According to French Folklore, fairies preside over
childbirth and decide the fate of the new born child. One tale stated that
they were present in the womb with the child. It was common for a meal to
be served in the room next to the mother's to conciliate them. It also
seems that all fairies were female.
Fairies of French lore are commonly connected with megaliths, hence
Rock of the Fairies, Stone of the Fairies, Cave of the Fairies, etc...
Some of the megaliths have accompanying legends:
Long ago, a fairy traveling through Sainte-Colombe (Landes) carried
the Peyre-Lounque (a rock located in the region) attached to her
distaff. She met an unknown old man who said to her: "Where are you
going?" "To Dax." "You will, if you say, 'And may it
please God.'" "Whether or not it pleases Him, the
Peyre-Lounque is going to Dax." The old man, who was none other
than God himself, ordered her to abandon her rock at that very place,
which she had to do, and he added, "Until it pleases God, it will
not leave this place." (Sebillot, 1904-7, vol. 4, p.6)
Fairies were said to be able to carry enormous rocks in their aprons.
Near Ailley in the Yosges is a rock slide called the Fairies Load or The
Burden. It is said to have fallen from their aprons. Fairies were also
known as builders. A causeway built with Cyclopean masonry, located near
Remiremont, joins Saint-Mont and the mountain of Morthome is called the
Bridge of the Fairies. In Cimiez there is an amphitheater called "Tub
of the Fairies." A fairy by the name of Melusine is credited with the
construction of the old roads in the region of Poitou and the arenas and
aqueducts of Poitiers. She was also created with building a large number
of houses, legend says that in one night she built the castle of Lusignan.
The French tales also discuss fairy-human relationships. It is noted
that fairies often performed services for humans. Payment for any service
from a fairy was very important lest the fairy become cruel and vengeful.
The tales tell us that fairies were rather skittish and sensitive which
made lasting social ties difficult. Despite this, there are records of
fairy-human marriages. However, with the marriage contract came a great
deal of rules and restrictions on the human-husband. Some of the rules and
restrictions included: not to see the fairy-wife bathing, not to look at
her naked shoulder, not to see her on Saturdays, not to call her a
"bad fairy," etc. The marriage was prosperous unless the husband
broke a rule which resulted in the fairy wife leaving forever.
In the legends of Gargantua, it is said that he shaped the countrysides
and created irregularities in terrain. Large mounds at the Footsteps of
Bourges in the canton of Chatillon-sur-Indre are called "foot
scrapings of Gargantua." The legend says that Gargantua once had his
one foot in Bourges and on in this place. He shook one of his shoes which
caused the foot scraping (the clay and dirt that gathers on the bottom of
shoes) to fly off and land next to the church of Murs. After shaking the
other foot, the foot scraping landed in the vineyards of Chateau, named
Mottepelous. (Sebillot, 1883, p.197-98)
Gargantua is also the source of the elevation upon which the city of
Laon is built: one day Gargantua found his basket too full and decided to
empty it upon the plain. This then became part of the mountain. However,
unloading his basket was not the only way he shaped the land. It is also
written that his excrement also caused the irregularities in the terrain.
The Aiguille de Quaix in the Chartreuse range is know locally as l'Etron
de Gargantua (Gargantua's Turd). There are many such legends but I don't
think I need to explore them further here.