Forêt Brocéliande en automne, Thérèse Gaigé, CC BY-SA 4.0 , via Wikimedia Commons
"And for nearly a whole day thus, I rode along, as best I could,
Till at last I issued from the wood that was in Brocéliande."
Chrétien de Troyes, Le Chevalier au Lion, c. 1170
Located near Rennes, in Bretagne, northwestern France, also known as Paimpont Forest, Brocéliande is literally a forest of legend -- as in, it's in the legends! We're talking Merlin and the Lady of the Lake (Viviane), Morgan le Fay, and the Knights of the Round Table! There's the enchanted Val Sans Retour - Valley of No Return, Merlin's tomb-- I know, right? -- standing stones, a fountain of youth, a haunted castle or two, and more than one mystical lake. It was in Brocéliande that Lancelot confessed his love to Guinivere.
Fountain of Youth -- The Celts called the fountain Jaouanc, meaning "youth". Historians say that on the summer solstice, druids would wash the year's newborns in the fountain and mark their names in the marith (register). If the parents couldn't make it that year, they would go the next and the babe would still counted a "newborn" -- one year younger!
Fontaine de jouvence, Brocéliande, Giogo, CC BY-SA 4.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0>, via Wikimedia Commons
Merlin's Tomb -- where the fairy Viviane trapped him to keep him with her forever.
Tombeau_Merlin, Raphodon, CC BY-SA 3.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0>, via Wikimedia Commons
The Fairy Viviane's House --actually a neolithic burial chamber.
Hotié de Viviane, Fab5669, CC BY-SA 3.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0>, via Wikimedia Commons
Valley of No Return -- King Arthur's half-sister, Morgan Le Fay, caught her lover in the arms of another woman and turned them to stone. She then cast an enchantment upon the whole valley so that those unfaithful in love would be stuck there, lost in time for eternity. Sir Lancelot, true in his love for Guinevere, broke the curse. Good ole Sir Lancelot...
Val sans Retour, franek2, CC BY-SA 3.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0>, via Wikimedia Commons
Erected 4500 to 3000 B.C., there are megaliths throughout the forest. The Menhirs of Monteneuf are arranged in seven rows, east to west. Dolmens (also called "portal tombs", each usually consisting of a large, flat stone (table or capstone) on top of two upright ones) and burial chambers are nearby.
Paths branch out from the site into the forest.
Menhirs de Monteneuf, François de Dijon, CC BY-SA 4.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0>, via Wikimedia Commons
Comper Castle -- where Viviane, Lady of the Lake and Merlin's lover, swam with baby Sir Lancelot. Merlin built her a crystal palace here. It's said to be buried at the bottom of the lake. The site is believed to have been home to King Saloman of Brittany in the ninth century. The castle has been built and rebuilt many times through the centuries.
Château de Comper, Brocéliande, Centre de l'Imaginaire Arthurien, CC BY-SA 3.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0>, via Wikimedia Commons
Trécesson Castle -- The site dates back to the 700s or before -- no one knows the origin of the castle. But it's believed that the present castle was constructed in the fourteenth century. This one is purportedly haunted, but not by Merlin or the Knights of the Round Table. One story tells of a young woman -- hundreds of years ago -- dressed in white and with a wreath of roses on her head, who was pulled from a carriage and buried alive at the castle. She can be seen roaming the castle, most notably on the roof during a full moon. A ghostly game of cards has also frequently been reported.
Château de Trécesson, Audrey Le Tiec, CC BY-SA 3.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0>, via Wikimedia Commons
Mystical Forest of Brocéliande
La Voie Royale, Philippe Manguin, CC BY 3.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0>, via Wikimedia Commons
Old Oak, Brocéliande, Kilobug, CC BY-SA 3.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0>, via Wikimedia Commons
This is just the tip of the iceberg! Paimpont Forest is filled with historical sites, prehistoric megaliths, and sites linked to Arthurian legend. It is also a great place for naturalists and outdoor enthusiasts with forests, lakes, moors, and plenty of wildlife.
For more of Brocéliande in literature, check out Chrétien de Troyes' romance Le Chevalier au Lion, Lord Alfred Tennyson's Idylls of the King, Robert de Boron's poem Merlin, and Claris et Laris, to name a few.
For a bit more information on Brocéliande:
The Good Life France
There are plenty of tourism websites about the area to choose from.
I hope you've enjoyed this wee, little tour! Be sure to visit Mary Morgan and Barbara Bettis. Mary's blog isn't strictly medieval today, but it's a wonderful post (as always).
Wishing you a grand Medieval Monday!
Thank you so much for this fantastic post! It is the heart of my trilogy, The Wild Rose and the Sea Raven. There is le Centre de l'Imaginaire Arthurien there, as well. I want to go visit!!
Ivy, thanks so much for stopping by and for sharing an excellent link!
Loved all the pictures. After reading Ivys books it was nice to see the places.
There are some amazing places in Brocéliande. Le MIroir aux Fées (Mirror of the Fiairies) is the Mirrored Lake in my trilogy.
Ivy, I can't imagine the amount of research and fortitude it takes to sort through such a vast corpus of ancient and medieval legends to create a new, cohesive story from them. Passion -- yes, that must be it! :)
Kim, thanks so much for stopping by! I so appreciate your visits.
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