French Fairies

The Fairy-lore of the North of France, at least of Normandy, is, as was to be expected, similar to that of the other portions of the Gotho-German race. We meet it in the fées or fairies, and the lutins or gobelins, which answer to the Kobolds, Nisses, and such like of those nations. The West of France with Brittany is more influenced by Celtic beliefs with an emphasis on Death.

Korrigans dancing in Britanny.

THE FEES are small and handsome in person; they are fond of dancing in the night-time, and in their dances which are circular they form the Cercles des Fées, or fairy-rings. If any one approaches their dance, he is irresistibly impelled to take part in it. He is admitted with the greatest courtesy; but as the whirling movement increases, and goes faster and faster, his head becomes giddy, and he falls to the ground utterly exhausted. Sometimes the fées amuse themselves by flinging him up to a great height in the air, and, if not killed by the fall, he is found next morning full of bruises. These little beings, it is also said, haunt solitary springs, where they wash their linen, which they then dry by way of preference on the Druidic stones, if at hand, and lay up in the hollows of rocks or barrows, thence named Chambres or Grottes desn Fées.
THE LUTIN or GOBELIN[v] of Normandy hardly differs in any respect from the domestic spirit of Scandinavia and Germany. He is fond of children and horses; and if the proverb lie not, of young maidens also. 

    Ou il y a belle fille et bon yin
    Là aussi hante le lutin

He caresses the children, and gives them nice things to eat, but he also whips and pinches them if naughty. [w] He takes great care of the horses, gallops them at times, and lutines their manes, i.e., elfs or plaits and twists them in an inexplicable manner.

So fond, indeed, is he of this amusement, that it is related that when one time two young girls fell asleep in a stable, he lutined their hair in such a way that they had to cut it all off. Sometimes the Lutin takes the form of a young villager, and struts about with great complacency.

On such occasions it is necessary to call him Bon Garçon, a thing the Norman peasant never neglects to do. At other times he appears under the form of a horse ready bridled and saddled. If any peasant, weary after his day’s work, is induced to mount him in order to ride home, he begins to kick and fling and rear and bound, and ends by jerking him into a marsh or a ditch full of water. When he takes this form he is called Le Cheval Bayard, probably after the famous steed of the Paladin Rinaldo.

CORRIGAN: Though the peasants both in Upper and in Lower Brittany may have no strong faith in fées, most of them say that lutins sach as corrigans, or nains (dwarfs), and mischievous house-haunting spirits still exist.
Corrigans and follets only show themselves at night, or in the twilight. No one knows where they pass the day-time.
Corrigans are socially united in groups or families, and amuse themselves by playing tricks on travellers passing by after dark.

Both corrigans and lutins are supposed to guard hidden treasure; some trouble horses at night; some, like their English cousins, may help in the house-work after all the family are asleep; some cause nightmare; some carry a torch like a Welsh death-candle; some trouble men and women like obsessing spirits; and nearly all of them are mischievous.

In an article in the Revue des Traditions Populaires (v. 101), M. Sébillot has classified more than fifty names given to lutins and corrigans in Lower Brittany, according to the form under which these spirits appear, their peculiar traits, dwelling-places, and the country they inhabit.

ANKOU (GRIM REAPER): Can be found in Brittany, Cornwall, Wales and Ireland. He is also known as Father Time. He drives a black cart or coach, and brings death. No one has ever seen his face.

BARBEGAZI: Small gnomes who live in the mountainous regions of France and Switzerland. They look just like other gnomes except for large feet with which they can easily walk and ski over snow and use for digging tunnels. Their hair is frozen and resembles icicles.

BUGUL NOZ: An extremely hideous creature that lives in the woods of Brittany and will make a loud sound to send approaching humans away, lest they see his repugnant appearance.

ESPRIT FOLLET: The house-spirit of France. A boggle which delights in misleading and tormenting mortals.