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 will 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 again.’
‘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 stick.
‘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 back.