Wednesday, June 22, 2011

The Beasts of Gevaudan


I love werewolf stories, but the best is always the original...

In the mid 1700s in the province of Gevaudan in France, huge reddish colored, horrible-smelling wolf creatures began attacking and killing the citizens, tearing open their throats and thus started a massive scare amongst the people. Over 200 people died.

This strange pack was described by witnesses as something most unusual from your run of the mill wolves with a female in the pack who did not participate in the attacks and partial eating of human beings. This case not only helped spawn the concept of werewolves but has piqued the interested of cryptozoologists from the accounts made by people who often saw wolves and should know them when they see them. It was speculated the beast was a hybrid of a mastiff and a wolf given its unusual size and color. Some of these beasts were killed and found to be very large and unusual.

The legend of the silver bullet came from the second beast killed (Wikipedia) The killing of the creature that eventually marked the end of the attacks is credited to a local hunter, Jean Chastel, at the Sogne d'Auvers on 19 June 1767. Later novelists (Chevalley, 1936) introduced the idea that Chastel shot it with a blessed silver bullet of his own manufacture. Upon being opened, the animal's stomach was shown to contain human remains. Controversy surrounds Chastel's account of his success. Family tradition claimed that, when part of a large hunting party, he sat down to read the Bible and pray. During one of the prayers the creature came into sight, staring at Chastel, who finished his prayer before shooting the beast. This would have been aberrant behavior for the beast, as it would usually attack on sight. Some believe this is proof Chastel participated with the beast, or even that he had trained it. However, the story of the prayer may simply have been invented out of religious or romantic motives.

What was your favorite werewolf movie? I think for the storyline, I liked "Wolf" with Jack Nicholson, but for the beauty and cinematography, the new remake of "The Wolfman"

14 comments:

  1. I like the classic Lon Chaney movies but if I had to pick one I would say Silver Bullet. I loved both the novella and the movie.

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  2. Jeez, that Lon Chaney one is one of my favorites to put on around Halloween---so much mood and atmosphere.

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  3. I'm still looking for the woman who would get excited if I whispered this in her ear:

    Even those who are pure of heart, and say their prayers at night, can become a wolf, when the wolfsbane blooms and the autumn moon is bright.

    Does that do anything for the ladies out there?

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  4. I would not want that thing to bite me! lol.

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  5. I always loved Silver Bullet. It's a really good movie. It's haunting and dark and funny, catching Haim at his best before his career took off and he just became a charicature. The Howling ain't too bad. That newer film with Christina Ricci was fun. There was a series in the mid to late 80s on FOX that I recalled watching religously. I think it was called simply Werewolf.

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  6. Anyone one see "Big Bad Wolf" Holy shit!
    Barry, I get tingles hearing those words, for sure!
    I never saw Silver Bullet, now I gotta! I liked the remake of Wolf Man, but only visually. They fucked the story up royally--horrible plot, like Sleepy Hollow remake. Argh! I love the Howling!

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  7. That's no beast that was just my dog silly Frenchmen and their puffed up wigs and cheese.

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  8. La Bête (the Beast) is one of the enduring legends that comes up in the work of most people who write on werewolves. I have always wondered why since this is more of a cryptid/monster story.

    Of course, the French peasants were muttering about a werewolf at the time but it seems clear but there was never any evidence of a human to wolf transformation. It was simply assumed that this was a werewolf because of it's size and ferocity. I think it is far more fascinating to conjecture on what the he'll actually was stalking the forests of Gevaudan.

    Whatever it was, if I recall, over 100 people lost their lives. La bête remains one of the enduring mysteries of cryptozoology and one that has indirectly contributed to a mythos that goes back to tribal times.

    Storm

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  9. It really is a very cool and spooky story. Just thinking of man being that vulnerable to stalking creatures, is shiver-producing. Yeah, definitely a tale for the crypto files.

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  10. Human beings are far more vulnerable than we like to think. The sense of invulnerability dissipates pretty quickly when you are confronted with a venomous reptile or an apex predator. You become very conscious of just how defenseless humans are with our stumpy teeth and useless nails. The edge that we have is between our ears, if we choose to use it :-)

    There are a number of theories about what La Bête was. We may never know for certain but we know that it was stealthy, powerful, aggressive and deadly. The other interesting thing about the story is that it may not have been a single series of occurrences. I've read authors that seem to think that something similar to the Beast has popped up in other areas of Europe.

    Storm

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  11. I just started reading Book of Werewolves. It's pretty interesting. Love to read all the lore.

    Ginger Snaps, The Howling, The Wolf Man ('41) and The Curse of the Werewolf are tops for me.

    I enjoyed both Cursed (it was fun) and Blood and Chocolate (it was pretty), though neither are particularly special films.

    I also should not fail to mention all of the awful werewolf movies that I love to watch because they are so awful. Something like Werewolves on Wheels.

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  12. http://www.amazon.com/Book-Werewolves-Sabine-Baring-Gould/dp/1605201138

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  13. Speaking of The Beast, I liked Brotherhood of the Wolf as well. Stunning scenery.

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  14. Pangs;
    That was my favorite of all the films because it was closest to this story and soooo gorgeous and rather sexy too.

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