The dourdu deceiver
These legends and mysterious dramas seem to attach themselves to the most empty desolate places, abandonned ruins or prominent rock formations in the mountains or along the coast. These are further dramatisized by the fall of night and its shadows reaching into deep caverns, provoking poetic flights of fancy among (we're not ashamed to say) simple fishing and country folk mixing tales together into more compelling tales to steal away restful sleep.
It is through these quiet locations that the souvenir hunter wends his solitary way. He studies the rocks ; he reaches out to feel the stones among old ruins ; he draws back the moss and brambles covering old footpaths. Then he studies the debris untouched from times gone by and always manages to extract some interesting secrets. Ancient Armorique still offers a wealth of unexplored countryside, unexplained ruins, mysterious sites, beckoning the attention of archiologists, and certainly those interested in ancient ways and traditions of men. So we return often to finger through these little known places in an attempt to search out any glimmers of truth or moral among the many legends.
The Dourdu (black water) is one of these sinister looking places, still surrounded by superstition which popular myth barely promotes.
It is a smallish bay in the lower part of the river at Morlaix. Once a mooring place for breton privateers, it was surrounded by black cliffs and rocks arranged along the cliffs as if they had tumbled down from a gigantic wall. An almost permanent fog shrouds the place in semi obscurity. Waves build up when the north westerly wind drives down from the Channel driving into the mouth of the Dourdu, stirring its black sand into thick swirling shapes. Large ravenous cormorants circle above the torrents crying out shipwreck with their screeching. At night, the fishermen make a detour along the high cliffs rather than passing by the black water.
And so, years ago, not far from this dreaded spot stood a gloomy manor house, Dourdu manor. It rose in the mist like a phantom rock above the towering cliffs forming, together with the steep coastline at Carantec, a dramatic bay in the midst of which the Chateau du Taureau (bull) can be found today.
You hear tell today, a story running back through the years that a ghost of a fisherman lost overboard still haunts this coastline in the thick darkness searching through the fishing fleets with his sunken eyes hoping to find his flooded old boat loaded with a hall of doubloons.
From the manor windows you can make out the sinister bay, and further out the surging tides. On the rising tide at the edge of the bay, it is possible to see a large rock washed by the ocean ressembling over the centuries, a black ink jar. It was around this rock that the ghost could be seen making his nightly tour.
The Lord of Dourdu lived alone in his manor with his only daughter Igilt : Igilt, with her brown hair and blue eyes like the deep blue of the Armorique sea, beautiful like an autum evening on the coast, dreamy and earnest as a fairy, ambitious and proud as a queen....
Before his death, the old Lord would have dearly loved to marry her off to a kind young honest heir from his neighbourhood whose noble character might indulge his old age by making his daughter happy. Quite the opposite from so many who consider his worth rather than the heart of their future son-in-law, he said to the young heiress: "My daughter, stop chasing after treasure chest dreams , sure to shipwreck your soul. Marry a God fearing man and you can be sure, he won't be lacking all the other good qualities. "
But Igilt had other ideas beneath her deep swathe of long black hair. Many a time she had heard of the parties and balls held at the court of the Duke of Brittany entertaining knights and worthy noble bloods clad with silver and gold; so much so that Igilt dreamed of wearing the crown of duchess on her pretty head. Who would have been cut to the heart, if they had seen one summer's night, the heiress, up on the big dark rock? Confident of her rediculous dreams, a cloud or seaguls flocked around her and seemed to form a white crown with their flapping wings.
" Fly, fly, fly, birds of fortune, she said sighing, and the memories of Igilt the beautful brunette were carried away beyond these miserable shores. Maybe one day some prince from Hibernia / Ireland might come and rescue me from this tomb!"
But no princes appeared on the horizon. On the contrary, a number of young breton suitors had already been lost after falling in love with her. Drawn by the reputation of her immense beauty, some fearless youths boarded boats to sail close enough, it was said the enchanteress would appear there often, and they might catch a glimse. Was this Igilt a fairy ? We'll take no notice of them. But those who did once catch a glimse of her deep blue eyes, they could never be at rest unless they could take her hand. So, the temptress spirit drove young men to their doom from the top the black rock presenting the abyss swirling at their feet, and saying:
" There you will find enough gold to fill my wedding presents. Go, gather it up, if you are brave enough. The ghost of Dourdu will show the way. Come back rich like a prince and Igilt will be yours forever!"
You hear tell that several have siezed the offer but never returned, persuaded by the deceiver of souls, falling into the abyss. Each time, the brutal Igilt laughing as she added another soul to her crown of engagements....engagement with death, as she laughed malevolently.
Beware, wicked girl, that this funeral crown doesn't change into a shroud. The loyal seaguls have brought your message… Here comes a ship from across the oceans under full sail. It appears on the horizon. You can already make out the colour of its flag. It is black as a crow's wing; on the bow a decorated captain, observing from afar off if the object of his affections is waiting for him on this rock. Yes, your desires have been granted. Your prince is coming, there he is! But why are you quivering?
Ah ! I can see next to the prince an old man looking at you : it is his guide, a wise man of Hibernia entrusted by the affections of a loving father.
So, once the ship had dropped anchor in the middle of the bay, a tender was dispatched and soon it was Prince Ivor falling at Igilt's feet surprised and happy. Happy! She might have been if happiness could be found in her desires being fulfilled rather than the hope it inspires or the joy it brings to others, or through devotion and submission to a holy God.
Three days passed inwhich Ivor returned to the rock every evening where his fiancée was waiting for him; and far from demanding gold from the sunken boat, the fiancée was anxious to finalise her wedding preparations. But the prince's consort appeared unshabeable. He wanted the happiness of his young master and carefully considered such alarming noises as could be heard coming from the fiancée of the dead. He quickly learned of the sunken vessel and Igilt's tireless demands. Finally he visited Lord Dourdu and asked what dowery he proposed with his daughter.
_ A dowery ! exclaimed the elderly gentleman ; This is all my fortune, this dungeon with its land, is all the paternal blessing a father can offer his daughter.
The wise man from Hibernia, holding back tears, continued, however, in a slight tone of sternness :
_ I'm afraid sir, it is not sufficient. My master the king demands a thousand dobloons of gold.
_ A thousand dobloons ! muttered the old gentleman ; So, where do you think I am going to find such a sum?
_ Your daughter knows only too well, said the consort.
That same day, Igilt's father informed her of the news that her mariage to Ivor was impossible except she should her dowery contain the sum of one thousand dobloons of gold. Igilt shreaked out in horror at these words, sending a shudder down her father's spine.
_Cry out to heaven, my child, he murmured : Only He, can…
_ Furnish me with my gold perhaps ! blurted Igilt, her eyes blazing with fury. No, no ; but I know who will give it to me!
And she left the room furious, leaving her father appalled. She believed she knew exactly where to get the gold they were demanding of her. How often is the heart of the ocean revealed when the storm rages. Had she not caught a glimpse of those shining dobloons scattered across the sand like stars in the sky! Igilt, the brunette by the coast played with the waves like a darting fish or gulls hovering near the crest. The fury of the seas caused her no fear, and with the call of the phantom guarding the treasure who she knew would accommodate her wishes, those riches would soon be hers. And sooner than being refused in mariage, she would rather die. The love crazed thing, like all greedy hearts, she would not see the gulf opening up before her driven by an instinctive thirst for an undeserved bliss.
That very night, you can make her out, upright on that rock beaten by raging waves, commanding the seas, she thought she could calm. Then the moon rose. It's pale light luminating the transparent waves in such an extraordinary way that the seabed seemed dazzling to the eyes.
_ All mine, spirit of the waves! she cried; all mine, phantom of fortune! , esprit des ondes ! s'écria-t-elle ; à moi, fantôme de la fortune ! The tide seemed to drop in response. Come and take me to the end of my dreams! take me to your riches, so that I can be happy at last!
A gloomy echo came back ! from the deserted caves along the shore and as the fiancée continued her invocations, it was as if an invisible arm pushed her out to the waves....and soon the waves reveived her into their throng. Ilgit kept falling, her hands torn on the point of the rock, bleeding hands grabbing fist-fulls of sand from the seabed gistening golden in the light of the moon... each wave bringing her to the surface as she through a shower of sand at the shore crying out: "Here's some more, i'll get it all. " Then she disappeared beneath the foam.
_ Igilt, my fiancée ! cried the prince Ivor pale and wretched shivering on the fatal rock: come back, come back, there's no need for this dreadful gold. I've persuaded my father. Come back Igilt; Ivor is waiting for you.
But the waves churned heavily and steeply onto the shore, and the ill-fated swimmer flapped her white arms for the last.
Her fiancée, unconsolable, returned to die in his native land.
You hear tell some times, on a calm summer nights, seafarers have seen the brown haired girl from the shore, up on the rock, searching across the waters and all of a sudden diving in, at the spot where the sunken treasure lay. But take heed, not to climb that accursed rock, because the thief of souls will perhaps climb up there with you, the inevitable Deceiver of souls, who appears where passions are fuming and in the world's temptations, mercilessly coaxing the careless ones, the over ambitious and the greedy with his deadly hand of fate.