Duphon

Duphon

Eagle-owls are impressive animals. As the largest owls, they are top predators in their environments, even feeding on other birds of prey. Their size and eerie calls have ensured them a place in the folklore of many cultures.

It should then be unsurprising that the eagle-owl has been reinterpreted as a supernatural creature. The Duphon can be found in the Hautes-Alpes region of France, where it braids horse manes, pinches young women, and causes mischief and mayhem. The town of Serres preserves a duphon lair in the form of a stone door and ruined ramparts, known as the Trou du Duphon (“The Duphon’s Hole”).

References

van Gennep, A. (1948) Le folklore des Hautes-Alpes, Tome II. J. P. Maisonneuve et Cie, Paris.

del Hoyo, J.; Elliott, A.; Sargatal, J.; Christie, D.A.; & de Juana, E. (eds.) (2013) Handbook of the Birds of the World Alive. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona.

Ladoucette, J. C. F. (1848) Histoire, topographie, antiquités, usages, dialectes des Hautes-Alpes. Gide et Cie, Paris.

Pilou

Variations: Er-pilour-lann

Pilou

Pilous are always heard and never seen. While their name suggests soft fur – pilou in its modern expression refers to a type of cotton – it actually refers to the men who pound apples into cider, using wooden pilons. Pilous walk with a regular, stomping tread, making a rhythmic sound like that of apples being mashed, and that is all anyone knows of them. Nevertheless, Dubois fancifully describes these lutins as resembling large garden dormice, and that is as good a description as any.

Pilous are native to the northwestern tip of France, specifically Brittany and Ile-et-Vilaine. They come out at night in the attic, in the rafters, in the walls, and start marching. They are not evil but mischievous, and delight in the noise they make. In Brittany, where they become Er-pilour-lann, they wield mallets with which they pound the walls of old houses.

Most encounters with them are about their disregard for human comfort. A farmhand once went into the barn to fetch some hay when the thumping begin, the din seemingly coming from everywhere. He called his uncle, who implored the pilous “Would you, please, stop your noise so I could get some hay for my mare?” They stopped, but the moment the uncle stepped into the barn they started up again, louder than ever.

Another time a group of men were in a barn when a pair of pilous started: one, two, one, two. “I’d like it better if there were three of you!” yelled one of the men, and sure enough a third pilou joined in. Other men started requesting more and more, and the number of pilous increased accordingly. The same stunt was later attempted by three bored young girls, but they requested too many, and soon the pilous were rattling their bed and knocking at their walls. The girls wisely went quiet, and the creatures eventually left.

Attempts to put pilous to use have failed. One miser left oakum fibers behind in the attic in hopes that the pilous would stomp them flat, but he returned in the morning to find the material shredded and scattered all over the attic.

References

d’Amézeuil, C. (1863) Récits Bretons. E. Dentu, Paris.

Dubois, P.; Sabatier, C.; and Sabatier, R. (2005) The Complete Encyclopedia of Elves, Goblins, and Other Little Creatures. Abbeville Press.

Orain, A. (1899) Le Monde des Ténèbres en Ile-et-Vilaine. Revue de Bretagne, de Vendée et d’Anjou, XXI, Paris.

Orain, A. (1901) Contes de L’Ile-et-Vilaine. J. Maisonneuve, Paris.

Le Rouzic, Z. (1924) Carnac: Légendes – Traditions – Coutumes et Contes du Pays. LaFolye Frères et Cie, Vannes.

Jetin

Variations: J’tin, Crion

Jetin

Jetins (from jeter, “to throw”) are tiny lutins native to the seaside caves of Brittany. Their appearance is uncertain; Dubois suggests they are hirsute and rough-looking, with silver shoes. Despite their size – ranging from thumb-sized to 1.5 feet tall – they are incredibly strong, capable of lifting and tossing huge boulders with ease.

Always looking for a chance to show off their strength, jetins amuse themselves by throwing rocks around, sometimes over great distances. Standing stones, menhirs, all manner of megaliths; such stones are discarded playthings of the jetins.

Rock-throwing was not the only pastime the jetins enjoyed. They were also fond of tying knots in horse tails and releasing livestock, and, like any good fairy, they often exchanged human babies for one of their own. The ugly, wrinkled changelings they leave behind are never weaned and never grow. Jetins can be convinced to return stolen children by carrying the changeling to a jetin hole and threatening to kill it. The human baby will quickly be returned and swapped with the impostor.

The jetins shared their territory with the even tinier Fions and the secretive Fées des Houles (“Fairies of the Sea Caves”). Due to their size and their reclusive natures, none of these have been observed in great detail, although the Fées have been benevolent towards humans. The Crions, perhaps the same as jetins, were tiny dwarfs who carried the stones of Carnac on their shoulders.

Elsewhere, the discobolous function of the jetins is fulfilled by Gargantua and other giants, whose size is more proportionate to their strength, and the fairies known as Fileuses (“Weavers”).

References

Dubois, P.; Sabatier, C.; and Sabatier, R. (1992) La Grande Encyclopédie des Lutins. Hoëbeke, Paris.

Morvan, F. (1998) Vie et mœurs des lutins bretons. Actes Sud.

Sébillot, P. (1905) Le Folk-lore de France, Tome Deuxième: La Mer et les Eaux Douces. Librairie Orientale et Américaine, Paris.

Sébillot, P. (1907) Le Folk-lore de France, Tome Quatrième: Le Peuple et L’Histoire. Librairie Orientale et Américaine, Paris.