Teuz-a-pouliet Or The Dwarf
Source: Breton Legends
The vale of Pinard is a pleasant slope which lies behind the city of
Morlaix. There are plenty of gardens, houses, shops, and bakers to
be found there, besides many farms that boast their ample cowsheds
and full barns.
Now, in olden times, when there was neither conscription nor general
taxation, there dwelt in the largest of these farms an honest man,
called Jalm Riou, who had a comely daughter, Barbaik. Not only was she
fair and well-fashioned, but she was the best dancer, and also the
best drest, in all those parts. When she set off on Sunday to hear
Mass at St. Mathieu's church, she used to wear an embroidered coif,
a gay neckerchief, five petticoats one over the other, and silver
buckles in her shoes; so that the very butchers' wives were jealous,
and tossing their heads as she went by, they asked her whether she
had been selling the devil her black hen. But Barbaik troubled
herself not at all for all they said, so long as she continued to
be the best-dressed damsel, and the most attractive at the fair of
the patron saint.
Barbaik had many suitors, and among them was one who really loved
her more than all the rest; and this was the lad who worked upon her
father's farm, a good labourer and a worthy Christian, but rough and
ungainly in appearance. So Barbaik would have nothing to say to him,
in spite of his good qualities, and always declared, when speaking
of him, that he was a colt of Pontrieux.
Jegu, who loved her with all his heart, was deeply wounded, and fretted
sorely at being so ill-used by the only creature that could give him
either joy or trouble.
One morning, when bringing home the horses from the field, he stopped
to let them drink at the pond; and as he stood holding the smallest
one, with his head sunk upon his breast, and uttering every now and
then the heaviest sighs, for he was thinking of Barbaik, he heard
suddenly a voice proceeding from the reeds, which said to him,
"Why are you so miserable, Jegu? things are not yet quite so
The farmer's boy raised his head astonished, and asked who was there.
"It is I, the Teuz-a-pouliet," said the same voice.
"I do not see you," replied Jegu.
"Look closely, and you will see me in the midst of the reeds, under
the form of a beautiful green frog. I take successively whatever form
I like, unless I prefer making myself invisible."
"But can you not show yourself under the usual appearance of your
"No doubt, if that will please you."
With these words the frog leaped on one of the horses' backs, and
changed himself suddenly into a little dwarf, with bright green dress
and smart polished gaiters, like a leather-merchant of Landivisiau.
Jegu, a little scared, drew back a step or two; but the Teuz told him
not to be afraid, for that, far from wishing him harm, he was ready
to do him good.
"And what makes you take this interest in me?" inquired the peasant,
with a suspicious air.
"A service which you rendered to me the last winter," said the
Teuz-a-pouliet. "You doubtless are aware that the Korigans of the
White-Wheat country and of Cornouaille declared war against our race,
because they say we are too favourably disposed to man. We were
obliged to flee into the bishopric of Leon, where at first we concealed
ourselves under divers animal forms. Since then, from habit or fancy,
we have continued to assume them, and I became acquainted with you
through one of these transformations."
"And how was that?"
"Do you remember, three months ago, whilst working in the alder-park,
finding a robin caught in a snare?"
"Yes," interrupted Jegu; "and I remember also that I let it fly,
saying, 'As for thee, thou dost not eat the bread of Christians:
take thy flight, thou bird of the good God.'"
"Ah, well, that robin was myself. Ever since then I vowed to be your
faithful friend, and I will prove it too by causing you to marry
Barbaik, since you love her so well."
"Ah, Teuz-a-pouliet, could you but succeed in that," cried Jegu,
"there is nothing in this world, except my soul, that I would not
bestow upon you."
"Let me alone," replied the dwarf; "yet a few months from this time,
and I will see you are the master of that farm and of the maiden too."
"And how can you undertake that?" asked the youth.
"You shall know all in time; all you have to do just now is to smoke
your pipe, eat, drink, and take no trouble about any thing."
Jegu declared that nothing could be easier than that, and he would
conform exactly to the Teuz's orders; then, thanking him, and taking
off his hat as he would have done to the cure or the magistrate,
he went homewards to the farm.
The following day happened to be Sunday. Barbaik rose earlier than
usual, and went to the stables, which were under her sole charge;
but to her great surprise she found them already freshly littered,
the racks garnished, the cows milked, and the cream churned. Now,
as she recollected having said before Jegu, on the preceding night,
that she wanted to be ready in good time to go to the feast of
St. Nicholas, she very naturally concluded that it was he who had
done all this for her, and she told him she was much obliged. Jegu,
however, replied in a peevish tone, that he did not know what she
meant; but this only confirmed Barbaik in her belief.
The same good service was rendered to her now every day. Never had
the stable been so cleanly, nor the cows so fat. Barbaik found her
earthen pans full of milk at morning and at evening, and a pound of
fresh-churned butter decked with blackberry-leaves. So in a few weeks'
time she got into the habit of never rising till broad daylight,
to prepare breakfast and set about her household duties.
But even this labour was soon spared her; for one morning, on getting
out of bed, she found the house already swept, the furniture polished,
the soup on the fire, and the bread cut into the bowls; so that she
had nothing to do but go to the courtyard, and call the labourers
from the fields. She still thought it was an attention shown to her
by Jegu, and she could not help considering what a very convenient
husband he would be for a woman who liked to have her time to herself.
And it was a fact that Barbaik never uttered a wish before him that
was not immediately fulfilled. If the wind was cold, or if the sun
shone hot, and she was afraid of injuring her complexion by going to
the spring, she had only to say low, "I should like to see my buckets
filled, and my tub full of washed linen." Then she would go and gossip
with a neighbour, and on her return she would find tub and buckets just
as she had desired them to be, standing on the stone. If she found
the rye-dough too hard to bake, or the oven too long in heating,
she had only to say, "I should like to see my six fifteen-pound
loaves all ranged upon the board above the kneading-trough," and
two hours later the six loaves were there. If she found the market
too far off, and the road too bad, she had only to say over-night,
"Why am I not already come back from Morlaix, with my milk-can empty,
my tub of butter sold out, a pound of black cherries in my wooden
platter, and six reals at the bottom of my apron-pocket?" and
the next morning, when she rose, she would discover at the foot of
her bed the empty milk-can and butter-tub, the pound of cherries in
her wooden plate, and six reals in her apron-pocket.
But the good offices that were rendered to her did not stop here. Did
she wish to make an appointment with another damsel at some fair,
to buy a ribbon in the town, or to find out the hour at which the
procession at the church was to begin, Jegu was always at hand; all she
had to do was to mention her wish before him, and the thing was done.
When things were thus advanced, the Teuz advised the youth to ask
Barbaik now in marriage; and this time she listened to all he had to
say. She thought Jegu very plain and unmannerly; but yet, as a husband,
he was just what she wanted. Jegu would wake for her, work for her,
save for her. Jegu would be the shaft-horse, forced to draw the whole
weight of the wagon; and she, the farmer's wife, seated on a heap of
clover, and driving him with the whip.
After having well considered all this, she answered the young man,
as a well-conducted damsel should, that she would refer the matter
to her father.
But she knew beforehand that Jalm Riou would consent; for he had
often said that only Jegu would be fit to manage the farm when he
should be no more.
So the marriage took place the very next month; and it seemed as if
the aged father had but waited until then to go and take his rest
in Paradise; for a very few days after the marriage he died, leaving
the house and land to the young folks.
It was a great responsibility for Jegu; but the Teuz came to his
assistance. He became the ploughboy at the farm, and did more work
alone than four hired labourers. He it was who kept the tools and
harness in good order, who repaired omissions, who pointed out the
proper time for sowing or for mowing. If by chance Jegu had occasion
to expedite some work, the Teuz would go and tell his friends, and
all the dwarfs would come with hoe, fork, or reaping-hook upon their
shoulders; if teams were wanted, he would send the farmer to a town
inhabited by some of his tribe, who would be out upon the common; and
Jegu had only to say, "Little men, my good friends, lend me a pair of
oxen, or a couple of horses, with all that is needed for their work,"
and the team would appear that very instant.
Now all the Teuz-a-pouliet asked in payment of these services was a
child's portion of broth, served up in a milk-measure, every day. So
Jegu loved him like his own son. Barbaik, on the contrary, hated
him, and not without reason; for the very next day after marriage
she saw with astonishment she was no longer assisted as before; and
as she was making her complaint to Jegu, who seemed as if he did not
understand her, the dwarf, bursting out in laughter, confessed that
he had been the author of all these good offices, in order that the
damsel might consent to marry Jegu; but that now he had other things
to do, and she must once more undertake the household management.
Deceived thus in her expectations, the daughter of Jalm Riou treasured
in her heart a furious rage against the dwarf. Every morning, when
she had to rise before the break of day and milk the cows or go to
market, and every evening, when she had to sit up till near midnight
churning cream, she cursed the Teuz who had encouraged her to look
forward to a life of ease and pleasure.
However, one day, being invited to a wedding at Plouezorc'h, and not
being able to take the farm-mare, as it was near foaling, she asked
the Teuz-a-pouliet for a steed; and he sent her to the dwarf village,
telling her to explain exactly what she wanted.
So Barbaik went; and thinking she was doing for the best, she said,
"Teuz, my friends, lend me a black horse, with eyes, mouth, ears,
saddle, and bridle."
The horse that she had asked for instantly appeared, and she set out
on him towards Plouezorc'h.
But soon she saw that every one was laughing as she went along.
"See, see!" they cried, "the farmer's wife has sold her horse's tail."
Barbaik turned quickly round, and saw indeed that her horse had no
tail. She had forgotten to ask for one; and the malicious dwarf had
served her to the letter.
Disconcerted, she would have hastened on, but the horse refused to mend
his pace; and so she was compelled to endure the jests of passers-by.
The young wife came home at night more furious than ever against the
Teuz-a-pouliet, accusing him of having played her this ill turn on
purpose, and fully resolved to be revenged upon him at the earliest
Well, spring drew near, and as this was the time the dwarfs held
festival, the Teuz asked leave of Jegu to extend an invitation to all
his friends to come and spend the night on the barn-floor, where he
might give them a supper and a dance. Jegu was far too much indebted
to the dwarf to think of saying no; and ordered Barbaik to spread over
the barn-floor her finest fringed table-cloths, and to serve up a batch
of little butter-cakes, all the morning and the evening milk, and as
many wheaten pancakes as could be turned out in a good day's work.
Barbaik made no reply, to her husband's great surprise.
She made the pancakes, prepared the milk, cooked the buttered cakes,
and at evening-tide she took them all out to the barn; but at the
same time she spread down, all round about the extended table-cloths,
just where the dwarfs were going to place themselves, the ashes she
had drawn smoking from the oven; so that when the Teuz-a-pouliet and
his guests came in to seat themselves, they were every one severely
burned, and fled away, uttering loud cries. They soon came back,
however, carrying jugs of water, and so put out the fire; and then
danced round the farm, all singing in an angry tone,
"Barbe Riou, with dire deceit,
Has roasted our poor little feet:
Adieu! far hence away we go;
On this house be grief and woe!"
And, in fact, they left the country that very morning. Jegu, having
lost their help, soon fell into distress and died; whilst the beautiful
Barbaik became a basket-woman at Morlaix market.
Since then the Teuz have never been seen in these parts. However,
there are some who say that all good work-people have to this very day
ten dwarfs who toil for them, and not invisibly; and these are--their
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