The Isle of Ouessant morgans
Once upon a time (a long time ago, perhaps in the days when Saint Pol came from Ireland. There was a beautiful young girl of Ouessant in her mid teens by the name of Mona Kerbili.
She was so pretty that all who saw her were smitten by her beauty and would say to her mother:
_ Jeanne, you have such a beautiful daughter ! She's a lovely as the Morgans, and never has such beauty been seen before on the island, anyone would believe he father was a Morgan.
_ Don't say that, replied the good lady, because the Lord knows her father's Fanch Kerbili, my husband, just as I am her mother.
Mona's father was a fisherman who spent nearly all his time at sea; her mother worked a small plot of land by their home or spun yarn during bad weather. Mona would go with the other girls her age and collect limpets along the shore, muscles, clams, winkles and other shellfish, quite the every day diet for the familly. Now, believe it or not, the Morgans, which were quite numerous on the island had noticed her and were also quite struck by her beauty.
Then one day when she was on the sea shore as usual with her friends, they were talking about the loves of their lives; they were all boasting about their favourite boys and their fishing skills and boathandling prowess through the network of reefs and rocks which surrounded the island.
_ You are wrong, Mona, said Marc'harit au Fur to the daughter of Fanch Kerbili, wrong to criticize Ervoan Kerdudal, he's a good boy, he doesn't drink, never quarrels with his friends, and no one knows the sea like him around la Vieille Jument and la Pointe du Stiff.
_ Well, replied Mona with disdain, - because she liked to hear it said how beautiful she was, she had become quite vain and proud - I would never take a fisherman as my husband. I am as good looking as a Morgan and I'll only ever marry a prince or at least a rich and powerful land owner, or even a Morgan.
And so it was that an old Morgan overhearing this, hiding nearby, behind some rocks or under the seaweed, rose up and seized her, taking her away to the bottom of the sea. Her friends ran back to tell tale to her mother. Jeanne Kerbili was sewing infront of her porch. She immediately through her work aside and ran to the shoreline. She called out to her daughter in a high voice wading down into the water as far as she could go to where Mona had disappeared. But it was in vain and there was no reply to her hopeless cries.
New of the missing Mona spread rapidly across the island and it seemed no one was particularly surprised. It was said that Mona was the daughter of a Morgan and that her father must have come to take her away."
Her abductor was the Morgan king in the area and he took the young Ouessantine away to his royal palace, which was a jewel more wonderful than anything compared on the earth.
The old Morgan had a son, the most handsome of all Morgan children, and he fell in love with Mona, asking his father for her hand in mariage. But the king too had the same intentions regarding the young lady and said that her would never give his consent for his son to marry a daughter of the men of the earth. There was no shortage of beautiful young Morganeze girls in his kingdom who would be only too glad to have him as a husband and when the time came, he would allow him the freedom to marry whichever he chose.
So the sad young Morgan replied to his father in that case he would never marry, if he was not permitted to marry the one he loved, Mona, the girl from the land.
Seeing his son wither away with sadness and disappointment, the king forced him to marry a morganese girl, the daughter of an important member at court and renouned for her beauty. The wedding day was arranged and a great many were invited. The pair set off for church followed by a long and most glamourous cortege. It seems this waterborne people have their religion and churches too, under the water, as we do above, although they're not christian, they even have priests - it was said according to Goulven Penduff, an old seaman from our island who had sailed all the seas of the world and had seen at least one.
Poor Mona was ordered to stay at home to prepare the mariage feast, but no one gave her the necessaries to prepare food except pots and empty pans which were large marine shells. She was told that if it was not ready on time and a perfect meal for the maried couple, she would be put to death immediately. The poor girl, being judged for his embarassement and her own pain! The fiancé himself was neither embarrassed nor sorry.
As the cortège was approaching the church, he cried out suddenly :
_ I've forgotten the engagement ring for my fiancée !
_ Tell me where it is and I'll get it for you, said his father.
_ No, no, I'll go and fetch it. I'm the only one who knows where I put it. I'll run, it won't take a minute.
And he left, not letting anyone go with him. He went straight to the kitchen where the poor Mona was crying hopelessly.
_ Don't worry, you're meal will be ready and cooked perfectly, trust me.
And approaching the stove he spoke: " stove fires alight ! " And the stove was immediately lit with flames.
Then, by simply touching the pots and pans and casseroles, bowls and plates with his hand he spoke: " flesh of salmon on this platter, sole with oysters on that one, brochette of duck on this one, mackerel fries here, the choices best wines and liquors in those.… " And the pots, the casseroles, the platters and the pots were filled by magic with sumptuous dishes and liquors as soon as he had touched them with his hand. Mona was overcome with surprise at this, all in the blink of an eye and to think, she didn't have to do anything.
So the young Morgan left and hastily rejoined the cortège, and it continued to the church. The ceremony was conducted by a sea priest. Then they returned to the palace. The old Morgan went straight to the kitchen saying to Mona:
_ We have returned now; Has everything been prepared ?
_ All is prepared, replied Mona, softly.
Surprised by this response, he discovered the platters, pots and casseroles, and examining the dishes, with a disappointed expression.
_ You have been helped ; but then I didnt' expect you to give up easily.
They were seated at table ; they ate and drank with abandon, followed by some singing and dances, on into the small hours.
About midnight, the newly weds withdrew to their wedding chamber, beautifully decorated. The old Morgan told Mona to accompany them there and to wait there with a lighted canfle in her hand. When the candle had burned down to her hand, she was to be put to death.
Poor Mona had to obey. The old Morgan withdrew to the adjacent rooms, asking from time to time:
_ Has the candle reached your hand yet?
_ Not yet, replied Mona.
He repeated the question several times. And finally, as the wick was almost completely burned down, the groom said to his new bride :
_ Take, for a moment, Mona's candle and hold it while she sets us a fire.
The young Morgan girl, took the candle, quite ignoring the words of her father in law.
The old Morgan repeated his question at that moment :
_ the candle, is it burning at the level of your hand ?
_ Say yes, replied the young Morgan boy.
_ Yes, said the young Morgan girl.
And at that very moment the old Morgan entered the room, lurching towards the one holding the candle without even looking at her, cut off her head with one swoosh of his sword, and then left the room.
At sunrise, the newly wed son went to speak to his father :
_ I have come, father, to ask your permission to mary.
_ Permission to mary? Were you not maried yesterday?
_ Yes, but my wife is dead !… so you have killed her, you poor wretch ?
_ No father, it was you that killed her.
_ What me, I killed your wife ?…
_ Yes father: did you you knot cut off the head of the one that held the candle by my bed?
_ Yes, the land girl…
_ No father, it was the young Morganès girl who I married out of obedience to you, and I am already widowed. If you don't believe me, just go and check for yourself, her body is still in my room.
The old Morgan ran to the wedding chambers, realising his mistake. He flew into a furious temper.
_ Who is it then that you want as a wife ? he asked his son, when his anger had subsided a little.
_ the land girl, father.
He left the room without reply. However, some days later, realising perhaps just how unreasonable it would be to contest this union with his selfish intentions, he consented and the mariage went ahead with pomp and ceremony.
The young Morgan lavished his wife with his affection and attention. He fed her delicate little fish, chosen personally, offered her chains of fine pearls and beautifully coloured shells lined with gold, the most rare marine plants and flowers. Despite all of this, Mona wanted to return to the land, to her little community by the sea shore.
Her husband didn't want her to leave, because he was fearful that she wouldn't return to him. So a deep depression swept over her, and she began to weep incessantly. The young Morgan said to her one day:
_ offer me a little smile, my dear one, and I'll take you to your father's house.
Mona smiled, and the Morgan, who was also a magician said :
_ Bridgeway, arise.
At that moment, a beautiful crystal bridge appeared, leading from the bottom of the ocean up to land.
When the old Morgan saw it, and sensing that he was practising the old arts of magic, he said :
_ I want to go with you.
and the three of them boarded the bridge, Mona infront, her husband behind her and the old Morgan a few steps behind them. As soon as the first two had set foot on land, the young Morgan spoke :
_ Bridgeway away.
and the bridge retracted back to the depths of the ocean taking the old Morgan down with it.
Mona's husband, unable to accompany her to her parent's home left her to go alone, with these words:
_ Return to me at sunset; I'll be here waiting for you. but do not embrace or hold the hand of any man.
Mona promissed and ran to her father's house. It was diner time and all the family was together.
_ Hello mum and dad; hello brother and sisters! she said hastily entering the cottage.
The gentle folk looked at her stunned and nobody recognised her. She was so beautiful, resplendent and well turned out ! She was moved to tears at this and then began to walk around the house touching various things by hand, saying:
_ Here is the stone onwhich I sat by the fire; here is the little bed where I slept ; voici le petit lit où je couchais ; here is the bowl from which I ate soup; there, behind the door I see the broom with which I swept the house, and here the urn I used to fetch water from the fountain. Hearing all of this, her family recognised her and they all embraced, crying tears of joy and there they were overjoyed to be all together again.
Her husband had indeed said that she should not allow herself to be embraced by any man, and from that moment, she completely lost all recollection of her mariage and her time with the Morgans. She stayed at her parents' and soon she began to be the object of many local boys' hearts. She paid not the slightest attention to this and mariage lost its appeal to her.
Just as other islanders, the family owned a plot of land, growing vegetables, potatoes, a little barley and that was sufficient to live off, with a daily diet from the sea, fish and shell fish. Before the house, there was threshing space for grain and a barley mill stone. Often at night, when Mona was in her bed, somewhere in between the billowing winds and the soft sound the waves made along the shore, she thought she could hear a moaning and the pleas of one sobbing at the front porch, but then she was persuaded it was the lost souls from old shipwrecks asking for the prayers of the living. She would recite a few prayers pitying the sailors out at sea and slowing drift off to sleep.
But one night, she distinctly heard deep in her inner being, these words:
_ Oh Mona, have you so quickly forgotten your husband, the Morgan, who loves you so much and who saved you from death? You did promise to return to me, without delay ; you are making me wait so long and I'm so sad! Ah! Mona, Mona, take pity. Come back to me, come quickly!
So these memories came back to her. She got up and went out and returned to her Morgan, who was so sad and pleading in the way she had heard. She through herself into his arms... and she hasn't been seen since.
(Conté par Marie Tual, dans l'île d'Ouessant, en mars 1873)