By Samuel Quignon
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It is a ancestral fears which today has left our countries but has haunted for centuries the inhabitants of campaigns of France: the wolf.
Based in Sarthe at Le Mans, the historian and searching Benoît Hubert has discovered in various File local, a series of deadly attacks by a cannibalistic wolf that kill at least seven children in Belinois and the Loir Valley in 1753.
Fifteen years ago, I discovered a manuscript by Marin Rottier de Madrelle in the archives of the Society for Agriculture, Science and the Arts in Sarthe, which is kept in the media library of Le Mans. In his story, this local gentleman referred to two devoured children. I wanted to check if it was marginal or if there were other cases.
Seven children killed
The first offensive built on May 1, 1753 relates to Magdeleine Frontault, 11 years old, who lives near the town of Saint-Ouen. The next day is a 12-year-old orphan consumed in return for a wolf to Saint-Gervais-en-Belin.
A few weeks go by and on May 29th again one little girlMarie Vérité, 8, was the target of a “wolf deer” under one procession which she participates in. They rescue her, but she dies a few hours later. On June 6, it is on the other side of the Bercé forest in Parigné-l’Eveque that the monster kills a boy, Pierre Pilon, 7 years old.
On June 8, in Changé, Joseph Lebarbier, 8, was “swallowed up by the beast,” states priest in his church register.
The next day, Julien Tournesac, also 8 years old, was buried after being “swallowed up by one.” fierce beast ” to Brette les Pins.
The Beast of Maine
Finally, it’s September 30th Request affected by “a carnivorous beast”, which devours Jean Robert, 9 years.
For Benoît Hubert, who teaches history at Marguerite Yourcenar high school in Le Mans, all of these attacks were carried out by only one and even cannibal wolf which he calls the “Beast of Maine.”
Two women were attacked but not killed
According to his research, it is the same man-eating monster also allegedly attacked two women, one taken to task at Saint-Ouen-en-Belin was rescued by his clothes, including one whalebone collar that the animal could not pull out.
The other, attacked at Saint-Biez-en-Belin same day, managed to defend himself with a disgust.
More than 3,000 deadly attacks in France between 1580 and 1830
To carry out his research, the historian also relied on the work of a Caen academic, Jean-Marc Moriceau, who appears to be specialist. His work revealed 3,000 death certificates for humans devoured by wolves in France between 1580 and 1830. (An updated work was published in 2022 The story of the evil wolf).
Still a danger?
With the wolf’s return to the region, Benoît Hubert became more interested in this animal, which he considers fascinating.
“If he comes back could he take it out on the man ? There have been no more wolf attacks in France since the beginning of the 20th century.and century, but it still happens that this is the case in Asia and in Russia e.g. »
From necrophagy to cannibalism
At that time, there were two types of wolves that preyed on humans. First the famous deer wolves (large wolves capable of attacking deer), which would have acquired a taste for human flesh by eating lig left after great epidemics or some Conflicts like Fronde.
During these periods, “the population was massacred and not necessarily buried. These wolves first nscavengers would have been cannibals. »
In the second case, it is about rabid wolves.
“But these animals attacked any target, especially men. Attacks by rabid wolves were recorded in Sarthe in the mid-18th century.and to Kettle and Vallon-sur-Gee. »
The researcher’s method
What method hires Benoît Hubert to find the tracks of the child-eating wolf?
For the specific case of the Beast of Maine, based on the document written by the Lord of Belinois, Manceau found the victims on parish books said municipalities then meticulously expanded the research circle to neighboring municipalities, then to the following.
The intendant’s reports are also valuable, they contain the amount of awarded bonuses to those who have killed a wolf.
A paw of the animal then provides a monthly salary for a day laborer,
That Statistics from the corpus of 3,000 cases of wolf attacks has made it possible to determine certain diagrams.
Another child-eating wolf in the Bercé forest
By reviewing the very rich parish books, Benoît Hubert believes he has found yet another child-eating wolf in Sarthe. He has so far found the death certificates for five children killed by wolves. “I registered one attack in Changé, then one in Ecommoy, two in Marigné-Laillé and one last in Mayet, a mutilated 6-year-old. But there are certainly others. I have been there for months. I think it is one and the same beast, ”says the historian, who now wants to go out and look for other attacks around the Bercé forest during this period.
“This happens mainly in the period from April to October: when the vegetation makes it possible to hide the approach to predators and there are people outside. But we also see that these are so in the vast majority of cases poor children there are worries when they keep a cow, a goat … “
The myth of the werewolf in Sarthe
That superstition sometimes attributed the mischief of the child-eating wolf gueru (or gairoux), people struck by a curse: the famous werewolves.
Louis Simon evokes this myth in his memoirs, stating that he does not give credit for it.
The history about maine beast will be picked up and romanticized on the 19thand century. In the journal published by the Bishopric, Maine ProvinceThe Marquis de Mailly took matters into his own hands: he melted one silver ball which he entrusted to the gamekeeper of L’Hermitage, who manages to kill the beast. All this did not take place, but it tells us about the society of that time. After the revolution, the priests at least this clergyhighlights one avenging god “, Analyzes Benoît Hubert.
Terror in Touraine
The researcher explains that a beast made rule terror in the Loire Valley and especially in Touraine. From January to June 1693, one or more wolves nearly committed 150 attacksincluding 77 killed around Benais.
Other rounds of attacks took place near and in the present Loir and Cher from 1742 to 1755.
Shocked at what they had seen priests sometimes took the time to detail stigmata left by wolves.
This is especially the case on June 9, 1751 in Nouzilly, north of Tours, where the body of one 15 year old shepherd.
Here is the description given by the churchman: “They brought the sad remains of his body into a woman’s apron and covered her clothes filled with blood for the church. La Beste had cut off his tracheal artery and part of his right cheek, had eaten a thigh separated from his body up to his knee; so that the bone of this thigh, all eaten away by the upper part, was devoid of flesh as if he had it scraped on purpose by a knife. The beast to devour the intestines had eaten his entire stomach and gnawed his ribs. ”
Other topics about history, heritage and culture in Sarthe and Mayenne can be discovered with the association Studiae Cenomanensis.
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