1920. Jean Rezeau and his elder brother live happily on the family estate in Brittany until their grandmother's death brings their parents back from Indochina. Their mother, a worthy descendant of fairy-tale witches, takes control of the estate. Her husband makes little protest as he is more interested in collecting insects than bringing up his children. Under their mother's house rule, the boys endure endless bullying and punishments until finally Jean chooses to rebel. He rallies his brother against this mother and fills the household with an atmosphere of comical but vicious civil war. Jean stands firm to the end. Hate makes him grow, as love does for others.