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The beast of Gévaudan

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The year 1765 starts badly. The very cold winter covered the landscape with an immaculate shroud before leaving the place to a short and rainy spring which opens the door to an unpleasant summer. This is one of these years during which the cold and moisture seize the beings and the things, where the fog clings to the meadows and the trees. The days are gloomy and the nights are hateful.
Jeanne Tanavelle, 25 year old, is a woman who lives in the hamlet of Chabanolles close to Julianges. On January 23, she succumbs to the attack of the animal after a keen fight. She is the twenty-sixth identified victim and the first one in the village of Lorcières. The peasants begin the chase to the wolf, giving up the agricultural work. They are divided between the fright which the animal inspires to them and the fear of the soldiers of the King who often behave like warriors in a conquered country.
Ollier, the priest of Lorcières is the representative of his small community. He writes a detailed report which he sends directly to the State Minister, Mister de Saint-Florentin: "People of Lorcières lost their hays and a part of their harvest because they have to participate in many exhausting chases which are badly organized... They do not dare to go out of their house and they are in the greatest misery. There is nobody to keep their cattle... Some of them will die of hunger and many of them will be unable to pay their taxes."
The animal began its disastrous exploits in June 1764. They finish three years later. This wolf traverses a mountainous country drawing a triangle delimited by three mountains : Mont Mouchet (North), Mont Chauvet and Mont Grand (South). This country is on the borders of three provinces: Auvergne, Gévaudan and Languedoc.
February 16, 17 and 18, the peasants drive out the animal around Marcillac and Fage. They continue to hunt the wolf the 29 and 30, armed with rifles and halberds in the forest near Feyrolettes but without success. May 19, Mourgues takes part - with the men of the villages of Paulhac, Saint-Privat, Malzieu and Julianges - in a great hunting organized by Denneval and his son. They was sent by the King. It's an unsuccessful hunt, then Denneval is replaced by Antoine de Beauterne. June 16, the animal is dislodged of a corn field. Terrified by the crowd which go out of the church, it go across a field between Feyrolettes and Plaux, and then go across the middle of a group of women and girls. They did not have time to examine it. July 4, Marguerite Oustallier, 68 years old, is devoured whereas she keeps cows close to Broussoles’s woods.
In his report, Abbot Pierre Pourchet confirms that the fear of the animal has disorganized all activities: agricultural works, trades and fairs. August 21, in a letter sent to Sir Ballainvillier, Antoine de Beauterne - who is "Porte-Arquebuse" and "Grand Louvetier" of the King - writes: "We see everywhere where we go, a so dreadful misery..." In another letter, the same author writes: "The weather has been very bad here for three days. The wheat is mature and it will go to rot because there is anybody to garner it.
Saturday December 21 is a lugubrious day. Between 11 hours and 12 hours, the animal shows the monstrous marks of its voracity. It cuts the throat and devours Agnès Mourgue, 12 years old, who keeps the cows in a common meadow of Marcillac, a little village close to Lorcières. The young girl is courageous and she fights against the beast. She defends herself with stones but she succumbs. The animal pull out the head and trails it to 2 meters; it trails the body and then eats the neck, the shoulders, the chest and part of a leg. It removes its stockings with its claws to it and it made openings to the belly. Guards of cows see the herd of the child in rout. They run everywhere... They find the body and the clothes so put on in parts that it was as a child who has just been born. Sunday December 22, all the parish deeply shocked by the terrible circumstances of died of the child, accompanies his body to the cemetery. Agnès is the 52nd victim of the animal for the only year 1765 and the 74th since the appearance of the alleged anthropophagous wolf (or of a "dog of war" drawn up by an insane sadist according to the assumption of Mr. Louis in "La bête du Gévaudan", Ed. Perrin 1997).



Representations of the Beast of Gévaudan




German Engraving (National Library of France)

Magné de Marolles Collection (National Library of France): Representation of the Beast named hyena

M. Châlier's drawing

Unidentified engraving

Monster's figure (1765)

Magné de Marolles Collection (detail)

Metallic sculpture

Drawing

Christophe Mendes's work

Book cover

The Beast (French Movie "Le pacte des loups")

Sculpture (Marvejols, France)

Sculpture, (Saugues, France)

History of the Beast. Langogne Museum (France)

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