Tag Archives: ogre

Jean Grin, not a nice man


As well as the long list of “Beasts” who seem to have munched their way through the apparently very, very, tasty peasants of France from 1400-1850, or thereabouts, I have also discovered the existence of at least one “Ogre” who was, to put it mildly, not a very nice man (or ogre) at all. His story is told, in exactly the same words, on a couple of websites that I have found. The first is designed to promote tourism in the wonderfully picturesque and unspoilt region of Lozère, which is here:

lozere map xxxxxxxx
The other website shows the availability of holiday cottages in this particularly beautiful area of a particularly beautiful country.

The tale of the Ogre is told by André Arnal, an author with his own page on Amazon France.

The story is too long to translate in its entirety, but I have summarised it for any monster fans who do not read French:

Jean Grin was an Ogre and he lived in a ravine called Malbouche, in what is now a hovel of stones with a collapsed roof. It is surrounded by pine trees and dry scrubland. Inside is a dark room right up against the very rock:

GROTTE-DANS-LE-RAVIN-DE-MALBOUCHE

It contains an oven where Jean Grin used to roast children to eat. Outside are piles of stones covered with soil, reputed to be the burial places of his victims:

house
Jean Grin had retreated to this hovel because of his inability to get along with his neighbours. Soon afterwards, young shepherds and shepherdesses began to disappear in the surrounding area:

scream woman

He was regarded as being a half-man, half-beast, because he had lived for such a long time out in the wild. Everybody knew that he loved to kill and eat his victims. Terror soon spread throughout the region:

ogre

People said that he was a monster, or a man dressed in a skin. His eyes were red, very red and he could be seen approaching from a long way away. From one village to another people said that he was both a werewolf, a monster and a devil, all at the same time, with those awful, glittering, bright red eyes:

redeye

Jean Grin only attacked weak people or children. In just six months, from June to December, 1799, this monster killed three victims before running away at prodigious speed. The locals thought he was a second Beast of Gevaudan, because he always attacked children and ate them.

The important noblemen of the area though, did not blame Jean Grin the Ogre, but rather the so-called Beast of Veyreau, an unknown creature of some kind which was also running amok in the region around this time, slaughtering young shepherds and shepherdesses.  The noblemen said that this mysterious animal was either a very large wolf, a lynx or a hyena. The ordinary peasants of the countryside, though, already traumatized by a succession of similar horrors, thought that it was a werewolf:

werewolf attack

Of all these dramatic events, with ogres, very large wolves, lynxes, hyenas and werewolves (the popular choice) all loose in the area at once, the collective memory of the local people has retained only the most fantastic details, which are perforce the most terrifying ones.

For them the Beast of Veyreau could only be Jean Grin, the wild man. On his shoulders weighed all the problems of the community. He was an ambiguous creature, half way between animal and man. Jean Grin took on the attributes of a savage, brutal wild man which no social norms could restrain. The skin of the beast that covered him transformed him into a magical, demonic creature:

ogre malb

Jean Grin was, according to others, the misunderstood and innocent victim of wild rumours and stories with absolutely no basis in fact. The people of the area found this wild man, therefore, a scapegoat for their suffering during these times of misery and famine. He became a guilty person that nobody would protect.

Who was Jean Grin really? Nobody knows! Whatever the case, this mysterious character, whether man or monster, was finally trapped and surrounded in his lair by a mob of over-excited women who, armed with pitchforks and sticks, dragged him to a neighbouring hamlet where he was burned alive in a white hot oven:

bigfoot

And popular memory had it that :

” When John Grin died, his skin leapt around on the ground ; and therefore he was the Devil. ”

With the death of Jean Grin, the population of the entire region felt liberated, as if order and morality had finally been re-established.

Entering into legend, Jean Grin still haunts the country of his misdeeds, as the all-devouring monster, the ogre who seized and ate children.”

As background information, you should not forget though, that at this time, namely in 1799, this particular area of France, as was mentioned above, was already experiencing the ravages of the Beast of Veyreau. I wrote a more detailed article about this animal which was published on January 16th 2018
Basically, it was a creature which was generally considered to be either a wolf or some other unknown canid. It was a beast which filled all the local inhabitants with great fear:

warg_by_irkis-d5oehlo xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

And certainly, the Beast’s behaviour was not good. He must have spent many an unhappy hour sitting on the naughty step, thinking very carefully about what he had done, and indeed, who he had devoured.
Any child that might meet the Beast, for example, stood a very good chance indeed of being carried off and eaten, first the liver and then the limbs. In the space of just six months, three victims were killed by this beast, including a boy of six.
This is the background, which might well lead us to interpret the story of Jean Grin in a number of different ways. It may well have been a story invented to attract tourists, like the Loch Ness Monster is thought by many to be:

-loch_ness_monster

There was, therefore, no such individual as Jean Grin. The whole thing was just an invented tourist trap.
Another slightly different approach would be to say that when the limbs of a six year old victim of the Beast of Veyreau were found hidden in the earth in the Malbouche Ravine, it was only too easy to look across at the nearby “hovel of stones with a collapsed roof” and attribute these ghastly unsolved murders to the person who had lived in the ruins shortly before. Harmless old weirdo, Jean Grin, who could then become transformed into an ogre, a supernatural figure.
Perhaps the tale of Jean Grin the Ogre was used to make up for the incompetency of whoever was in power now, ten years after the French Revolution. Perhaps serious questions were beginning to be asked about the value of this unbelievably massive political upheaval. The revolutionaries were palpably no more capable of capturing the Beast of Veyreau than the noblemen had been ten years before, in the bad old pre-revolutionary days of a Royal France. But if you blame all the gory deaths on Jean Grin the Ogre, though, and you know where he lives, then you can kill him and all your problems are solved.

Your inability to kill the real Beast of Veyreau very soon becomes a matter of minor importance. And if the Beast goes on to slaughter any more victims, just deny the events any publicity. If people continue to make an issue of it, put them in prison, or worse. Here is a lovely Ogre, drawn lovingly by Gustav Doré :

gusta v dore engraving

Another solution, a slight variation on the previous scenario, is that when nobody whatsoever seemed capable of catching the Beast of Veyreau, that apparent incompetence must have caused enormous frustration to everyone in the area. Perhaps a group of local mothers looked around the Malbouche Ravine on one particular occasion and were unable to locate any fierce animal. Acting as “a mob of over-excited women”, they then decided to take out their frustrations on the nearest passing weirdo. The ghastly fate of Jean Grin then just becomes a simple case of “strange eccentric in the wrong white hot oven at the wrong time”.

The situation is a little like the recent case of Christopher Jefferies, a retired teacher and the landlord of an unfortunate murder victim. He was perceived by the press to be a “dark, macabre, sinister villain” but a more accurate description might well have been “an innocent man wrongly accused of murder by the police”. Clearly, the eight newspapers he successfully sued were playing the part of the women of Veyreau.
There is just one more solution to the legend of Jean Grin. It may be a deeply seated racial memory, but that idea will have to wait for the future.

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The Beast of Veyreau….another cannibal killer!

One more man eating monster to terrorise the local peasants of France was the “Bête de Veyreau”. At a time and in a place both relatively close to the Beast of Gevaudan, his bloodsoaked career peaked from 1799 onwards as he laid waste to an area of France called the “Causse Noir” or “Black Causse”. This beautiful countryside is situated more or less in the south of the Massif Central. Here is the old province of Rouergue, whose capital was Rodez:

rourgue

And this is a more detailed map, with a red square in the extreme east representing the village of Veyreau. The orange arrow refused to travel abroad:

map square

The province directly to the east of the green area is Gévaudan. The “Causse Noir” or “Black Causse” is dry, rugged and rocky.

1280px-Causse_Noir

There are many mountainous areas and some notable gorges such as the “Gorges de la Jonte”:

gorges de la jonte

Normally, the best approach for these French monsters is to take an average of the various French websites. In this case however, that is not really going to work, because, as far as I can see, more or less every account of this creature is virtually the same, and probably owes a great deal to Wikipedia:

“The Beast of Veyreau was a man eating animal which ravaged an area in the “Causse Noir” not too far from Gevaudan, from 1799 onwards.  This was an area where livestock were raised and is nowadays part of the Département of Aveyron. These attacks filled the inhabitants with such immense fear, and the Beast had so many “dozens of victims”, that the locals thought the Beast of Gévaudan had come to their region.”

I have been able to find one person who could expand a little on that:

“around the year 1799, there appeared in the country a beast which filled all the inhabitants with great fear. Its build was slimmer and more willowy than a wolf. Its way of walking had such agility that it was seen first in one place, but then four or five minutes later in a different place perhaps several miles away. And woe betide any child that might meet the creature. The Beast would carry them off and eat them , first the liver and then the limbs. In the space of six months this beast killed three victims including a boy of six whose limbs they found hidden in the earth in the Malbouche Ravine, in the very same place which was, people used to say, the haunt of the ogre.”

Mention of “The Ogre” will lead me neatly to another blogpost in the future, when this long series of familiar crazed creatures, blood soaked beasts, maniacal monsters, feral dogs, wolf-dog hybrids, wolves with attitude or whatever nasty four legged beast you can imagine, becomes just for a few hundred words, a two legged cannibal killer, with the supercool name of Jean Grin.

To get back to the story, this is the tiny village of Veyreau:

Veyreau_aerien1

The very best version of the story of the “Bête de Veyreau” comes from a website designed to “découvrir et aimer la Lozère”, in other words to “discover and love La Lozère”, which is one of the most beautiful and picturesque areas of the “Causse Noir”. The account of the Beast below is quoted directly from the parish records of the village of Veyreau, which were collected together in 1870 by the then parish priest, Père Casimir Fages. The road sign  below shows that two languages were/are spoken in this southern part of France. “Veirau” is the village name in Occitan. Try the Wikipedia website to read about this ancient language. You will find a really interesting use of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which has been translated into a number of widely spoken languages but then into a good number of others such as Occitan, Gascon, Provençal and half a dozen others. At the very least, it has a wonderful moving map which you can click to enlarge:

veyreau_entree_panneau

As was so often the case in old France, the parish priest was the only literate person in the immediate area, and it was for him to record the history of tiny villages such as Veyreau. Père Fages’ church is still there:

eglise-de-veyreau-e1380921126557

The hard work for this website has all been done by an extremely dedicated gentleman, Monsieur Bernard Soulier. Bernard is the President of the Association “In the country of the Beast of Gévaudan”, in French,  “Au pays de la Bête du Gévaudan”. This organisation is based in Auvers, a small village in the Haute Loire district.

.
Here is Père Fages’ story:

“Around the year 1799, there appeared in the country, especially around the village of Paliès, a beast that filled all the people immense fear; its size was slimmer than a wolf ; Its way of walking had such agility that it was seen in one place, and four or five minutes later it was seen in another place perhaps a league away. It had the head and muzzle of a large greyhound ; it used to come into villages in broad daylight, and woe betide any child that might meet the creature, the Beast would carry them off and eat them, first the liver and then the limbs. One summer’s day, the Beast appeared at Paliès. Children spied it from a long distance away and ran to take refuge in a tree close to a house on the northern side of the village; faster than lightning, the Beast seized one of the children, who was already two metres off the ground and carried him off into Madasse Wood. Men shearing the sheep of a local farmer, including the father of the unfortunate child, ran at top speed to the place where the Beast had gone. The noise that they made caused the Beast to abandon the little boy who was found shaking on the ground with his insides ripped out! Seeing his father looking for him, he did, however, have the strength, to shout “I’m here”, but he died a few moments later. This child aged six, was called Pierre-Jean Mauri; in the register Monsieur Arnal who carried out the baptism ceremonies in 1794 when the child was fifteen months old, has added to the margin of that register, “Devoured by the ferocious Beast”.
Fifteen days later, the Beast took a child from the farm of Graille at Rougerie. In company with his older brother, he was keeping watch over the cattle close to the natural spring of St. Martin; the elder brother tried hard to help his brother, but when the beast stood up on its hind legs, he was so frightened that he fled and went for help at Veyreau ; it was a Sunday, a large crowd came to help, and searching the Malbouche property, they found the remains of limbs that the Beast had hidden in the earth. This same beast also seized a little girl named Julien who lived in Bourjoie ; her father was busy knocking nuts down from the trees; the small children were close to the tree, and the Beast, in full view of the father, seized the little girl; the father set off after her, but he could not catch her up, and a few days later, she was found buried in the undergrowth; her liver had been eaten.
These different characteristics of the Beast filled the people of Veyreau and St André with justified fear; several people saw the Beast which accompanied them, gambolling along, jumping about, but not daring to attack adults; One day in bright sunshine, the Beast walked through the village of St André, and stopped outside the door of a weaver’s house; they took it for a dog, and at the very moment when they were going to stroke it, it disappeared in  a flash. Monsieur Gaillard, the parish priest of St André, with whom I have discussed this extraordinary animal, assured me that he had heard it one evening in a small field below the duck pond, emitting howls like the braying of a donkey, something which was confirmed by several other people:

howl

All the local poachers met to hunt the creature, but when they encountered the Beast, they said that sometimes, especially when it was being shot at, the creature rolled around on the ground but then disappeared with enormous speed. The people who were children during this era, agree how great was the terror that it produced throughout the whole region of the “Black Causse”. Never attacking men or animals, because we had seen it pass through the middle of herds of cattle and flocks of sheep without doing them any harm, the Beast targeted only children. In the course of this year, from June to December, two boys and a girl were the sad victims of its ferocity; nobody dared walk outside on their own at night, and by day everyone carried a halberd at the end of a stick to defend themselves, in case they met the creature:

halberd

What was this Beast? It could not be classified as one of the known animals in the area; Monsieur Caussignac claimed that it was a hyena; Monsieur Gaillard, the village priest of St. André, thought it was a lynx, and the common people gave it the name of “Werewolf”, in French “Loup garou”:

loup-garou-1
After some six months or a year, the creature disappeared without anybody knowing what had happened to it. About the same time, a similar beast was seen in the Sanvero woods near the village of Cornus in the Aveyron province; it almost managed eat a little girl that I was to know twenty-five years later; she was near her home in the village of Labadie, in the parish of St Rome Berlières ; her brother, older than her, rushed to her defence and grabbed her from the creature, he dragged her into the house ; through the cracks  in the closed door they could see the Beast watching and waiting for some time for the prey which had escaped, only by the skin of her teeth. Indeed, a bite from the creature had taken a considerable piece of skin from her side; this scar was never to fade throughout the rest of her life:

werewolf
Whatever this animal was, its appearance had an enormous impact throughout the whole area of the Black Causse. Uneducated people saw in the Beast something supernatural, especially after all the upheavals and ordeals of the recent Revolution.”

And there you have it. Yet another wolf that seems to be not quite a wolf. At the moment, I am favouring the idea that up until about two hundred years or so ago, there was a second, much fiercer and larger species of wolf living in the remote and most mountainous areas of France, some prehistoric survivor that had lingered on until the nineteenth century in ever diminishing numbers, until, after tens of thousands of years, it finally became extinct. I cannot believe that the locals were incapable of recognising an ordinary wolf when they saw one. I cannot believe either that wolves were hybridising with dogs across the whole of France to produce killer hybrids. Wolves don’t have steamy affairs with dogs. They eat them!

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