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Les tribes bretonnes (10/30): Melenig d’Elliant, the yellow people flies with their own wings – Les Tribes bretonnes, season 2


“Melen is yellow in Breton; melenig, it means “little yellow”. This nickname comes from a magnificent bird that we only find here and that I often see in the garden: it is the greenfinch of Elliant ”, summarizes one in bagad Bro melenig. Here then, after the Tasmanian devil, the snails of Quimper and the sheep of Ouessant, here is the greenfinch of Elliant. Information taken from the Protective League of Birds (LPO), it is in fact the European greenfinch but, as soon as it crosses the Jet, a tributary of the Odet, it therefore becomes the Elliant greenfinch, a sign that here, where the heart of the Melenigs beats, nothing is like elsewhere. “Here is Elliant coming”, always say the other Celtic circles, seeing the melenig tumble with suspicion. And, maybe, a little jealousy …

Football club, hiking, restaurant …

“Melenig, that means what it means: it is our identity, it is only us and not the others, details Annaïck Cotten-Bianic,” Elliantaise pure strain, 21 years of costume embroiderer, 31 years of Celtic Circle Dances, ”as she introduced herself. “Said like that, it sounds a bit chauvinistic but behind it is the idea that we have a country all to ourselves. The elders have put so much emphasis on the name melenig that it is easy for us to keep it going today. “

So, from the football club to hiking circuits via the bagad, the Celtic circle, the cider house or the restaurant, there is Melenig in all tastes in this enclave of Bro Aven. “Elliant is the only town in Brittany which has its own bro (country)”, summarizes Louis Le Bihannic, former president of the Celtic circle of Elliant, in the 1960s, creator of the local bagad, in 1962, and president, in 2017 in 2019, returned to live on the family farm upon retirement, in 2006, after a career in international trade. “And I can tell you that coming from Elliant, I had all the keys in my hands in this area,” he laughs.

“It’s not easy for someone who comes from outside. The melenig are criticized for living among themselves and it is quite true. To win an election here, it is better to live in Elliant for thirty years, and still, not sure that that is enough ”.

“The law of counterparties”

Because a Melenig, obviously, plays in the same division as the Léonards in the classification of the Breton stinginess. “The Melenigs are worse than the Leonards, even says, laughing, Louis Loussouarn, because they never show that they are tight-fisted; the Leonards, yes. You know, here, there is an immanent law which is very significant: it is the law of counterparts. If you ask someone for something, you know what you owe them. My grandmother used to say: if a cousin invites us to eat, we must return the meal, a little better, but not too much either. “Annaïck says it another way:” We are willing to pay a blow to others but we have to give it to us. The Bigoudens of Pont-l’Abbé, for their part, never pay (laughs). We are called the Bigoudens of Aven because we have a strong character, we always want to win and we are always right, obviously ”. “The Melenigs are also enterprising people, who are not afraid of anything and are keen to learn,” adds Louis, who claims to have met several Elliantais in his career. Chance or not, it was .. at the Banque de France.

“The venom was in them”

Like any enclave, you have to be patient and keep a low profile to penetrate this Bro melenig, “this country of large farms where Breton influence and regionalism are very, very strong”, summarizes Louis Loussouarn. “It’s not easy for someone who comes from outside,” he continues. The Melenigs are criticized for living among themselves and this is quite true. To win an election here, better to live in Elliant for thirty years, and still, not sure that is enough. “

Being called Cotten or Kergoulay, the two most common surnames, opens more doors. “When I was little, Louis Loussouarn remembers fondly, my grandfather used to tell me that the Cotten and the Kergoulays did not need serum when they were bitten by a viper because they had such a bad temper as venom. was already in them. And that is also why they escaped the plague epidemics. »What about covid, too?

So goes life in Elliant, capital of the Melenig, shaken by the two wars then the exodus of young people from the 1970s, a rural commune which had 4,000 inhabitants in 1911 then only 2,000 in 1975 and, today, ” 3,578, after the deaths of yesterday ”, specifies, from the town hall, Annaïck, who has just redesigned the website and the logo of the town. “In yellow and black, of course, but I was asked to also put a little green in it because the greenfinch also has a little green in its plumage”, she confides.

Funny butterfly effect: from a pretty little bird with embroidered costumes was born the Melenig people. He flies with his own wings, proud as a peacock and rather generous in pecking. Like the greenfinch, described as aggressive when you touch its seeds. Really, nature is well done.

* Born in Elliant, Louis Le Bourhis (1880-1955) was the owner of the café du commerce, near Les Halles; Café de Bretagne, and the creator of the Odet Palace cinema (1,200 seats), in Quimper. A showman, he organized the first Fête des Reines, in 1924, which became Les Fêtes de Cornouaille in 1948, then the Cornouaille Festival in 1982.

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When does the name Melenig date?

The first character in the history of this Breton people is therefore this little colorful sparrow, a big seed eater with a melodious song. The yellow color of the greenfinch then appeared on the embroidery of traditional costumes, thus giving birth to the Melenig people. When? Difficult to say but probably at the beginning of the XXth century, according to the in-depth studies of Annaïck Cotten-Bianic, “pure Élliantaise, 21 years of costume embroiderer, 31 years of Celtic circle dances”, as she describes herself. “The name Bro (country) melenig appears as early as 1907, on the back of a Villard postcard, representing a wedding scene. We also find the expression “queen of the Melenig” on a postcard from 1923, during the first edition of the Fête des reines “, ancestor of the Cornouaille festival and inspirer of the Brodeuses de Pont-l’Abbé (29) or the Filets Bleus de Concarneau (29), created by the illustrious Elliantais Louis Le Bourhis

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