You like walks in nature ? And more particularly forest walks ? If you never heard about it, this article is going to talk about one of the most famous forest of France : Broceliande forest ! 😀
This forest full of mysteries and legends is located in our dear region of Bretagne, we will mention in this article lots of juicy details that will help to satisfy your curiosity ! These details will for sure give you the urge to come and have a look by yourself !
The second part of the article is dedicated to the places to visit 😉
1. Myths and legends
First of all, Broceliande’s forest is the biggest forest of Bretagne !
Its names as well as its numerous legends are full of mysteries. It first appeared in the “Novel of Rou”, written by an english and normand guy (from Normandy’s region), Wace. It tells the story of a breton knight in Brecheliant’s forest (or “Brec’h” meaning hill in breton’s language).
Afterwards, the famous poet Chrétien of Troyes wrote the adventure of Arthur ! The breton’s name of the forest slowly changed to become “Breilien”, then Broceliande through the centuries.
So many celtic writings and legends belongs to this forest, linked to Arthur’s stories, Merlin’s, but also fairies and leprechaun legends. We will explain them to you to satisfy your curiosity, and to help you understand in what way Broceliande is so special !
Son of a demon and a religious woman, the birth of Merlin, (or “Merzhin”, in breton’s language) should have predicted a cursed life. On the contrary, it happened that despite his appearence of a child covered with fur and his early ability to talk, his choice was towards the protection of Peace.
Endowed with a metarmophosis power and clairvoyance that allowed him to guess in all the details the past of people he met, aswell as their future. Thanks to his powers, Merlin contributed to the saving of peace in all Bretagne’s kingdom!
At the death of the king Uther Pendragon, Bretagne was therefore without an heir. This loss led to a merciless war between the contenders of the throne. To bring peace, Merlin intervened by placing the sword Excalibur into a rock. He then proclamed that the person who would be able to remove the sword would be the chosen heir.
Thus Arthur came into history as he removed the sword from the rock : he became the King of Bretagne. But we will talk about him later, he deserves a paragraph just for himself !
Years later, as they were helped by this powerful enchanter, the history was marked by the adventures of Arthur and the knights of the Round Table. Then Merlin met Vivivane. It took place at the heart of Broceliande’s forest. The famous sorcerer saw the fairy near the water. He fell in love with her and started to teach her all of his secrets. Viviane took advantage of it and locked up Merlin in a magical prison while he was sleeping. He wasn’t upset by it, his love for the fairy was far bigger than his desire for freedoom, which led to the end of Merlin’s epos !
Son of the king Uther Pendragon, Arthur was placed under the guardianship of Merlin as soon as he was born. That’s right, an agreement linked the king and Merlin thanks to his help to unite Uther Pendragon to the woman he loved.
Later on, years after the King’s death, he was the one that succeeded to remove the sword Excalibur from the rock. He then ignored his noble ancestry. Excalibur, the magical sword known to be unbreakable, protecting from any harm while slicing the impossible. It promised to its heir a destiny full of conquest and glory. With the people’s suspicions, his origins where rapidly revealed by Merlin which reinforced his right access to the throne.
Gathering the bravest knights with Merlin’s help, the Round Table was created. It permited to set them all on an equal footing ! Together, they won many battles through the years. Their last mission was the suprem quest of the Holy Graal’s search, Christ’s blood-bearing cup. It guaranteed the immortality of whoever would find it.
Viviane, or “Lady of the Lake”, lives within Broceliande’s forest. This forest where many magical creatures as fairies and dragons were living in abundance. Mastering enchantments and some of nature’s knowledge, she raised Lancelot after his parents death. She took him deep down into her Lake. Till the young man turned 18, she thaught him the handling of weapons and the necessary knowledge to make him a brave knight.
In an other variant of the legend, she is supposed to be the one who gave Excalibur to Arthur. Through all the adventures of Arthur, her goal was to watch over them.
Viviane then met Merlin, who was so in love with her that he thaught her all of his knowledge. Rapidly she was tired of his repititive absences, she wanted to keep him for her and then locked him up in an invisible prison.
Later on, the fairy Viviane took King Arthur on Avalon’s island. That’s right, he was fatally hurt in Camlan’s battle. At Arthur’s death, the Lady of The Lake became the heir of the magical sword Excalibur.
Magical beings of Broceliande
After reading these few legends linked to Broceliande’s forest, you can now guess the magic that surrounds this place. Lots of people nowadays are talking about magical beings of Broceliande such as fairies, leprechauns, dragons, etc…
While walking through the forest, you can now feel all the wonders that inhabits it. I will briefly explain the local beliefs on this nature.
Legendary creature of Bretagne, that can be linked to a leprechaun, his name in Breton’s language actually means “small leprechaun”. Having a small size, with red eyes and white hair, some can describe them with horns and goats feet. We can find them near water sources, caves or dolmen (megalithic construction made of stone we can find in Bretagne). As guardians of the forest, they can be really kind, but also mean if our actions prove them right.
Fairies are of celtic origins, but their name comes from “Fata”, meaning ” destiny in latin. Concerning their appearance, they went from a human size within the Middle-Age, to a small size with transparent and colorful wings thanks to Shakespeare’s stories. To add with their flying ability, linked to the natural environment, they are also supposed to have magical powers. Their home are placed under rock cavities, nearby megaliths, or near water streams within the forests. We will name below some of Broceliande’s famous places where it is said that they are living.
Some of Broceliande’s places foreshadow dragon’s presence. For breton’s people, these mythical creatures are a symbol of fertility and power. Master of the four elements, earth, fire, water and wind, their scales allows them to swim. They also live underground and spit fire ! With their noble status they are also supposed to be the link between the living’s world and the death’s one. More and more, with the destructions it caused, creating mortal epidemics or natural disasters, the church transformed this creature to be Satan’s incarnation. Having become the sworn enemy of the knights, specially of Arthur and the knights of the Round Table, we can find the trace of their presence in one of the places below.
2. Places to visit
There is currently a route that takes you to strategic places of Broceliande. I am going to name some of them here 🙂
The golden tree
Created in 1991 by the sculptor François Davin, this golden tree, surrounded by 5 burnt trees, is here to remember the part of the forest destroyed by the fire a year earlier. It symbolises the rebirth of the forest, but also its fragile side as a reminder to be careful.
Originally a covered walkaway formed by 6 blocs of schist stones, Merlin’s tomb was dynamited a bit before 1892 by treasure hunters curious from breton’s legends. 2 blocks still remain today, reminding of the tragical love story between the enchanter and the fairy Viviane. Some say that as he is still detained, Merlin is still alive today.
Fontain of youth
Located a few feet away from Merlin’s tomb, this fontain was apparently way more majestuous in another time ! Surrounded by big stones, it was here amongst druidic places of worship. More especially used for summer solstice to count newborns. If parents forgot to show them, they could go back the next year. This should make official the birth of the child, which means rejuvenate him or her of a year. This explains the name “fontain of youth”! 😀
The fairy mirror
A pond opening the Val of No Return, its cristal clear water would presage the presence of magic. It is said that this pond was the home of 7 fairies. One day, one of them went out by curiosity to observe a human, having them fall in love instantly ! The sisters realised what was happening, put an end to their relationship, as they couldn’t accept having their two species together. Nowadays, it is said that if you lean to observe the water surface, you can maybe see the fairies faces.
The Val of No Return
Located in Paimpont’s forest in Broceliande, the Val of No Return, or Val of the False Lovers is also a place of legends. Why these names ? It was written that no knights came back from this forest once engaged inside. Also, we talk about “false lovers” as it apparently kept all knights unfaithful to their love. These curses were created by the revenge of the fairy Morgane, half-sister of Arthur, disappointed by one of her lovers. The knight Lancelot later on succeeded in liberating all of the knights and himself.
The seat of Merlin
On the top of the Val of No Return, a few kilometers away from Merlin’s tomb is what was his seat : a heap of schist stones that have the appearance of a dragons back. It is said that Merlin the enchanter like to lean on these rocks to think about his day and the upcoming plans.
The Rock of False Lovers
Situated on the Val of No Return, known to be the home of the fairy Morgane, the Rock of False Lovers is a witness of the betrayal of the fairy’s lover. That’s right, the knight Guyomard that she loved so much cheated on her with another woman. For revenge, Morgane petrified the two lovers into stones while cursing all of the Val Of No Return. A curse that was later on removed by the knight Lancelot.
The fountain of Barenton
Legendary fountain of Broceliande, it was mentioned in the story of Chrétien de Troyes. More specifically in the adventure of Yvain the Lion Knight. He dumped water on the ground, which started violent storms. This natural event anounced the arrival of the Black Knight, the guardin of the fountain. Yvain the Knight triumphed from this fight ! We still say today that if water is dumped on the ground nearby the fountain, a storm will start above you…
The Guillotine Oak
At the edge of Paimpont forest is the Guillotine oak. Majestuous oak of 16m high and almost 10m of circumference, he sheltered a refractory priest escaping from soldiers in 1797. At least 10 centuries of life make this oak one of the ancesters of this forest. Witness of so many stories, his hollow allows 10 children to find shelter inside him, game to avoid now as to not hurt the tree.
The sword Excalibur
A little bit further, you can find near the lake Trémelin Excalibur’s sword. A sword that you now know the mysteries that surrounds it, you can find a replica near the lake. From EDD Team’s opinion, the hike is better, but you can try out your luck by pulling the sword from the rock !
How to get there
As Broceliande’s forest is spreading into small parts through Breton’s territory, the main places are mainly in Paimpont’s forest !
You can count a bit more than an hour to get there by car from Edd Hostel, to reach the main points. The different places to see and which are mentioned above are accessible by car. A parking is placed nearby every hike !
For more details, you can have a look on this site 🙂
What we suggest to do :
You can come for a few days at Edd Hostel, drop off you bags and visit the attracting places of our beautiful region !
For example the first day can be dedicated for a roadtrip towards Saint-Malo. Afterwards, for your second day you can go to Dinan and do the small walk towards the charming village of Léhon. And for your third day, spend an entire day to visit Brocéliande and discover its magical mood !
If you wish to discover another mysterious forest, you can go to the forest of Huelgoat located more on the west of breton’s territory. There, discover the Quivering Rock, go down till the Devil’s Cave, and discover the gigantic pile of stones of many names !!
In: Full day trip