An evil shapeshifting spirit or shadow-being with the capacity of possessing the body of the recently deceased, the Mourioche belongs to the Breton folklore. Despite its notoriety, nobody is really sure where the Mourioche came from. Some say that the Mourioche was once a person, versed in the dark arts, who sold their soul for a magical potion; others think this person was afflicted by a curse similarly to that of the werewolves, having the ability to change shapes but without control of his actions, and there are those who claim that he is the Devil himself.
The Mourioche has haunted Brittany for centuries, spreading its terrifying sense of humor along the coastlines of Côtes-d’Armor and the lakes of Jugon-les-Lacs. It loves using his powers in creative ways to scare farmers and people searching for seashells along the coast. As a shapeshifter, there is no end to the forms the Mourioche can assume, but when on land it’s usually seen in the form of a yearling colt, pig, cow, or sheep, often with a pair of muscular arms, while it prefers the shape of water-horse when he rests underwater.
The Mourioche has nocturnal habits, preferring the dark hours to prey on unsuspecting travelers. Sometimes it shows as a horse, standing by the side of the road, waiting for riders, taking as many people as it can while its spine stretches as more and more people get on its back. Then, much as the Nikur, the Mourioche gallops right into a lake or the sea to drown the people ridding on it, all while its terrifying laugh echoes in the darkness.
At other times, it prefers to wrestle with the passers-by, throwing its victims into muddy ditches.
It will also jump onto men’s back and force them to carry him until they drop of exhaustion, and during the new moon when darkness is denser, it’ll follow people along the road, changing shape every time they turn to look at it.
The cruel pranks of the Mourioche, its favorite form of entertainment, have cost the life of many farmers. In the small community of Saint-Cast-le-Guildo, a farmer once found the Mourioche in the form of an abandoned sheep, and took it home to his barn. The next day, when he went to check on his new sheep, he found a cow; the day after, it had become a horse. On the fourth night, it was a sheep again, but this time it laughed and said “Why do you check on me every morning? You’re weird!” It was then that the farmer saw that all his animals had been slaughtered. He reached for his shotgun, but the Mourioche took off, destroying half the barn and abducting the farmer’s three children.
The Mourioche has a few weaknesses. It’s baffled by anyone who doesn’t fear him. One time it took a tailor on his back into a lake, but when the tailor threatened to cut its ears off with his scissors, the Mourioche returned him to dry land very quickly.
However, one f the cruelest pranks the Mouriche would play of people, is possessing the body of a recently deceased relative to scream insults at the family and run after the fearful children present at the wake.
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-Sébillot, P. (1968) Le folklore de la Bretagne. Éditions G. P. Maisonneuve et Larose, Paris.