Nightbringer | The Arthurian Online Encyclopedia


Berceliande, Bercheliande, Borceliande, Breceliande, Brecheliande, Briziljan, Broceliande, Brocheland, Brocheliande, Brochelonde, Brockland, Proceliande

The Forest of Brocéliande is a legendary and enchanting woodland located in Brittany, western France. Beyond its mythical associations, the forest is a beautiful natural area with diverse flora and fauna. It features ancient oak trees, meandering streams, and tranquil ponds, and provides habitat for a range of wildlife species. It is now called the Forest of Paimpont in the Morbihan, next to Cornuailles (Cornouaille).

Brocéliande is closely associated with Arthurian legends and is believed to be the setting for various tales of King Arthur and his knights, and Merlin. In Arthurian lore, the forest is often portrayed as a magical place where mythical beings and enchantments occur.

One of the most renowned sites is the alleged tomb of Merlin, the legendary wizard and advisor to King Arthur. Known as the Val sans Retour, meaning “Valley of No Return,” it is said to be a place where unfaithful or treacherous women were trapped for eternity. The forest is the setting for a number of Arthurian adventures, after Wace described its marvels (including an enchanted fountain) in his Roman de Rou. It was famous throughout the Middle Ages for its enchantments.

In some versions of the Arthurian legends, the Fountain of Youth is said to be located within the Forest of Brocéliande. It is believed that the water from this fountain possesses magical properties, bestowing eternal youth and vitality upon those who drink from it.

The Forest of Brocéliande is occasionally depicted as a site where knights embark on their quest for the Holy Grail. The forest is sometimes depicted as the backdrop for Arthurian battles and quests. It serves as a mysterious and enchanting setting where knights engage in chivalrous quests, confront mythical creatures, and seek out hidden treasures or magical artifacts.

Here is found the consecrated Fountain of Barenton, and here Merlin “dress his weird.” The fountain of Balanton appears to be where Merlin met his lady Viviane, and around which he made to spring up an enchanted Garden of Joy to please her. In the Vulgate Merlin and Tennyson’s Idylls, it served as the place of Merlin’s imprisonment by the Lady of the Lake. French romance seems to be largely unaware, however, that a channel separates Brocéliande from the rest of Britain. German romance, which calls it Briziljan, places it in the country of Löver near Dinazarun (Dinasdaron).

It was the location of the fountain where Yvain (Ywaine) defeated Esclados the Red in Chrétien’s Yvain and its adaptations. The forest contained the strongholds of New Castle and Lindesores. It was the site of important meetings and troop movements during the early rebellions against Arthur, and during the Saxon wars.

One of the most potent stories concerning this forest is told by the French poet Huon de Mery in his work Le Tornoiment de l’Antichrist. In ths he explains how he travelled to an enchanted spring in the forest, and Bras-de-Fer, the chamberlain of the Antichrist, rode up. In his company, Huon de Mery said, he rode to the scene of a battle where the forces of Heaven, including Arthur and his knights, were doing battle with the forces of Hell. The enchanted spring mention by Huon de Mery seems to bear close resemblance to the wondrous fountain within the forest that was said to have been guarded by Esclados.

The Spring of Barenton is central to Chrétien de Troyes Yvain and is mentioned by Giraldus Cambrensis. Wace recounts in a famous passage of his Roman de Rou how he traveled personally to Brocéliande to seek the marvels about which the Bretons spoke but was unable to find any:

I saw the forest and I saw the land; I looked for marvels, but I did not find them.

The forest is also mentioned in Claris et Laris, and in Brun de la Montaigne as well as in the German romance of Garel von dem blühenden Tal.

Yvain, or Le Chevalier au Lion | Chrétien de Troyes, late 12th century
Iwein | Hartmann von Aue, late 12th century
Vulgate Merlin | 1220-1235
Garel von dem blühenden Tal | Der Pleier, 1240-1270
Prose Merlin | Mid-15th century
Idylls of the King | Lord Alfred Tennyson, 1859-1886