Norman Legends: the gorge of King Arthur

In the forest of Mortain, a town in Basse-Normandie, you can find a deep gorge, a gaping hole with unknown depth: that’s the gorge of Arthur. A stream is flowing there and there’s a waterfall. On climbing up the mountain one finds a cave, flooded with light, because sunbeams fall through a hole in the ceiling. The cave is called Chambre de la Reine, chamber of the queen. On the other side of the canyon lies the Chambre du Roi, chamber of the king. They say that Arthur lived here for a while.

großer Wasserfall von Mortain, Foto von Crochet.david, Lizenz: CC by SA

big cataract of Mortain, photo by Crochet.david, licence: CC by SA/creative Commons Attribution ShareAlike

Arthur returned from a successful campaign against evil Saxon pirates, when he realized, that his wife had vanished. He went to a hermit and asked him about his wife. The hermit told him, that Merlin, the son of the devil, has kidnapped Arthur’s wife and brought her to Normandy.

Arthur was happy, that his wife was alive. He went to Normandy alone, where benign fairies guided him to the forest of Mortain. When he entered the forest an evil ghost barred his way. It was the guardian of his wife. The ghost allowed Arthur to visit his wife every day for one hour at sunset. And he threatened to kill Arthur if Arthur would stay longer than an hour.

The joy was intense, when Arthur and his wife met again. On the following days they met each others for one hour at sunset. One day Arthur went down the hill at noon. He crossed the creek and saw his wife, sleeping between the flowers on the riverside. She woke up and feared immediately, that the ghost would punish them. But nothing happened, therefore they stayed together. Three days later just as the sun rose, Arthur went out of the cave and down the hill. Suddenly they heard a tremendous noise coming out of the forest. The noise was heading in their direction. It was a roaring waterfall. The cataract was pushing trees and rocks in front of it and swooped down on Arthur, who was dragged under and drowned.

kleiner Wasserfall von mortain, Foto von boblenormand, Lizenz: CC by SA

small waterfall of Mortain, photo by boblenormand, licence: CC by SA/ Creative Commons Attribution SharAlike

When the queen saw the end of her beloved husband she became insane. She screamed: “You call me? Arthur take me in your arms, here I come.” and jumped in the abyss. She fell into the whirling floods and drowned as well. The two lovers were united forever.

The ghost appeared on a rock and commanded the cataract to continue to fall, to remind the people of the death of Arthur and his wife, then the ghost disappeared and was never seen again.

Die Teufelsbrücke auf dem Gipfel des kleinen Wasserfalls, Foto von boblenormand, Lizenz: CC by SA

the devils bridge on the peak of the small waterfall, photo by boblenormand, licence: CC by SA/Creative Commons Attribution ShareAlike

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 29-32, (French)

Homepage of Mortain:


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