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Koadalan


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[Bret, koad, wood; alan, male Christian name; cf. W Coed-Alun, wood-Allen].

Title and hero of an episodic Breton folk-tale of magical transformation and denied immortality; the action is so complex that some modern commentators have titled it ‘The Saga of Koadalan’. Although collected from oral tradition in the 19th century, the narrative shows correlatives from medieval Welsh literature.

Knowing that his poor parents could not keep him, Yves Koadalan set out at 16 to seek his fortune. When a nobleman refuses to employ him because he admits he can read, Koadalan disguises himself by turning his coat inside out and applies again, this time claiming he cannot read. The noble takes the boy along and soon they are both ascending into the air, alighting near a beautiful castle, when Koadalan sees written on a leaf: ‘He who enters here will never leave’. Despite his apprehension, the boy sleeps in a feather bed and is provided a serviette that gives all the food and drink he asks. He is also given three instructions: (a) always to keep a hot fire under the pot; (b) to beat a thin mare with a holly stick; (c) never to open two doors in the castle. When Koadalan builds the fire under the pot, he is unconcerned at the apparent sighings and moanings of people in pain, but when he beats the mare, named Teressa, she begs his mercy. Koadalan spares her, and she rewards him by instructing him to go through the two forbidden doors where he would find three marvellous, red books that will allow him to become the greatest magician in the world. The boy follows her advice and is stunned by the secrets in the books. She also tells him to wash his hair in the courtyard spring, thus turning himself into a golden-haired prince. As Koadalan and Teressa are escaping from the castle, they are pursued by the mysterious noble man, now disguised as a black dog, who vows to retrieve the magical books and bites into the mare's flesh. Wounded and tired, Teressa asks Koadalan to kill her and open her belly. Reluctantly he does, thus bringing forth a beautiful princess, the daughter of the King of Naples. But lovely as Teresa now is, she says that there is someone even more beautiful, the Princess of Spain, whom Koadalan will marry. Meanwhile, she promises to aid him whenever he calls her name three times.

(a) always to keep a hot fire under the pot; (b) to beat a thin mare with a holly stick; (c) never to open two doors in the castle. When Koadalan builds the fire under the pot, he is unconcerned at the apparent sighings and moanings of people in pain, but when he beats the mare, named Teressa, she begs his mercy. Koadalan spares her, and she rewards him by instructing him to go through the two forbidden doors where he would find three marvellous, red books that will allow him to become the greatest magician in the world. The boy follows her advice and is stunned by the secrets in the books. She also tells him to wash his hair in the courtyard spring, thus turning himself into a golden-haired prince. As Koadalan and Teressa are escaping from the castle, they are pursued by the mysterious noble man, now disguised as a black dog, who vows to retrieve the magical books and bites into the mare's flesh. Wounded and tired, Teressa asks Koadalan to kill her and open her belly. Reluctantly he does, thus bringing forth a beautiful princess, the daughter of the King of Naples. But lovely as Teresa now is, she says that there is someone even more beautiful, the Princess of Spain, whom Koadalan will marry. Meanwhile, she promises to aid him whenever he calls her name three times.

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Subjects: Religion.


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