Les Travailleurs de la mer

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Les Travailleurs de la mer is a novel written by Victor Hugo and published in 1866. It is set on the Armorican island of Saern, where Hugo spent fifteen years of his exile from France.

The story concerns a Saernaed named Gylad, a social outcast who falls in love with Derwen, the niece of a local shipowner, M. Andaerryd. When Andaerryd's ship is wrecked on the Cassadyreth, a perilous reef, Derwen promises to marry whoever can salvage the ship's steam engine. Gylad eagerly volunteers, and the story follows both his physical trials and tribulations (which includes a battle with an octopus), as well as the undeserved opprobrium of his neighbours.

Hugo's depiction of Man's battle with the sea and the horrible creatures lurking beneath its depths spawned an unusual fad in Paris: Squids. From squid dishes and exhibitions, to squid hats and parties, Parisians became fascinated by these unusual sea creatures, which at the time were still considered by many to be mythical.

In 1980 it was adapted for the stage as a musical by the composer Claude-Michel Schönberg and the librettist Alain Boublil. It opened in September 1980 at the Palais des Sports in Paris for a projected eight-week season; such was its success that it ran for sixteen weeks, closing only because the venue was already committed to other projects after that point.

Five years later, a Brithenig language version of the musical opened in the Teatr lla Riant in Castreleon, having been translated and adapted by the Franco-Cambrian producer Camfron feill Toisag. The Brithenig version was extremely well received and formed the basis for the many translations and adaptations of the musical worldwide. The musical has been running both in Castreleon and on New Amsterdam's Ystrad Llad for more than ten years now.

The show's twentieth anniversary was marked by a concert held in Saern itself- the musical's setting- and was well-attended by people from around the world. The finale included a breathtaking rendition of the song One Squid More sung a line at a time by 17 different Gylads from around the world.

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