Hokbras the giant
In the times when Brest's natural harbour was nothing more than a stream, where the tide barely rose at all during the spring tides, there lived a giant between Landerneau and Daoulas, the likes of which had never been seen before.
_ Was he as big as the Kreisker tower, maybe ?
_ Go on.
_ The Ménez-Hom hill?
_ Keep going.
_ Stretching into the clouds apparently ?
_ No. Even if you reached the outskirts of heaven, my friend, you still wouldn't be close enough.
_ But where could the poor thing live ?
_ Ah ! Here's the truth of the matter ! Master Hok-Bras had the ability to relax wherever he chose. Here's how he received this special power.
It's fair to say that master Hok-Bras was naturally rather big; at 3 years old, he was over 6ft and since he hadn't yet been baptized, his father took him to his aunt's in Huelgoat and requested that she be the little boy's godmother. Hok-Bras already walked like a man, and his godmother didn't need to carry him to the baptismal font, which would have been quite an effort, in all honesty.
Hok-Bras was a gentle soul. He went up all by himself and didn't shed a tear, if it hadn't been for the fact they put some salt in his mouth, making him sneeze so strongly that the church warden was sent flying back against a piller, where he received a nasty bump on the head. This cheered the 'babe' up no end, and he burst out laughing, really laughing! Ohh, but it was the rector who did not laugh, as they watched every window shatter in his church. All the same, Hok-Bras was a christian and wouldn't come to church to laugh every day.
Following the baptismal meal, which they say was very good, Hok-Bras went to play in the woods nearby the place they call the devil hole. With all good intentions, no doubt to spare humanity the devil's arrival via this hole, he proceeded to roll himself around all the largest rocks on the hill. (There are many rocks there!)
As the toddler did this, to the great surprise of all the others, his godmother came to watch him and said :
_ Now that's a godchild who gives me joy.
And as she spoke, she was playing with her lovely diamond ring. All of a sudden, the ring flipped off her finger and rolled down to the bottom of the bay, which still hadn't been covered by the tide and the water fell with an awful noise. The godmother began to cry.
_ What is it, godmother ? asked Hok-Bras. Your ring ? Don't cry, it'll be ok. If I was only as big as this hole is large, I would return it to you in 5 minutes.
Now, it's fair to say that this pretty godmother was a fairy. She dried her beautiful eyes and promised Hok-Bras she would fulfil his dreams if he found the ring. Hok went down into the hole and carried on into the water and soon he was in up to his neck.
_ Godmother, the water is too deep and I am too short.
_ Well then ! stretch yourself longer, said the fairy.
And in fact, Hok let himself sink, down and further down he sank because it was one of hell's portal hole, like a deep deep well. But all the while his head still stayed above water. Eventually, his feet touchd the bottom.
_ Godmother, I can feel a big eel under my feet.
_ Fetch it, it's what swallowed my ring; and come back straight away.
Boom ! All of a sudden, Hok could be seen rising up out of the dark bay like an enormous tree, up and up he went.
_ Godmother, he said, his voice coming down from the clouds, are you going to stop me ?
_You only need to say 'enough', my boy, and you will stop growing.
_ Enough ! cried Hok with a thundering voice.
In an instant, he could be seen growing shorter again and kneeling down to cuddle his pretty aunty and return the ring to her finger.
In his excitement, unfortunately though for us, Hok forgot to block the devil hole. Alas, its only too evident in the world today! Hok went back home to his father's house. On seeing that he'd already grown another 3 feet since his baptism, he thought how expensive it would be to keep him well fed, having done nothing at all. Yes, Hok had nothing more to do, other than going off on more adventures, to keep fighting the good fight and to get married as soon as possible.
Getting married at that age ! Who would have thought of that ?
As it was, just as he was leaving Huelgoat, our young giant had at first thought of taking his little aunt with him on his arm, but the fairy, who was a good fairy (a rare thing), explained to him that it wasn't appropriate at his age and that she would only be his wife if he were to successfully undertake at least 3 feats, which would be quite simple for him, since she had already given him the secret of growing really tall whenever he wanted.
Since recovering her ring counted as one feat, there were 2 left. So this is what obsessed the mind of our huge baby, already brimming with ambition.
And in his impatience, Hok, bounded off in all directions. In his spare time, instead of going to work every day like a good labourer, he entertained himself by making piles of earth and stones, as children do....and so much so, that one day as he was carried away in his work, he managed to build mount Arhez from Saint-Cadou as far as Berrien. He even made the famous Mont-Saint-Michel there, from which he could see the forest of Huelgoat with a big sigh as he was reminded of his fiancé.
Eventually, when he had finished his mountain, he was feeling a bit at a loose end, so he went for a stroll over to Landerneau. For he yearned after his pretty aunt, but she had cautiously asked him not to come to Huelgoat.
And then all of a sudden, while looking at the shops or gazing at the clouds, Hok-Bras met Mr Bailiff with his scarf.
_ Now then, said the bailiff, there's a burly fellow ready to sieze the moon with your teeth (attempt the impossible).
_ Me, I'm always ready, Hok replied, waving at he bailiff like a poplar tree blowing in the wind.
_ At least wait until its risen, silly, and I'll give you 10d to buy some new clothes if you can catch the Landerneau moon tonight.
_ Deal, said the young giant, causing Mr Bailiff to lose his balance.
And that evening on the central square at Saint-Houardon, the crowd, the mayor and the leaders of the town were gathered together to see the spectacle. Imagine the amazement in the faces of all those people. As soon as the moon rose above the square, Hok stood in the middle and shouted: Hok, stretch yourself!
Boom ! At that moment, you could see his head rising up, way way up occasionally fading in the clouds. Then the moon darkened. There was a thunderous voice which said, Enough! and gradually, you could see the moon decending rapidly. When it came down below the clouds, you could see Hok-Bras, it was, who was gripping the side of the moon with his teeth. Hok-Bras, was standing right next to the Saint-Houardon bell tower and decided to place the planet very carefully on the point of the weather vane. And asking for his 10d, off he bounded happily. And that make two! Not counting the mountain.
Since that time, it is said that Landerneau kept his aunt, the moon and an everlasting clarity, recognised all over the world.
Having the power to become bigger than anyone else is quite a precious gift, and I'm sure that if you could find another fairy like that on the earth, she would have her uses too. In this world there are many folks who have a weakness for needing to be bigger than others...
You would have thought that our little giant here, who was barely 12 to 15 feet tall on a normal day might have gotten a bit hot on his journey to the moon, and that he would be sad not to quench his thirst as he passed by the beach at Loperhet for a relaxing paddle in the sea.
As you know, the Rade at Brest didn't yet exist.
_ Here you are said Hok-Bras, if I burrow out a little pond here next to my home, wouldn't it be lovely just for a quick dip in the mornings, and perhaps it would please my aunty too, let's go!
He up-rooted a few oak trees, large enough for his needs or grab a couple of old barges from the river at Landerneau to use like bowls and get on with the job.
On the first day, he burrowed a large basin reaching from Daoulas to Lanvéoc.
On the second day, he dug out from Lanvéoc as far as Roscanvel, and the third day, as he was eager to finish the job, by a feat only his fiancé could undertake, Boom! He stamped his foot down heavily shaking and closing up the bottleneck, and soon he could feel the sea water caressing his calf muscles, ah the perfect depth, because by then he measured 1000 feet from his feet up to his neck.
But a strong westerly wind was blowing ; The waves rushed violently as you can imagine through a bottleneck just like a three-masted ship in a flood tide passing cap Saint-Mathieu all sails bellowing and found itself diverted by the current and came running downwind into the rade coming directly into view all three masts! Tremendous!
...the famous rade of Brest was born for the glory of Brittany. But to the disappointment of his father. Hok-Bras knelt down to have a little drink and taste the water from his new spring, and what happened next...the three masted ship, billowing sails, cannons and all was swigged up into the giant's throat getting caught halfway down by the yardarms in the central mast. Ouch! Hok-Bras almost choked.
He couldn't possibly cry out "Enough! Enough! " to return to his usual size and if he had managed, the ship would have filled his stomach.
So off he ran, like a man posessed, pacing up and down, hills and valleys with 24 canons stuck in his throat....
_ My aunt will kill me for this.
And he ran off in the direction of Mount Arhez, which he put there in the first place and would be his tomb. Yes, in those days too, just as any other, men are overcome by ambition. Setting their sights so high, they have further to fall, unable to climb again, weighed down by averice.
Hok-Bras sat a moment to rest on Mont-Saint-Michel, because his three masted ship irritated him on long journeys. Then, when he had gathered his strength again, instead of going around the marsh land, he thought he'd go straight across instead as a short cut. Unfortunately though he didn't consider the weight of his 24 canons, and had barely taken 4 strides in when he felt his legs sinking in deeper and deeper into the swamp until he could no longer lift them out.
Then with one dreadful lunge, he stumbled, his immense body, weighed down by the 24 canons slumped onto the mountain.
It is said that there was an earth tremor and as far away as Huelgoat, the fairies were shocked.
Hok-Bras smashed his head falling on the rocks which he had piled up himself. His god-mother, desperately concerned, rushed to his side and tried in vain to recussitate him and failing in her attempts, she left and went to Saint-Herbot, where his shadow wanders among the streams.
Now, it would take too long to report of what they say about Hok-Bra's body.
Some say that Noah, seeing the approaching flood, wasn't able to find strong enough beams to build the ark, and hearing of the giant from Brittany, came over to mount D'Arhez and sawed off the deceased giant's beard and made idylic ships rib timbers with it.
Curiously enough, Noah also took a few of Hok-Bra's teeth, each one needing three sailors to carry it.
Several other stories seem to be out there about the giant mountain maker. de nos montagnes. But we shall stop here with the most known account, showing all, that bretons are not at all just little fellows.