the princess, who during his absence had been constantly in his thoughts. He went quickly to her room and as he entered he saw that she was making a baby's satin hood covered with silver embroidery.

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