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Les Berger Landais


kite_surfer Apr 10, 2012 8:57 AM
Posted in group: People and Cultures

Les Berger Landais

The Area
The title means shepherds of Les Landes, where Les Landes is a combined name for the regions Départment des Landes and Landes des Gascogne. I guess Landes originally meant flat, or rough lands as this area was covered with heath, wetland bogs and swamps in the early 1800's according to a map I found below. (Although the date is not shown on the map, similar maps around 1800 shows almost the same). The current forest area you see from a higher viewpoint in Google Earth, roughly marks the present day region but was planted by Napoleon at later dates.

The Stilt Shepherds and the Photographer
According to French Wikipedia, there were about a million sheep present in the area in 1850, so the shepherds needed to cover long distances to find good feeding grounds. In addition to the prickly low vegetation and wet underground they came up with the perfect tool: Stilts. They used a third stilt as a resting, or walking stilt.

Almost at the end of the 19th Century, a photographer, linguist, folklorist, historian and writer by the name of Félix Arnaudin decided to capture the life and work of the shepherds and I guess one of his most famous (and almost surreal) photos can be found below. With his share of 3000 photographs, his writings and his love for this part of the earth he lived in, he managed to conserve the life of the indigenous people of Les Landes which I share again today, as even to this day, the culture of Les Berger Landais is still not well known.

Present day
In 2008, a writer named Jean-Joël Le Fur decided to recreate present day photos from the original ones by Félix Arnaudin and in the photo above, the present location is here, at the Placemark. However, as it appears from Street View, the barn is unfortunately gone. Only one Panoramio picture is present that still shows the house, that was originally an old stable to accomodate the shepherds in their long journeys from home.

A video of a present day tourist show of the shepherds can be found here.

Sources used, apart from the links in the text above:
Sur les traces de Félix Arnaudin
Berger Landais
Des Landes Histoire