French Language Blog

Ancient France: La Forêt de Brocéliande Posted by on Apr 25, 2016 in Uncategorized

Brocéliande is a mythical forest that first appeared in chivalric tales in the twelfth century, most notably legends featuring King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table. (King Arthur is a mythic early sixth century king and scholars still debate over whether or not he actually existed, although it is likely he was based on a historical figure.)

But La Forét de Brocéliande also exists in real life, just eighteen miles west of the French city of Rennes. According to Brittany Tourism, the Paimport forest is all that remains of the vast forest of Brocéliande that spread out across ancient Brittany, which was also known as Argoat. While only a small portion of the original forest remains, there are many sites to explore for those interested in Arthurian legend, including the supposed location of Merlin’s tomb.

According to one legend, the fairy Morgane, the sister of King Arthur was deceived by her lover and wanted to take revenge on all disloyal men. Thus, she cast a spell on the forest so that all unfaithful men who entered into the Brocéliande forest would be imprisoned and never allowed to escape. This area is called “Le Val sans retour,” or “the valley of not return.” At the top of the valley is the “Rocher des Faux Amants,” (the rock of false lovers) in which Morgane imprisoned these youths.

One of the most famous sites in the forest is “La Fontaine de Barenton,” a legendary fountain connected with Merlin where supposedly all of your wishes will be granted. According to the Brocéliande tourism office:

“La Fontaine de Barenton est l’un des sites légendaires les plus réputés de la forêt de Brocéliande. A l’heure actuelle, cette fontaine tire son charme de sa simplicité. Il s’agit d’une fontaine très ancienne entourée de pierres. A ses côtés se trouve une pierre plate, ancien couvercle de celle-ci. Cette pierre plate est surnommée « le Perron de Merlin » ou « la Margelle de Barenton ». L’eau de cette fontaine est toujours à une température de 10°C : « aussi froide que le marbre ». Pourtant, des bulles se forment par intermittence à la surface de l’eau (il s’agit d’un gaz : le méthane). On raconte que l’on peut y faire un voeu et si instantanément, la fontaine fait des bulles, notre voeu sera exaucé.”

“The Barenton Fountain is one of the most famous legendary sites of the forest of Broceliande. Currently, this fountain’s charm is shown in its simplicity. The fountain is very ancient and surrounded by stones. Next to the fountain is a flat stone, the ancient covering for it. This flat stone is named “Merlin’s Stoop” or “The Curbston of Barenton.” The water from this fountain is always at a temperature of 10°C: “as cold as marble.” However, bubbles periodically form on the surface of the water (because of a gas present in the water: methane). We say that we can make a wish on the fountain and if, instantly, bubbles appear in the water, our wish will be granted.”

Supposedly, the eternal fountain of youth is hidden near the Barenton Fountain. Although it can only be found by those who are pure of heart.




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About the Author: Elizabeth Schmermund

Bonjour tout le monde! I'm a freelance writer, doctoral student, mom, and Francophile. I'm excited to share some of my experiences living in France, as well as the cultural nuances that I've learned being married to a Frenchman, with all of you. To find out more about me, feel free to check out my website at A la prochaine!