The Groac'h Of The Isle Of Lok

: The Lilac Fairy Book

In old times, when all kinds of wonderful things happened in

Brittany, there lived in the village of Lanillis, a young man

named Houarn Pogamm and a girl called Bellah Postik. They were

cousins, and as their mothers were great friends, and constantly

in and out of each other's houses, they had often been laid in

the same cradle, and had played and fought over their games.

'When they are grown up they wil
marry,' said the mothers; but

just as every one was beginning to think of wedding bells, the

two mothers died, and the cousins, who had no money, went as

servants in the same house. This was better than being parted,

of course, but not so good as having a little cottage of their

own, where they could do as they liked, and soon they might have

been heard bewailing to each other the hardness of their lots.

'If we could only manage to buy a cow and get a pig to fatten,'

grumbled Houarn, 'I would rent a bit of ground from the master,

and then we could be married.'

'Yes,' answered Bellah, with a deep sigh; 'but we live in such

hard times, and at the last fair the price of pigs had risen


'We shall have long to wait, that is quite clear,' replied

Houarn, turning away to his work.

Whenever they met they repeated their grievances, and at length

Houarn's patience was exhausted, and one morning he came to

Bellah and told her that he was going away to seek his fortune.

The girl was very unhappy as she listened to this, and felt sorry

that she had not tried to make the best of things. She implored

Houarn not to leave her, but he would listen to nothing.

'The birds,' he said, 'continue flying until they reach a field

of corn, and the bees do not stop unless they find the honey-

giving flowers, and why should a man have less sense than they?

Like them, I shall seek till I get what I want--that is, money to

buy a cow and a pig to fatten. And if you love me, Bellah, you

won't attempt to hinder a plan which will hasten our marriage.'

The girl saw it was useless to say more, so she answered sadly:

'Well, go then, since you must. But first I will divide with you

all that my parents left me,' and going to her room, she opened a

small chest, and took from it a bell, a knife, and a little


'This bell,' she said, 'can be heard at any distance, however

far, but it only rings to warn us that our friends are in great

danger. The knife frees all it touches from the spells that have

been laid on them; while the stick will carry you wherever you

want to go. I will give you the knife to guard you against the

enchantments of wizards, and the bell to tell me of your perils.

The stick I shall keep for myself, so that I can fly to you if

ever you have need of me.'

Then they cried for a little on each other's necks, and Houarn

started for the mountains.

But in those days, as in these, beggars abounded, and through

every village he passed they followed Houarn in crowds, mistaking

him for a gentleman, because there were no holes in his clothes.

'There is no fortune to be made here,' he thought to himself; 'it

is a place for spending, and not earning. I see I must go

further,' and he walked on to Pont-aven, a pretty little town

built on the bank of a river.

He was sitting on a bench outside an inn, when he heard two men

who were loading their mules talking about the Groac'h of the

island of Lok.

'What is a Groac'h?' asked he. 'I have never come across one.'

And the men answered that it was the name given to the fairy that

dwelt in the lake, and that she was rich--oh! richer than all the

kings in the world put together. Many had gone to the island to

try and get possession of her treasures, but no one had ever come


As he listened Houarn's mind was made up.

'I will go, and return too,' he said to the muleteers. They

stared at him in astonishment, and besought him not to be so mad

and to throw away his life in such a foolish manner; but he only

laughed, and answered that if they could tell him of any other

way in which to procure a cow and a pig to fatten, he would think

no more about it. But the men did not know how this was to be

done, and, shaking their heads over his obstinacy, left him to

his fate.

So Houarn went down to the sea, and found a boatman who engaged

to take him to the isle of Lok.

The island was large, and lying almost across it was a lake, with

a narrow opening to the sea. Houarn paid the boatman and sent

him away, and then proceeded to walk round the lake. At one end

he perceived a small skiff, painted blue and shaped like a swan,

lying under a clump of yellow broom. As far as he could see, the

swan's head was tucked under its wing, and Houarn, who had never

beheld a boat of the sort, went quickly towards it and stepped

in, so as to examine it the better. But no sooner was he on

board than the swan woke suddenly up; his head emerged from under

his wing, his feet began to move in the water, and in another

moment they were in the middle of the lake.

As soon as the young man had recovered from his surprise, he

prepared to jump into the lake and swim to shore. But the bird

had guessed his intentions, and plunged beneath the water,

carrying Houarn with him to the palace of the Groac'h.

Now, unless you have been under the sea and beheld all the

wonders that lie there, you can never have an idea what the

Groac'h's palace was like. It was all made of shells, blue and

green and pink and lilac and white, shading into each other till

you could not tell where one colour ended and the other began.

The staircases were of crystal, and every separate stair sang

like a woodland bird as you put your foot on it. Round the

palace were great gardens full of all the plants that grow in the

sea, with diamonds for flowers.

In a large hall the Groac'h was lying on a couch of gold. The

pink and white of her face reminded you of the shells of her

palace, while her long black hair was intertwined with strings of

coral, and her dress of green silk seemed formed out of the sea.

At the sight of her Houarn stopped, dazzled by her beauty.

'Come in,' said the Groac'h, rising to her feet. 'Strangers and

handsome youths are always welcome here. Do not be shy, but tell

me how you found your way, and what you want.'

'My name is Houarn,' he answered, 'Lanillis is my home, and I am

trying to earn enough money to buy a little cow and a pig to


'Well, you can easily get that,' replied she; 'it is nothing to

worry about. Come in and enjoy yourself.' And she beckoned him

to follow her into a second hall whose floors and walls were

formed of pearls, while down the sides there were tables laden

with fruit and wines of all kinds; and as he ate and drank, the

Groac'h talked to him and told him how the treasures he saw came

from shipwrecked vessels, and were brought to her palace by a

magic current of water.

'I do not wonder,' exclaimed Houarn, who now felt quite at home--

'I do not wonder that the people on the earth have so much to say

about you.'

'The rich are always envied.'

'For myself,' he added, with a laugh, 'I only ask for the half of

your wealth.'

'You can have it, if you will, Houarn,' answered the fairy.

'What do you mean?' cried he.

'My husband, Korandon, is dead,' she replied, 'and if you wish

it, I will marry you.'

The young man gazed at her in surprise. Could any one so rich

and so beautiful really wish to be his wife? He looked at her

again, and Bellah was forgotten as he answered:

'A man would be mad indeed to refuse such an offer. I can only

accept it with joy.'

'Then the sooner it is done the better,' said the Groac'h, and

gave orders to her servants. After that was finished, she begged

Houarn to accompany her to a fish-pond at the bottom of the


'Come lawyer, come miller, come tailor, come singer!' cried she,

holding out a net of steel; and at each summons a fish appeared

and jumped into the net. When it was full she went into a large

kitchen and threw them all into a golden pot; but above the

bubbling of the water Houarn seemed to hear the whispering of

little voices.

'Who is it whispering in the golden pot, Groac'h?' he inquired at


'It is nothing but the noise of the wood sparkling,' she

answered; but it did not sound the least like that to Houarn.

'There it is again,' he said, after a short pause.

'The water is getting hot, and it makes the fish jump,' she

replied; but soon the noise grew louder and like cries.

'What is it?' asked Houarn, beginning to feel uncomfortable.

'Just the crickets on the hearth,' said she, and broke into a

song which drowned the cries from the pot.

But though Houarn held his peace, he was not as happy as before.

Something seemed to have gone wrong, and then he suddenly

remembered Bellah.

'Is it possible I can have forgotten her so soon? What a wretch

I am!' he thought to himself; and he remained apart and watched

the Groac'h while she emptied the fish into a plate, and bade him

eat his dinner while she fetched wine from her cellar in a cave.

Houarn sat down and took out the knife which Bellah had given

him, but as soon as the blade touched the fish the enchantment

ceased, and four men stood before him.

'Houarn, save us, we entreat you, and save yourself too!'

murmured they, not daring to raise their voices.

'Why, it must have been you who were crying out in the pot just

now!' exclaimed Houarn.

'Yes, it was us,' they answered. 'Like you, we came to the isle

of Lok to seek our fortunes, and like you we consented to marry

the Groac'h, and no sooner was the ceremony over than she turned

us into fishes, as she had done to all our forerunners, who are

in the fish-pond still, where you will shortly join them.'

On hearing this Houarn leaped into the air, as if he already felt

himself frizzling in the golden pot. He rushed to the door,

hoping to escape that way; but the Groac'h, who had heard

everything, met him on the threshold. Instantly she threw the

steel net over his head, and the eyes of a little green frog

peeped through the meshes.

'You shall go and play with the rest,' she said, carrying him off

to the fish-pond.

It was at this very moment that Bellah, who was skimming the milk

in the farm dairy, heard the fairy bell tinkle violently.

At the sound she grew pale, for she knew it meant that Houarn was

in danger; and, hastily, changing the rough dress she wore for

her work, she left the farm with the magic stick in her hand.

Her knees were trembling under her, but she ran as fast as she

could to the cross roads, where she drove her stick into the

ground, murmuring as she did so a verse her mother had taught


Little staff of apple-tree, Over the earth and over the sea,

Up in the air be guide to me, Everywhere to wander free,

and immediately the stick became a smart little horse, with a

rosette at each ear and a feather on his forehead. He stood

quite still while Bellah scrambled up, then he started off, his

pace growing quicker and quicker, till at length the girl could

hardly see the trees and houses as they flashed past. But, rapid

as the pace was, it was not rapid enough for Bellah, who stooped

and said:

'The swallow is less swift than the wind, the wind is less swift

than the lightning. But you, my horse, if you love me, must be

swifter than them all, for there is a part of my heart that

suffers --the best part of my heart that is in danger.'

And the horse heard her, and galloped like a straw carried along

by a tempest till they reached the foot of a rock called the Leap

of the Deer. There he stopped, for no horse or mule that ever

was born could climb that rock, and Bellah knew it, so she began

to sing again:

Horse of Leon, given to me, Over the earth and over the sea,

Up in the air be guide to me, Everywhere to wander free,

and when she had finished, the horse's fore legs grew shorter and

spread into wings, his hind legs became claws, feathers sprouted

all over his body, and she sat on the back of a great bird, which

bore her to the summit of the rock. Here she found a nest made

of clay and lined with dried moss, and in the centre a tiny man,

black and wrinkled, who gave a cry of surprise at the sight of


'Ah! you are the pretty girl who was to come and save me!'

'To save you!' repeated Bellah. 'But who are you, my little


'I am the husband of the Groac'h of the isle of Lok, and it is

owing to her that I am here.'

'But what are you doing in this nest?'

'I am sitting on six eggs of stone, and I shall not be set free

till they are hatched.'

On hearing this Bellah began to laugh.

'Poor little cock!' she said, 'and how am I to deliver you?'

'By delivering Houarn, who is in the power of the Groac'h.'

'Ah! tell me how I can manage that, and if I have to walk round

the whole of Brittany on my bended knees I will do it!'

'Well, first you must dress yourself as a young man, and then go

and seek the Groac'h. When you have found her you must contrive

to get hold of the net of steel that hangs from her waist, and

shut her up in it for ever.'

'But where am I to find a young man's clothes?' asked she.

'I will show you,' he replied, and as he spoke he pulled out

three of his red hairs and blew them away, muttering something

the while. In the twinkling of an eye the four hairs changed into

four tailors, of whom the first carried a cabbage, the second a

pair of scissors, the third a needle, and the fourth an iron.

Without waiting for orders, they sat down in the nest and,

crossing their legs comfortably, began to prepare the suit of

clothes for Bellah.

With one of the leaves of the cabbage they made her a coat, and

another served for a waistcoat; but it took two for the wide

breeches which were then in fashion. The hat was cut from the

heart of the cabbage, and a pair of shoes from the thick stem.

And when Bellah had put them all on you would have taken her for

a gentleman dressed in green velvet, lined with white satin.

She thanked the little men gratefully, and after a few more

instructions, jumped on the back of her great bird, and was borne

away to the isle of Lok. Once there, she bade him transform

himself back into a stick, and with it in her hand she stepped

into the blue boat, which conducted her to the palace of shells.

The Groac'h seemed overjoyed to see her, and told her that never

before had she beheld such a handsome young man. Very soon she

led her visitor into the great hall, where wine and fruit were