Most folks are familiar with werewolves, but this post introduces you to the Loup-Garou!
The loup-garou (comes from Latin lupus, for wolf) was a French version of the werewolf. The tales were imported to North America by early French voyageurs and settlers. The supernatural creature was an afflicted person under an enchantment; the poor fellow was turned into a hairy beast and roamed the woods at night in search of its prey.
Of course, if the right thing was done (as in the tale below from Vincennes, Indiana), the loup-garou might be released from its spell.
Real? Who knows. Useful? Like other scary stories, the legend could always be used to scare young children into obedience: “If you don’t behave, the loup-garou will get you.”
According to The Moonlit Road: Strange Tales from the American South, in Cajun lore:
To protect against the Cajun loup garou : lay 13 small objects such as pennies, beans, or broom straws by your doors. The werewolf is not too bright. She cannot count higher than 12. When she comes to the 13th object, she gets soooo confused and has to start over. The poor thing will be there counting all night until the dawn when she must flee the sun.
(Apparently, the loup-garou could also be used to scare kids into studying their math lessons.)
Here’s a legend collected in the 1920s by Anna C. O’Flynn, a school teacher in the old French section of Vincennes, Indiana, found in an unpublished WPA manuscript circa 1937, The Creole (French) Pioneers at Old Post Vincennes. The loup-garou stories were credited to the telling of one Pepe Boucher.
The collection appeared on the website Folklore, Legends, Tall Tales: An Interactive Casebook for Knox County, Indiana, created by Richard L. King, reference librarian at the Shake Library of Vincennes University.
Charlie Page’s Loup Garou Story
As told by Pepe Boucher
Page was a dare-devil kind of man who hunted in the woods and feared nothing. He carried a “dirque,” or a big long blade knife, that open and shut with some kind of spring on its back. All he did to open the blade was press his finger on the back and puff! it was open.
There be plenty of Indians in those days and they knew Page and his beeg knife. Still Page and the Indians be pretty good friends; they know he not be afraid of them or their medicine man. In fact he not think of Heaven nor Hell with fear.
One night he was going home out past Vinegar Hill, a great big black dog stood in the path and growled and gnashed his teeth at Page. The dog did not seem to know that Page never got out of any animal’s path so there it stood even when Page said “A bas chien,” [Down, dog!] then wagging his hand said “Au Revoir.”
Other dogs get out of the big man’s way when he wave his hand. “Mais” [But] this one come advancing with hideous howls and gleaming red eyes that be like coals of fire in the black of the night. Then Page he be mad at the dog and he said “Bete Noir Vole! Vole!” [Black beast, got lost!]
Mais, the black beast did not fly away from him nor turn its eyes from his. With a great leap it came nearer to him by five feet. Then Page cursed and lifted his big foot to kick it in the jaw. With a stealthy pantherlike movement the great frothing beast sprang at his throat.
You bet this time he tried to kick and get his knife to finish the dog whose hot breath was singeing his hair – whose great paws were tearing his shoulders and whose fangs were near his neck. With one of his powerful arms he grab the neck of the dog until his tongue hang out. The shaggy hair on the dog’s neck be lashing his face and his eyes blazing with madness. The loup garou be trying to bewitch Page.
He know now it be loup garou.
Click here to read the rest of this tale and other loup-garou legends of the Vincennes area.
Need more proof? Here’s evidence, from a rambling legend of a man and his bride from the area of Grosse Pointe, Michigan. It references:
the story of one adventurous hunter who, determined to try his skill, made a bullet from a silver coin and patiently waited for his victim “to cross his path.” The cursed bullet sped toward the Loup Garou and instead of killing the monster only severed his tail, which was found, dried and stuffed. It was the wonder of the region, and was adored for years by the Indians as a powerful good luck piece.
There you go! A real Loup Garou tail (pun unavoidable)! What more do you need?