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In the footsteps of Marie Groët

Legendary witch of the Audomarois marsh. “Be careful! Don’t get too close to the water! Otherwise Marie Groët will catch you at the bottom of the water!” All the children of the marsh have already heard this phrase from their parents. This legend of a witch living at the bottom of the swamp waters to attract unwary children is passed down from generation to generation.

The legend

by Marie Groët

The most famous bogeyman in the Hauts-de-France mostly keeps children from getting too close to the edges and shores of the marsh or from leaning into the boats.

Yet in every legend there is a bit of truth and that of Marie Groët goes back several centuries and has several versions of which here is one of the best known.

Once upon a time...

In ancient times, the time of kings, queens, and horses, lived the king and queen of Clairmarais in a water-lined castle in the Audomarois marsh.

From their union was born a daughter, a very pretty princess but one with a capricious and angry temper. Her parents despaired of finding her a husband because she disapproved of all her suitors and openly mocked them. Her favorite thing to do was to go out and pick flowers from the swamp. To do this, she would take her young maid Mary and a groët, a hooked tool that was very handy for attracting flowers to her without getting too wet.

One day, a beautiful yellow iris resisted the young maid so much that the impatient princess snatched the groët out of her hands and tried to pluck the flower by herself. It fell unluckily into the water and peat of the marsh. Mary, seeing her young mistress with her beautiful golden hair and green lentils, laughed. The princess, entangled in the water and mud, began to sink and cried out, “Marie! le groët! Give me the groët!” The maid, writhing with laughter at the more the princess struggled, saw only a broth on the surface of the water. She became aware of the magnitude of the drama and ran for help.

The princess was never found. Yet some unwary children say they saw a half-woman, half-toad creature rise from the swamp’s waters in an attempt to catch them and cry out, “Marie le groët!”



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