Brittany – Stone Stories by Wendy Mewes

4 out of 5 stars

The publisher provided a copy of this, free of charge, in return for an honest review.

We have a lot of ancient history in Dorset, there are many Iron Age hillforts, barrows and henges and we even have the Dorset Cursus. We have a number of stones placed in significant places by the people of that time, but sadly we don’t have many stone circles as Wiltshire, but we do have some.

Brittiany though has so many stone circles and other megalithic monuments. We can only speculate as to why these huge stone menhirs were erected in the landscape but they must have had some ritual or symbolic meaning or reason for people to go to all that effort. I have a book called, The Standing Stones of Europe which has details of them. I haven’t read it yet, but having looked at some of the photos in the book and online, they are quite spectacular.

With each of these sites there is often a story or piece of folklore associated with them, be it Druids or giants, fairies and other supernatural beings. But the stories they began with aren’t always the stories that we know about these days. They have acquired their own folklore along the way, there has been religious appropriation by the church over the years and some have come to be known by relatively modern rituals.

Rather than looking at these neolithic sites on a regional basis, each of the twelve chapters has a theme that links each of the places in one way or other. It begins with Chaos, and looks at the way that stones were naturally left after the last ice age and the legends that became associated with these places, including the elemental forest and boulders of Huelgoat. As early groups of people began to inhabit the landscape they started to move these stones about and erect them in places that had some meaning to them. What that was we will never know, but I know that we can still feel some of the elements that made those particular sites important. The final chapters of the book bring us up to the modern age with memorials that have been created recently in stone and the way that sites have been deliberately destroyed and the way that some people have reused the stones to mark the landscape.

I really liked this book and thought it was fascinating. I know very little about the standing stones in Northern Europe and I thought that this was a really good introduction to them. I like that this is not an academic tome, they can be a little dry after all, but this is a modern take on these places and how they have affected people over time. The drawings by Alan Montgomery throughout the book are really lovely and add a nice touch. If there was one tiny flaw with this, I thought that it could have included some maps of the locations of the sites discussed as one day I would like to visit some of them. It has also reminded me that I need to read some of the other books that I have on these sites.

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  1. Liz Dexter

    This does sound interesting. I have visited a few sites in northern France as an early teen but I remember being deeply disappointed by Carnac: all the stones are really small, and I surmised that everyone who has photographed them was lying the grass when they did so to make them look the size of Stonehenge when in fact they’re waist-high to an early teen!

    • Paul

      I find these ancient site and standing stone endlessly fascinating. I have been to North France a few times many years ago, but I didn’t know about them at the time of visiting. Must make another trip out there

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