The Story Behind the Beast of Gévaudan

The Story Behind the Beast of Gévaudan

Beast of Gévaudan

History has created many tales and legends about terrifying beasts that scared entire villages and ate their inhabitants. There are tales of demons haunting small settlements from China, monsters roaming the forests of Germany and ghost hounds stalking their prey in the United Kingdom. However, sometimes these tales had a grain of truth to them. Sometimes, the beastly monsters ravaging the land were in fact real animals. Such a tale is the story of the Beast of Gévaudan.

Between 1764 and 1767 an unknown, but terrible beast kept attacking people living in the region of Gévaudan. Over a hundred people were killed in a span of four years and many more were injured. The suspect for this attack was a huge red-black wolf, living in the wilderness of the area and attacking all those who strayed too far from home.

An all-out war started between the citizens and the wolf. A thousand people or more tried their hand at catching and killing the elusive creature. King Louis XV himself felt sorry for the inhabitants of the area and sent some of his best archers to track the beast down. However, all these valiant men were almost bested by a young girl.

According to Antoine de Beauterne, gun-bearer to the king and leader of the hunt, in August 1765, a young girl called Marie-Jeanne Valet was walking from her home to a nearby farm when she was attacked by the Beast of Gévaudan. When the beast reared up to attack, the girl, who had been carrying a homemade spear, plunged it into the creature’s chest. Injured, though not fatally, the beast ran away and left Marie Jeanne Valet alive and unharmed. Antoine gave Jeanne Vale the moniker of “Maid of the Gévaudan.”

Many large wolves were slain over the course of the four years. However, the end of the attacks came when a local hunter named Jean Chastel finally shot the creature that was believed to be the Beast of Gévaudan.

Do you think the attacks belonged to one animal, the so called the Beast of Gévaudan, or were there more wolves preying on the villagers?

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Remi Koene
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