Les ‘chanteurs’ of Provence

What do you think of when you hear the word “Provence”? Well, besides Rosé?

The Cigale sings it's song. photo credit: Anna Aga

The Cigale sings it’s song. photo credit: Anna Aga

Many will conjure visions of endless fields of lavender, cheerful sunflowers, olive trees and rosé wine. Did I mention Rosé?

But the most iconic emblem of this magical region of Southern France is actually a noisy little insect they call ‘Cigale’. Wherever you travel in this part of the world, and throughout the Mediterranean, you can’t help but hear their distinctive, clicking, ‘song’

The rest of the world refers to these insects as Cicadas and there are over 2500 species documented around the world.

The cigale is considered a lucky symbol in Provencal culture and you find them everywhere – both real and in whimsical facsimile.

Here are a few interesting facts about this amazing ambassador:

  • The ancient Greeks were the first to write about the Cigale – and they ate them, too
  • They are related to the leafhopper family of insects, not crickets as many believe
  • The male cicada produces his loud song by contracting and expanding small muscles called tymbals. There is on each side of his abdomen and, since the abdomen is hollow, the clicking sound produced by this action is amplified.
  • How loud is a Cigale’s song? Really loud – around 120 decibles or the equivalent of a very good rock concert! They say the sound can travel the length of half a football field.
  • The Cigale entered the annals of folklore thanks to two Frenchmen.
  • In the mid 1600’s Jean de la Fontaine wrote a little story “La Cigale et la Fourmi” (The Cigale and the Ant) with the premise that the noisy, show-off cicada spent his summer singing and wasting time while the ever industrious ant collected and stored food for the winter to come.
  • Provence cultural historian Frédéric Mistral declared the little creature as the emblem of Provence in the 1800’s and coined the phrase “Lou souleu mi fa canta,” provençal for “The sun makes me sing”.

Everywhere you go in Provence you will hear their song, blowing through the fields of sunflowers and lavender – the perfect background music to your glass of Provence Rosé.