The Fañch country

The Fañch country 
Mood post highlighting the personality that individuals give to the description of their identity, or their lack of interest in it, despite what one might think

by Erik Marchand


The concept of "country", here understood as a local territory, can be very significant in Brittany as it can be underlying.

Some countries are clearly named, others are unnamed. But those who belong to it see themselves as having proximity to the members of the community whose geography they could be said to have chosen.

The inhabitants of Poullaouen, for example, do not name the country to which they belong but define it, or rather defined it. Because today, obviously, notions of land are less marked, and political divisions are used by elected officials to justify or define the extent of their kingdom. Thus the Poher, which was a political division without anyone claiming to be pohered, is today an identity carried by politicians and accepted by non-natives or local acculturated people.

Sometimes or often, countries have a name, and the inhabitants present themselves with a certain pride as pourlet, fisel or fañch.

The recognition criteria were as visible as they were felt, by the fact that they could be linked to visiting habits in the same market, for example. But this membership arose above all from more clearly definable criteria such as sharing the same dialect, or variants of the same dialect, becoming understandable without particular difficulties, or even sharing the same dance or the same fashion. clothing (for women in particular).

For the costume we must specify that certain fashions (giz), and certain headdresses especially, came “in fashion”.

Thus the women of the upper reaches of the Fañch country rather quickly preferred the Tregor headdress (for example the women of the east of Poullaouen). Dance, in the micro-region of Central Brittany, was a strong enough identity marker for folklore aficionados to consider it, under the benevolent gaze of locals, as one of the banners of the region or “country”.

It is interesting to note a semantic shift at the end of the 20th century.

The Fañch country (divided into diesoù and kroec'hoù, that is to say "lows" and "highs" in Breton) practices a four-beat dance, facing the eight-beat neighbors (dañs fisel, gavottes) whose step is often close to the ground and qualified as plinn (flat or plean (of "plain"), that is to say ordinary, simple). The inhabitants of the diesoù, of the stockings, gave themselves or allowed themselves to be given the name of Fañch (which does not have a particular translation, except in reference to the first name "François"). Their dance was therefore called dañs tro ("round dance") as in neighboring countries, sometimes with the precision dañs tro fañch, or qualified as dañs plon (puns between Plonen, Plounevez Quintin and plon: "heavy", to the image of lead) and more commonly of plinn. The inhabitants of krouec’hoù who did not recognize themselves as fañchoù probably mostly used these adjectives to describe or define their dance.


In the last quarter of the 20th century, neo-rurals, quickly followed by the locals, named the country after its dance and the diesoù (fañch) and kroec'hoù were brought together under the name of Plin country (the flat country!).

In this small country and in the neighboring countries, a form of polka called ordinary polka (plean) was practiced and is practiced in opposition to the pique or sway polka. At the start of the 21st century, the name was simplified to Polka Plin. This might seem logical because it was emblematic of this country (but also of neighboring countries, in particular of the Fisel country). It is exciting to see that many of the dancers of the new fest-noz have adapted the four-beat step of the dañs tro plin to this pair dance, thus creating interesting moments when the dancers form a round or an almost closed chain, and in the middle of it evolve couples dancing by turning on themselves with the same step as the chain dance.

This modern phenomenon of the passage from chain dance to couple dance that we find in Eastern Europe is very interesting and shows here that a semantic shift becomes the creator of a new tradition. Dance and popular music still have a bright future ahead!