Posted by: Corri van de Stege | July 6, 2007

T8 – The story of Melusine – with a moral!

Vouvant is the painters village, with small ateliers that every so often open up for business, mainly French tourists, on Sundays but also the increasing number of Brits and a few other nationalities.  Paintings range from modern and colourful  to classical landscapes.  Originally Vouvant was simply a wooded  hill in the middle of the forest discovered by William the Great, Duke of Aquitaine who liked it and had a monastry and church built and the church was finished by the end of the 11th century, then rebuilt in the 12th century in the so-called Norman style.  According to history the castle was built by the Lusignan family, barons of Vouvant. 

However, there is a much nicer legend as far as the origins (and the subsequent decline) of the castle are concerned, about the fairy Melusine, half woman half serpent, who supposedly built the castle, including the tower which bears her name, in one night with an apron full of stones and a mouthful of water…..

So, perhaps Lara, your father can tell you that story of the fairy Melusine.  My potted version as far as the French legend is concerned, comes here:

One evening in the forests of Coulombieres at the end of a long day’s hunting the count of Poitiers and his nephew Raimondin followed a wild boar, strayed far away from their attendants and mistakenly, in the excitement of the kill, Raimondin dealt a blow to his uncle that killed him.  Terribly upset he started riding back to confess what had happened but came across three maidens dancing in a glade by the light of the moon.  One of them Melusine was a fairy, the daughter of the King of Albania and the fairy Pressine.  Melusine was cursed by her mother for bad behaviour [what a terrible thing to do by a mother!]  condemning her to immortality unless she married a fair and loving knight who would agree not to watch her on Saturdays, when she had her bath, and when her legs turned into a horrible and scaly tail.  If her husband did see her like that, she would never take on her human form again.

Raimondin falls in love with her, asks her to marry him and promises never to look for her on Saturdays.  They go back to court, and Raimondin blames a boar for the death of his uncle.  When the new count is installed, his attendants are allowed to make a wish, and Raimondin, on Melusine’s advice, asks for as much land as can be fitted into a deerskin.  This seems a stupid thing to ask for, however, Melusine is really very clever because they cut up the deerskin in small strips and laid out end to end it marks out a huge area of land.  Melusine also wanted a castle, and she made one in the middle of the night, right in the middle of the land they had acquired, with an apron full of stones and a mouth full of water.  That’s how the splendid caste of Lusignan was built!

However, people became jealous with so much good fortune and started gossiping about Melusine, behind her back, saying that there was something suspicious about her beauty and why did all her ten children have something odd?  One of them only had one eye, another one had lion’s claw on his cheek and another one only one enormous ear.  And so on.  Her favourite son Geoffroy was the most wicked and he had a huge tooth sticking out of his mouth.  Most of all, people gossiped about Melusine shutting herself away every Saturday and Raimondin, her husband, listened to the bad advice of his brother and surprised Melusine when she had a bath, one Saturday.  She was swishing her horrible fish-tail around and combing her beautiful long fair hair.  When he came in, she screamed and flew out of the window with flapping noise, laying a terrible curse on the castle, saying that Vouvant and other places would perish slowly by losing one stone a year.  But she still comes back at nights and haunts the ruins of her castles.

And that, dear Lara, is a fairy tale, gruesome as it should be!  The moral: never trust men!  They will come and look for you when you have your bath….  But they are punished for that, because the fairy turns out not to be beautiful at all…but a witch.    What do we make of that? 

 The surroundings are very beautiful however and there is a certain earthiness in the people and the environment. 

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Responses

  1. The reading of this story of Melusine brings to my mind how the old myths and legends were so much believed by people of old, no longer the case but they still capture our attention.

  2. Deep down they still reveal some truth about how people view the world and how we view each other and what happens to us – that’s why I like these old stories.


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