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The beast of Gévaudan
April 5, 2011 9:18 AM   Subscribe

WANTED: Known as 'La Bête' but kills under three aliases. Reddish brown with dark ridged stripe down the back. Resembles wolf/hyena but big as a donkey. Long gaping jaw, 6 claws, pointy upright ears and supple furry tail - mobile like a cat's and can knock you over. Cry: more like horse neighing than wolf howling. Last seen by people mostly now dead.
Wolf, werewolf, hyena, baboon or mesonychid: In many respects the beast of Gévaudan was like other creatures in the annals of cryptozoology - but for one: historical records indicate that, over a 4 year span, it (or 'they') killed around 100 people - eating most of them.

The story of the beast is well known (and widely elaborated) in France but surprisingly obscure elsewhere. The beast features in some interesting contemporary illustrations. The most likely explanation is probably human predation by wolves (although this does not tally very well with many witness accounts). The closest creature to match those described is probably the (probably long-extinct) mesonichid. La bête was featured in the movie "Brotherhood of Wolves". The region of Gévaudan is now part of modern Lozère -and still serves as home to wolves. There is an official beast website which includes a list of the victims.
posted by rongorongo (42 comments total) 16 users marked this as a favorite

 
Last seen by people mostly now dead.

As creature movie taglines go, I have heard worse.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 9:21 AM on April 5, 2011 [5 favorites]


Does the range of the honey badger extend into France?
posted by COBRA! at 9:23 AM on April 5, 2011 [17 favorites]


La bête was featured in the movie "Brotherhood of Wolves".

What a disappointing movie that was.
posted by Hoopo at 9:23 AM on April 5, 2011 [3 favorites]


Brotherhood of Wolves (Le pacte des loups) was beautiful, a very stylistic fusion of two genres (martial arts and historical) that was a lot of fun to watch. I happened to write a review of it a few years back and said,
"Story diffused at times (You are so, how do you say, beautiful. Let’s shag. Oh yes, wasn’t there a terrifying beast running around earlier?), but felt like an old story where that sort of thing was just fine."
Which is to say check it out if you haven't seen it.
posted by Celsius1414 at 9:24 AM on April 5, 2011 [5 favorites]


Reddish brown with dark ridged stripe down the back. Resembles wolf/hyena but big as a donkey. Long gaping jaw, 6 claws, pointy upright ears and supple furry tail - mobile like a cat's and can knock you over.

How did you find my personal ad?
posted by Wolfdog at 9:24 AM on April 5, 2011 [16 favorites]


Given that humans, on rare occasion, suffer from gigantism, it seems plausible that animals occasionally would as well - in this case, a wolf with gigantism. It seems (to me, at least) that this might be where a lot of our monster myths might come from.
posted by mhoye at 9:27 AM on April 5, 2011 [2 favorites]


in this case, a wolf with gigantism. It seems (to me, at least) that this might be where a lot of our monster myths might come from.

An interesting idea. Mine is that the half-seen thing that was chasing you in the dark is always much larger when you recount it later, and then when the story is told again, the monster gets even bigger, eventually turning a common wolf into something much more terrifying.

Brotherhood of Wolves (Le pacte des loups) was beautiful,

It was an interesting film that was lovely to look at, but I always felt it suffered from some pacing problems. Still, it's worth seeing just for Mark Dacascos in one of his weirder roles.
posted by quin at 9:32 AM on April 5, 2011


Still, it's worth seeing just for Mark Dacascos in one of his weirder roles.

I liked Le Pacte des Loups alright, but Mark Dacascos will forever be Sensei Ping to me.
posted by kmz at 9:38 AM on April 5, 2011 [5 favorites]


A rogue black bear seems somewhat plausible. A bear that had lost all fear of humans would be pretty terrifying, and bears do have somewhat canine features. If it had some kind of disfiguring injury or disease, and wasn't acting at all like a bear, it seems reasonable people could confuse it with a different animal.
posted by Mitrovarr at 9:55 AM on April 5, 2011


La bête was featured in the movie "Brotherhood of Wolves".

What a disappointing movie that was.


How can you possibly be disappointed by a movie that is a French-language period piece about a Native American Kung Fu master mercenary hired to track down a monster in 18th Century France and that also has Monica Bellucci naked? No matter how bad the execution, those are some awesome ingredients.
posted by The World Famous at 9:57 AM on April 5, 2011 [18 favorites]


I know, you'd think with ingredients like that you couldn't go wrong. But then I watched it and was pretty bored for long stretches.
posted by Hoopo at 10:00 AM on April 5, 2011 [1 favorite]


Reddish brown with dark ridged stripe down the back. Resembles wolf/hyena but big as a donkey. Long gaping jaw, 6 claws, pointy upright ears and supple furry tail - mobile like a cat's and can knock you over.

But for the size, this is an excellent physical description of a Thylacine, especially as they had an extended palm pad that from the side looked like a sixth toe. That's a long swim from Australia to France, though.
posted by jamaro at 10:02 AM on April 5, 2011


I know, you'd think with ingredients like that you couldn't go wrong. But then I watched it and was pretty bored for long stretches.

Ah, yes, that's the "French-language period piece" ingredient you're tasting.
posted by The World Famous at 10:05 AM on April 5, 2011 [5 favorites]


How can you possibly be disappointed by a movie that is a French-language period piece about a Native American Kung Fu master mercenary hired to track down a monster in 18th Century France and that also has Monica Bellucci naked? No matter how bad the execution, those are some awesome ingredients.

Can I also point out that it also has Vincent Cassel fighting with a sword made from a spinal column? Because yes.

Also, I'm disappointed that nobody seems to think it was a velociraptor.
posted by Amanojaku at 10:22 AM on April 5, 2011 [3 favorites]


none of the conjecture makes much sense, i'm firmly behind the lost ancestors of lisa lampanelli theory
posted by kitchenrat at 10:26 AM on April 5, 2011


The Beast of Gevaudan is probably one of my favorite cryptozoology recordings ever. And even better, I love scared the bejeezus out of myself reading more stuff about it.

Disappointed by Les Pactes des Loups??? How? It was the only time I was ever able to use the descriptor, "naked Papal assassin."
posted by Kitteh at 10:28 AM on April 5, 2011 [1 favorite]


Let's not let this thread get sidetracked into a discussion of Brotherhood of Wolves. Let us all agree the movie was awesome and leave it at that.
posted by Astro Zombie at 10:29 AM on April 5, 2011


This sounds pretty obviously like an old-world chupacabra to me. What's all the confusion about?
posted by Navelgazer at 10:41 AM on April 5, 2011


Ah, yes, that's the "French-language period piece" ingredient you're tasting.

I grew up a 20-minute walk from Quebec, le Francais n'est pas une probleme. Speaking of French Canada, we have similar myths here of Loups Garou (or werewolf-like things) which the wikipedia article links to the wendigo and even sasquatch.
posted by Hoopo at 10:42 AM on April 5, 2011


Oh, it's not that the French language is boring. It's that French-language period pieces are boring, regardless of the viewer's language comprehension.
posted by The World Famous at 10:47 AM on April 5, 2011


Nth that Brotherhood of Wolves, while flawed, is still certainly the only movie of its kind, and is an absolute hoot to watch. I want to see it again now.
posted by stinkycheese at 10:47 AM on April 5, 2011


Brotherhood of the Wolf is the best movie of all time. Anyone that says otherwise just doesn't have an appreciation for the subtitled historical martial arts horror costume drama love story action/adventure genre.
posted by cjorgensen at 10:48 AM on April 5, 2011 [9 favorites]


The closest creature to match those described is probably the (probably long-extinct) mesonichid.

"Paging Dr. Nick Cutter. Dr. Nick Cutter to the Anomoly Research Center, please."
posted by happyroach at 10:48 AM on April 5, 2011 [4 favorites]


A crayfish... suffering from gigantism perhaps... who had a terrible, disfiguring disease... having lost all fear of man... wait, I lost track - is this the John Boehner thread?
posted by newdaddy at 10:59 AM on April 5, 2011 [1 favorite]


My money is on mutant trilobites.
posted by zippy at 11:04 AM on April 5, 2011


That's a long swim from Australia to France, though.

Still, if they had thought of such a plot twist, I'm sure the writers of "Brotherhood of Wolves" would have pounced on it:

"Hey, we already have a Native American martial artist and Monica Belluci playing a sexy naked Papal secret agent. What's left?"

"A now-extinct Antipodean predator!"

"Great idea!"
posted by Skeptic at 11:04 AM on April 5, 2011


The most likely explanation is probably human predation by wolves

My bet is on a little bit of that, plus a large helping of the good old-fashioned human-on-human variety.
posted by Skeptic at 11:28 AM on April 5, 2011


Finally saw Brotherhood of Wolves last month-- my standards for popcorn cinema are really rather low, and that, I must say, was a terrible movie.
posted by darth_tedious at 11:31 AM on April 5, 2011


Mitrovarr: "A rogue black bear seems somewhat plausible. A bear that had lost all fear of humans would be pretty terrifying, and bears do have somewhat canine features. If it had some kind of disfiguring injury or disease, and wasn't acting at all like a bear, it seems reasonable people could confuse it with a different animal"

Except bears don't have tails.
posted by ArgentCorvid at 11:33 AM on April 5, 2011


Metafilter: We just don't have an appreciation for the subtitled historical martial arts horror costume drama love story action/adventure genre.
posted by zombieflanders at 12:06 PM on April 5, 2011


Once again I will have to have the awkward "how did this get into our netflix queue" discussion with the significant other, thanks to metafilter.
posted by Big_B at 12:12 PM on April 5, 2011


@Big_B: Get separate accounts -- it may save your relationship. ;)
posted by Celsius1414 at 12:16 PM on April 5, 2011


Known as 'La Bête' but kills under three aliases.

[Scene: A New York apartment. Someone knocks on the door.]
Woman: [not opening the door] Yes?
Voice: (mumbling) Mrs. Arlsburgerhhh?
Woman: Who?
Voice: (mumbling) Mrs. Johannesburrrr?
Woman: Who is it?
Voice: [pause] Flowers.
Woman: Flowers for whom?
Voice: [long pause] Plumber, ma'am.
Woman: I don't need a plumber. You're that clever Bête, aren't you?
Voice: [pause] Candygram.
Woman: Candygram, my foot. You get out of here before I call the police. You're the Bête, and you know it.
Voice: Wait. I-I'm only a terrier, ma'am.
Woman: A terrier? Well...okay. [opens door]
[Huge latex and foam-rubber wolf head lunges through open door, chomps down on woman's head, and drags her out of the apartment, all while Mark Dacascos does mystical kung-fu moves in the distance.]
posted by Shepherd at 12:33 PM on April 5, 2011 [6 favorites]


French-language period pieces are boring

That's so silly that I will assume it was meant as a joke. (Hard to tell some times.)

In the event it is a genuinely held blanket prejudice, I would, however, be very interested in know what period pieces you do not consider boring.

(Good post, by the way, absent the film criticism.)
posted by IndigoJones at 12:47 PM on April 5, 2011


Weird that you linked to all sorts of good stuff and to Wikipedia, but not to Wikipedia's entry on the beast. They cover some theories as to what it was and the most interesting to me is:

Another explanation is that the beasts were some type of domestic dog or crosses between wild wolves and domestic dogs, on account of their large size and unusual coloration... Louis wrote that Jean Chastel was frequently seen with a large red coloured mastiff, which he believes sired the beast.
posted by chairface at 12:47 PM on April 5, 2011


^ Je croix que vous etes un nigaud.
Ice c'est La Bête.
posted by adamvasco at 12:47 PM on April 5, 2011


How can you possibly be disappointed by a movie that is a French-language period piece about a Native American Kung Fu master mercenary hired to track down a monster in 18th Century France and that also has Monica Bellucci naked? No matter how bad the execution, those are some awesome ingredients.

Hear, hear. That movie was a hoot.
posted by homunculus at 1:19 PM on April 5, 2011


Beyond all the snark people are posting, it has to be something. Most likely something plausible, like an escaped bear or lion from a roaming circus.
posted by P.o.B. at 1:24 PM on April 5, 2011


Beyond all the snark people are posting, it has to be something

or multiple things, as suggested throughout the links. The official site has a list of victims, and I can't help but notice the age of the people attacked suggests the beast(s) went after smaller people--mostly children, which could account for some of the descriptions of the size of the thing.
posted by Hoopo at 1:35 PM on April 5, 2011


Reminds me of Grendel.
posted by maggieb at 3:21 PM on April 5, 2011 [1 favorite]


When I was, I don't know, about six, there was a show on UK TV called Nationwide. It was a news and magazine show, mixing the days events with more general topics. Easy to read now, but at aged six, it was the news and the news was truth. One evening (it ran from 6 to 6.40) there was an item, I don't know if it was Halloween, or April fools, but there was a thing about werewolves.

They interviewed a woman in south London who had seen something climb over her fence. I'll never forget her next line "I wasn't sure what it was, but I can only describe it as a werewolf".

Looking back on this show at the grand old age of *ahem* I can totally see it was a spoof, but at the time I thought news + werewolf = werewolves exist, and to this day, irrational as it is, a bit of me is still in terror of that news report.

I've switched off the X files when it was about werewolves, I've no desire to watch the Howling, and although I watched an American werewolf in London (my town!) it was only under duress.

I'm a logical person, I know werewolves don't exist, but I guess I'm writing this up as a warning, if you're going to talk of fabled beasts, be careful how you do it, because if you're young the news is the news (and the internet is the internet), and no matter how stupid things sound, THEY MIGHT JUST BE REAL.

*please note I'm a) not advocating some stupid self censorship, just relating my story and b) checking it's not a full moon before I type this up. Just in case.*
posted by ciderwoman at 5:21 PM on April 5, 2011


MetaFilter: killed around 100 people - eating most of them.
posted by Splunge at 6:08 AM on April 6, 2011


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