Mermaid Monday: The Very Strange Tale of French Dracs

blackwhitesketchThis Monday, CryptoVille discovers the French legend of the Dracs. Are they mermaids, monsters, or dragons? It’s a strange tale that we’ll try to decipher as we comb the legends for any sign of truth.

On the surface, Dracs are described as “French water fairies” that live in an enchanted city deep below the surface of the Seine River, in France.

Other versions of the story claim they live in underwater caves. Many of the tales take place along the banks of the River Rhone.

People see them in several ways:

  • Sometimes they are “skating” the water’s surface using wooden plates
  • Other times they are just purple orbs hanging over the water
  • At other times, they can appear like a golden chalice rising from the river’s depths.

Dracs can shapeshift into just about anything, but when they do, it’s usually in the form of a beautiful young woman in order to seduce a man. They are also known to capture young mothers to take below the surface to act as wet-nurses for the water fairy children.  If a woman is captured for this purpose, they keep her for seven years, then return her to the surface and her own life.

Dracs have the ability to remain invisible which is how they hunt human children on land without ever being seen.

Dracs03Frederic Mistral’s Version

Frederic Mistral wrote a book about myths from his region of France, in and around the town of Beaucaire. This town is located on the Rhone River.

Mistral claims that Dracs are “invisible winged sea serpents (water dragons)” who left their watery home in the 13th Century to hunt and kill thousands of men. During that time one of the Drac kidnapped a young woman peddling flowers and held her for seven years during which she raised the Drac’s son. He let her go, but she still had the ability to see Drac on land, and so the Drac gouged out her eye so she would be unable to warn other citizens of the Drac’s approach.

Armies were sent to vanquish the beast, to no avail. Eventually the Drac died of natural causes and the problem disappeared. What happened to its son is anybody’s guess.

Felice Holman and Nanine Valen’s Version

Holman and Valen wrote a book about French dragons and demons that included their version of the Drac tale. It reports an account by Gervase of Tilbury, a 13th century man, who said he had met a woman who was kidnapped and held as a wet-nurse for seven years. During her captivity, some magical grease got in one of her eyes that enabled her to see the Dracs when they were roaming the towns and villages. It was during these times that the Drac snatched human children to eat.

Dracs02After she had been released back into her own world, she spied her captor in the town market early one morning and greeted him. Because she could see them, the Drac gouged out her eye after which she supposedly went mad.

Gervase was recorded as saying, “There is also on the banks of the Rhone, under a house, at the North-gate of the city of Arles, a great pool of the river.  In these deep places, they say that the Dracs are often seen of bright nights, in the shape of men.”

Other versions of this story claim the wet-nurse had to rub human fat into the scales of the baby Dracs so they could see their charges. At night the wet-nurses were to wash the fat off with special water. One night, the wet-nurse forgot to wash it off and rubbed her eye thereby bestowing the ability to see the Drac on dry land to herself.

There is even another report that claims this “water spirit” was slain by a saint.  Possibly St George?

What Does It Mean?

From what I read, it seems several tales from this area of France had become mixed-up, hence we get all these different versions, none of which even remotely involve mermaids! How it got from a “water fairy” type thing,  to a Smaug-worthy dragon, is anybody’s guess.

However, it does seem to be a way to explain why the children of the region would go missing. Back in those days, wolves still roamed France. It’s possible they were taken by natural predators in the area, and perhaps pedophiles.

If nothing else, this is a cautionary tale to keep your children around you, and not to be fooled by golden trinkets or other curious objects that might appear in the river.

Join us next Monday when we’ll bring you another tale of strange creatures living in the water – hopefully more like the Mermaids we know and love!

Tail slap!

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