Ankou is a personification of death in Breton mythology as well as in Cornish and Norman French folklore.
Ankou is also known as “Aräwn”
The Ankou is the henchman of Death (oberour ar maro) and he is also known as the grave yard watcher, they said that he protects the graveyard and the souls around it for some unknown reason and he collects the lost souls on his land. The last dead of the year, in each parish, becomes the Ankou of his parish for all of the following year. When there has been, in a year, more deaths than usual, one says about the Ankou:
- War ma fé, heman zo eun Anko drouk. (“on my faith, this one is a nasty Ankou”
Every parish in Brittany is said to have its own Ankou. In Breton tradition, the squealing of railway wheels outside of one’s home is supposed to be Karrigell an Ankou or The Wheelbarrow of Ankou. Similarly, the cry of the owl is referred to as Labous an Ankou or The Death Bird. The Ankou is also found on the baptismal font at La Martyre where he is shown holding a human head.
In Ireland the proverb When the Ankou comes, he will not go away empty relates to the legend.