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The Korils Of Plauden






Source: Breton Legends

There dwelt formerly in the land of White-Wheat, as well as in
Cornouaille, a race of dwarfs, or Korigans, who, being divided into
four nations or tribes, inhabited the woods, the commons, the valleys,
and the farms. Those dwelling in the woods were called Kornikaneds,
because they played on little horns, which hung suspended from
their girdles; the inhabitants of the commons were called Korils,
from their spending all their nights in dancing by moonlight; the
dwellers in the valleys were Poulpikans, from their homes lying so
low; and the Teuz were wild black men, living near the meadows and
the wheat-fields; but as the other Korigans accused them of being too
friendly with Christians, they were forced to take flight into Leon,
where probably there may still be some of them remaining.

At the time of which I speak, there were only then hereabouts the
Kornikaneds, the Poulpikans, and the Korils; but they abounded in
such numbers, that after dark few people cared to venture near their
stony palaces.

Above all, there lay in Plauden, near the little market-town of
Loqueltas, a common known as Motenn-Dervenn, or place of oaks, whereon
there stood an extensive Koril village, that may be seen there to this
very day. The mischievous dwarfs came out to dance there every night;
and any one adventurous enough to cross the common at that time was
sure to be entrapped into their mazy chain, and forced to wheel about
with them till earliest cockcrow; so that the place was universally
avoided after nightfall.

One evening, however, Benead Guilcher, returning with his wife from
a field, where he had been doing a day's work in ploughing for a
farmer of Cadougal, took his way across the haunted heath because it
was so much the shortest road. It was still early, and he hoped that
the Korigans might not have yet begun their dance; but when he came
half-way over the Motenn-Dervenn, he perceived them scattered round
about the blocks of stone, like birds on a field of corn. He would
fain have turned him back; but the horns of the wood-dwarfs, and the
call-cries of the valley-imps, already rose behind him. Benead felt
his legs tremble, and said to his wife,

"Saint Anne, we are done for! Here come the Kornikaneds and the
Poulpikans to join the Korils for their midnight ball. They will make
us dance with them till daybreak; and it is more than my poor heart
can endure."

And, in fact, the troops of Korigans assembling from all parts,
came round about poor Guilcher and his wife like flies in August to
a drop of honey, but started back on seeing in his hand the little
fork Benead had been using to clear the ploughshare, and began to
sing with one accord,


"Let him be, let her be,
The plough-fork has he!
Let them go on their way,
The fork carry they!"


Guilcher instantly perceived that the instrument he held in his hand
acted as a charm against the power of the Korigans; and he and his
wife passed unmolested through the very midst of them.

This was a hint to every body. From that day forward it became a
universal custom to take out the little fork of an evening; and
thus armed, any one might cross the heaths and valleys without fear
of hindrance.

But Benead was not satisfied with having rendered this service to
the Bretons; he was an inquisitive as well as an intelligent man,
and as merry a hunchback as any in the four Breton bishoprics. For
I have omitted to tell you that Benead carried from his birth a hump
betwixt his shoulders, with which he would thankfully have parted at
cost-price. He was looked on also as an honest workman, who laboured
conscientiously for daily bread, and moreover well deserved the
character of a good Christian.

One evening, unable to resist the wish, he took his little fork,
commended himself devoutly to St. Anne, and set off towards the
Motenn-Dervenn.

The Korils saw him from a distance, and ran to him, crying,

"It is Benead Guilcher!"

"Yes, it is I, my little men," replied the jovial hunchback; "I have
come to pay you a friendly visit."

"You are welcome," replied the Korils. "Will you have a dance with us?"

"Excuse me, my good folks," replied Guilcher, "but your breath is
too long for a poor invalid."

"We will stop whenever you like," cried the Korils.

"Will you promise that?" said Benead, who was not unwilling to try
a round with them, as much for the novelty of the thing as that he
might have it to talk about.

"We will promise thee," said the dwarfs.

"By the Saviour's cross?"

"By the Saviour's cross."

The hunchback, satisfied that such an oath secured him from all
dangers, took his place in their chain; and the Korils began their
round, singing their accustomed song:


"Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday;
Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday."


In a few minutes Guilcher stopped.

"With all due deference to you, good gentlefolks," said he to the
dwarfs, "your song and dance seem to me very monotonous. You stop
too early in the week; and without having much claim to be a skilful
stringer of rhymes, I fancy I can lengthen the chorus."

"Let us see, let us see!" cried the dwarfs.

Then the hunchback replied,


"Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday,
Thursday, Friday, Saturday."


A great tumult arose amongst the Korils.

"Stard! stard!" cried they, surrounding Guilcher; "you are a bold
singer and a fine dancer. Repeat it once more."

The hunchback repeated,


"Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday,
Thursday, Friday, Saturday,"


whilst the Korils wheeled about in mad delight. At last they stopped,
and pressing round about Guilcher, they cried with one voice,

"What will you have? what do you want? riches or beauty? Speak a wish,
and we will fulfil it for you."

"Are you in earnest?" asked the labourer.

"May we be doomed to pick up grain by grain all the millet in the
diocese, if we deceive thee," they replied.

"Well," said Guilcher, "if you want to make me a present, and leave me
to choose what it shall be, I have one thing only to desire from you,
and that is, that you take away what I have got here set betwixt my
shoulders, and make me as straight as the flagstaff of Loqueltas."

"Good, good!" replied the Korils. "Be easy, come here." And seizing
Guilcher, they threw him in the air, tossing him from one to another
like a worsted ball, until he had made the round of the entire
circle. Then he fell upon his feet, giddy, breathless, but--without
his hump! Benead had grown younger, fatter, beautiful! Except his
mother, no one could have recognised him.

You may guess the surprise his appearance created on his return to
Loqueltas. No one could believe it was Guilcher; his wife herself
was doubtful about receiving him. Before she could recognise in him
her old humpback, he was compelled to tell her exactly how many
headdresses she had in her press, and what was the colour of her
stockings. At last, when every body knew for certain that it was
he, they became wonderfully anxious to find out what had effected
so strange a transformation; but Benead thought that if he told
the truth, he should be looked on as an accomplice of the Korigans;
and that every time an ox strayed, or a goat was lost, he should be
applied to for its restoration. So he told all those who asked him
questions, that it happened unknown to him whilst sleeping on the
heath. Thenceforth went all the crooked folk who were silly enough
to believe him, and spent their nights upon the open heath, hoping to
rise like arrows in the morning; but many people suspected that there
was a secret in the matter, which Guilcher was unwilling to disclose.

Amongst these latter was a tailor with red hair and squinting eyes,
called, from his stammering speech, Perr Balibouzik. He was not, as
is usual with his craft, a rhymester, lively on his board as a robin
on its twig, and one who scented pancakes from afar as dogs do game;
Balibouzik never laughed, never sung, and fed upon such coarse black
barley bread that one could count the straws in it. He was a miser,
and, worse than that, a bad Christian; lending out his money at such
heavy interest, that he ruined all the poor day-labourers of the
country. Guilcher had long owed him five crowns, and had no means of
paying them. Perr went in quest of him, and demanded them once more.

The ci-devant hunchback excused himself, promising to pay after
fair-time; but Balibouzik declared that the only condition upon which
he would agree to any further delay was that of being at once put
in possession of the secret how to grow young and handsome. Thus
driven to extremities, Guilcher related his visit to the Korils,
what words he had added to their song, and how the choice had been
given him between two wishes.

Perr made him repeat every detail many times over, and then went away,
warning his debtor that he would give him eight days longer to lay
hands on the five crowns.

But what he had heard awakened within him all the rage of avarice. He
resolved that very night to visit the Motenn-Dervenn, to mix in
the dance of Korigans, and to gain the choice between two wishes,
as proposed to Guilcher,--namely, riches and beauty.

So soon, therefore, as the moon arose, behold Balibouzik the
Squinter on his way towards the common, carrying a little fork in
his hand. The Korils saw him, ran to meet him, and demanded whether
he would dance. Perr consented, after making the same conditions as
Benead, and joined the dancing company of little black men, who were
all engaged in chanting the refrain which Guilcher had increased:


"Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday,
Thursday, Friday, Saturday."


"Wait!" cried the tailor, seized with sudden inspiration; "I also
will add something to your song."

"Add, add!" replied the Korils.

And all once more exclaimed,


"Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday,
Thursday, Friday, Saturday."


They stopped, and Balibouzik stammered out alone,


"And the Sun--Sun--Sunday too."


The dwarfs uttered a prolonged murmur.

"Well?" they cried all at once.


"Sun--Sunday too,"


repeated the tailor.

"But go on, go on."


"Sun--Sunday."


"Well, well, well?"


"Sun--Sunday too!"


The Koril chain was broken up; they ran about as if furious at not
being understood.

The poor stammerer, terrified, stood speechless, with his mouth
wide open. At length the waves of little black heads grew calmer;
they surrounded Balibouzik, and a thousand voices cried at once,

"Wish a wish! wish a wish!"

Perr took heart.

"A wi-wi-sh," said he. "Guilcher cho-o-ose between riches and beauty."

"Yes, Guilcher chose beauty, and left riches."

"Well, for my part, I choose what Guilcher left."

"Well done!" cried the Korils. "Come here, tailor."

Perr drew near in transport. They took him up as they had done Benead;
threw him from hand to hand all round their circle; and when he
fell upon his feet, he had between his shoulders what Guilcher had
left--that is to say, a hump.

The tailor was no more Balibouzik simply, he was now Tortik-Balibouzik.

The poor deformed creature came back to Loqueltas shamefaced as a dog
who has had his tail cut off. As soon as what had happened to him was
known, there was not a creature but longed to get sight of him. And
every one beholding his back, grown round as that of a well-digger,
uttered an exclamation of astonishment. Perr raged beneath his hump,
and swore to himself that he would be revenged upon Guilcher; for that
he alone was the cause of this misfortune, being a favourite of the
Korigans, and having doubtless begged them thus to insult his creditor.

So the eight days once expired, Tortik-Balibouzik said to Benead,
that if he could not pay him his five crowns, he would go and send
the officers of justice to sell all he had. Benead entreated in vain;
the new hunchback would listen to nothing, and announced that the very
next day he should send to the fair all his furniture, his tools,
and his pig.

Guilcher's wife uttered loud cries, reiterating that they were
disgraced before the parish, that nothing now was left for them but to
take up the wallet and white staff of mendicants, and go begging from
door to door; that it was well worth Benead's while to have become
straight and noble in appearance only to take up the straw girdle;
and thousands of other unreasonable sayings, after the fashion
of women when they are in tribulation,--and when they are not.

To all these complaints Guilcher replied nothing, unless it were that
submission to the will of God and His Blessed Mother was above all
things necessary; but his heart was humbled to the core. He reproached
himself now with not preferring wealth to beauty, when he had the
choice; and he would only too willingly have taken back his hump,
well garnished with gold, or even silver, crowns. After seeking in
vain for a way out of his trouble, he made up his mind to revisit
Motenn-Dervenn.

The Korils welcomed him with shouts of joy, as before, and made
him join them in their dance. Benead had no heart for merriment;
but he would not damp their mirth, and began to jump with all his
might. The delighted dwarfs skipped about like dead leaves driven by
the winter's wind.

As they ran they repeated the first line of their song, their companion
took up the second; they went on to the third, and, that being the
last, Guilcher was compelled to finish the tune without words, which
in a short time grew tiresome to him.

"If I might venture to give you my opinion, my little lords," said he,
"your song has the same effect upon me as the butcher's dog, it goes
upon three legs."

"Right, right!" cried all the voices.

"I think," said Benead, "it would be much the best way to add another
foot."

"Add, add!" replied the dwarfs.

And all sung out with one accord, and in a piercing utterance,


"Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday,
Thursday, Friday, Saturday,
And the Sunday too!"


There was a short silence; the dwarfs waited to see what Guilcher
would say.


"All the week have you!"


finished he gaily.

Thousands of cries which made but one cry rose up from all corners
of the common. The whole heath was instantly covered with jumping
Korigans. They sprung out from tufts of grass, from bushes of broom,
from rocky clefts,--one would have said it was a very hive of little
black men; whilst all gambolling amongst the heather, they exclaimed,


"Guilcherik, our saviour! he
Has fulfill'd the Lord's decree!"


"By my soul! what does all this mean?" cried Benead in astonishment.

"It means," replied the Korigans, "that God had sentenced us to dwell
here amongst men, and every night to dance upon the common, until
some good Christian should finish our refrain. You first lengthened
it, and we hoped that the tailor you sent would have completed it;
but he stopped short on the very point of doing so, and for that we
punished him. You fortunately have done what he could not; our time
of trial now is over, and we shall go back to our kingdom, which
spreads under ground, beneath the very sea and rivers,"

"If this is so," said Guilcher, "and you really are so far indebted
to me, do not go away and leave a friend in trouble."

"What do you want?"

"The means of paying Balibouzik to-day, and the baker for ever."

"Take our bags, take our bags!" exclaimed the Korigans.

And they threw at Benead's feet the little bags of rusty cloth which
they wore strapped on their shoulders.

He gathered up as many as he possibly could carry, and ran all
joyous home.

"Light the resin," cried he to his wife, on entering, "and close the
screen, that nobody may see us; for I bring home wealth enough to
buy up three whole parishes, their judges, rectors, and all."

At the same time he spread out upon the table the multitude of little
bags, and set himself to open them. But, alas, he had been reckoning
the price of his butter before he had bought the cow. The bags
enclosed nothing more than sand, dead leaves, horsehair, and a pair
of scissors.

On seeing this he uttered such a dreadful cry that his wife, who
had gone to shut the door, came back to ask him what could be the
matter. Then Benead told her of his visit to the Motenn-Dervenn,
and all that had occurred there.

"St. Anne have pity on us!" cried the frightened woman; "the Korigans
have been making sport of you."

"Alas, I see it but too well," replied Guilcher.

"And you have dared, unhappy man, to touch these bags, the property
of the accursed."

"I thought I should find something better in them," exclaimed Benead
piteously.

"Nothing good can come from good-for-nothings," replied the old
woman. "What you have got there will bring an evil spell upon our
house. Heavens! if only I have a drop of holy water left."

She ran to her bed, and taking from the wall a little earthen holy
water-stoup, she steeped in it a branch of box; but scarcely had the
dew of God been sprinkled on the bags, when the horsehair changed at
once to necklaces of pearls, the dead leaves into gold, and the sand
to diamonds. The enchantment was destroyed, and the wealth that the
Korigans would fain have hidden from a Christian eye was forced to
reassume its proper form.

Guilcher repaid Balibouzik his five crowns. He gave to every poor
person in the parish a bushel of wheat, with six ells of cloth; and
he paid the rector handsomely for fifty Masses; then he set out with
his wife for Josselin, where they bought a mansion, and where they
reared a family who now are gentlefolks.





Next: The Blessed Mao

Previous: The Legend Of Saint Galonnek



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