Norman legends: the mademoiselle of Fontenailles

If you are going from Arromanches-les-Bains along the cliff line to Longues-sur-Mer, you can see a high rock in the sea, that seems to mock, waves, wind and weather. That’s the “mademoiselle of Fontenailles” (la Demoiselle de Fontenailles).

That rock hasn’t been there all the time. Fishermen narrate a legend about it’s origin. Many centuries ago a young woman, that was a fugitive, gave birth to a daughter. An abhorrent dwarf crawled out of a cave nearby and told the woman to leave. All her crying didn’t help. Thus the woman made a basket out of flowers, put her baby inside, embraced it and gave the basket over to the floods.

The tiny girl would have been drowned if the good fairy Melusine wouldn’t have passed by. She took the child and raised it as her daughter in her palace.

Das Fräulien von Fontenailles, von Georges Lefèvre, public domain

the mademoiselle of Fontenailles, by Georges Lefèvre, public domain

Sylvania, the young fosterling, grew up and was fair and beautiful. She never had met anybody except Melusine, when one day she met a young man at the heath of the upper steep coast, that was abundantly covered with flowers. They talked, met again, talked more, met more often, and finally fell in love. Arthur told Sylvania about his miserable life, his parents had died when he was a child. An uncle took care of Arthur and made him work all day, didn’t give him food and treated him badly in every possible way. Therefore Arthur ran away one day. On his way he met a nice woman that helped him. That has been Melusine of course.

Sylvania told Melusine about her love. The fairy gave Sylvania a magic wand. If she would tap it three times against something, her wish would get fulfilled.

Sylvania went with Arthur and they lived happily in the nature at the coast.

die Steilküste bei Arromanches, von Vincent, public domain/gemeinfrei

the cliff line at Arromanches, by Vincent, public domain

But a demon couldn’t bear their luck. He abducted Arthur and made him forget Sylvania. Melusine could not prevent that he fell in love with a shepherdess that lived in a small town nearby. Sylvania was crying and searched for her beloved everywhere.

One day Sylvania perched doleful on a small rock at the sands when she saw a boat near the shore, in which Arthur sat with his shepherdess. Sylvania got mad and lost her head, she took her magic wand, tapped it three times on the water and yelled: “may they both drown, and a rock shall arise to remind future generations not to betray young girls.”

In the same moment the sea started to boil and swallowed Arthur and his shepherdess, and a rock emerged, that was called “mademoiselle of Fontenailles”.

Demoiselle de Fontenailles nach einer alten Postkarte, neben dem Fels stehen Leute herum, public domain/gemeinfrei weil Urheberrecht verjährt ist

Demoiselle de Fontenailles after an old postcard, next to the rocks are some people standing around, public domain

Sylvania was never seen again. The shepherds narrate, that she was taken up into heaven in a fiery carriage by Melusine.

The rock sank into the sea during a storm in 1902. Fontenailles has been a commune with 177 inhabitants in 1856. It was incorporated by Longues-sur-Mer in 1861.

Les Légendes Normandes, by Louis Bascan, a collection of Norman legends of older sources, reprint of 1929 published by “les Editions du Bastion”, 1999, ISBN=2745500503, page 18-23, (French)

about the rock:
Longues-sur-Mer (Calvados) une des demoiselles de Fontenailles (French)

about Longues-sur-Mer:
Longues-sur-Mer auf (French)


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