Information Vendee History
Legend of Melusine
The Legend of Melusine has been told and adapted since the
middle-ages from mainly "Celtic" peoples right across northern Europe. There is
a Scottish version, a German version and of course one that has been woven into
the folklore of the Vendée. The following is that one that is told around the
One evening in the forest of Coulombiers, at the end of a long
day’s hunting, Aimeric Counto Poitiers and his nephew Raimondin set off in
pursuit of a wild boar. They far out-distanced their attendants and arrived at
the outskirts of La Font de Ce, quite near Lusignan. There, during the
excitement of the kill, Raimondin accidentally dealt his uncle a fatal blow.
Overcome by deep sorrow, aghast and contrite at this action the young man was on
his way back to confess what he had done when, at a bend in the road he caught
sight of three maidens dancing in a glade by the light of the moon.
them smiled and spoke to him. Her name was Mélusine. She was a fairy, daughter
of Elinas King of Albania and the fairy Pressine. A terrible curse lay on her.
Pressine had punished her for her bad behaviour towards her father by condemning
her to a sad immortality unless she married a loving knight who was not
inquisitive and who agreed never to see her on Saturdays because on that day she
had to bathe and watch her beautiful long legs turn into a horrid scaly tail,
and if her husband saw her like this, she would never again take on human form.
Raimondin was attracted by the young girl's intelligence and beauty and
asked her to marry him. He swore he would never try to see her on a Saturday.
Mélusine was delighted to find a husband and accepted. She suggested that he
should provide the lands and the castle. But Raimondin, who was not wealthy,
wondered what lands and what castle?
Once back at court, Raimondin who
was very happy but very sad also tried to solve his problem by blaming the boar
for the death of the Count. Then, during the ceremony of homage to the new Count
of Poitou on Melisine's advice he asked for as much land as would fit into a
deerskin. "How stupid" said the assembled lords. However, to everybody's
consternation, the deerskin was cut into narrow strips and laid end to end and
marked out an enormous area. "Never mind" said the lords, "he still hasn't got a
castle". Their complacency was short-lived for in one night, right in the middle
of the territory with an apron-full of stones and a mouthful of water Mélusine
built the splendid castle of Luisignan. Moreover, so that her husband might be
the most powerful lord in the region, she amused herself on certain nights by
studding the surrounding hills with mighty fortresses.
However, so much good
fortune gave rise to unkind comments and covetousness. Where did Mélusine's
fairly-like beauty come from? Why was it that each of the ten children of
Raimondin and Mélusine, all boys had some strange physical characteristics? One
had only one eye and that was in the middle of his forehead. another had a
lion's claw on his cheek; another one enormous ear; and yet another Geoffroy,
Mélusine?s favourite and it was said the most wicked had a huge tooth protruding
from his mouth. And why did Mélusine shut herself away every Saturday?
Raimondin followed the advice of a jealous brother, to try to solve this
secret of his wife's. He surprised Mélusine in her bath, combing her long fair
hair and swishing her horrible fish tail. Hardly had he taken this fatal step
than the fairy screamed and with a great noise like the flapping of wings she
flew out of the window voicing a terrible curse on the castles she had built. I
swear that Pouzauges, Tiffauges, Mervent, Chateaumur and Vouvant shall perish by
losing one stone a year.
But she came back to suckle her last child, and
some say that on certain nights she still comes to haunt the ruins of her
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