“The Wolf” — Guy de Maupassant

“The Wolf” —  Guy de Maupassant

This is what the old Marquis d’Arville told us after St. Hubert’s dinner at the house of the Baron des Ravels.

We had killed a stag that day. The marquis was the only one of the guests who had not taken part in this chase. He never hunted.

During that long repast we had talked about hardly anything but the slaughter of animals. The ladies themselves were interested in bloody and exaggerated tales, and the orators imitated the attacks and the combats of men against beasts, raised their arms, romanced in a thundering voice.

M. d Arville talked well, in a certain flowery, high-sounding, but effective style. He must have told this story frequently, for he told it fluently, never hesitating for words, choosing them with skill to make his description vivid.

Gentlemen, I have never hunted, neither did my father, nor my grandfather, nor my great-grandfather. This last was the son of a man who hunted more than all of you put together. He died in 1764. I will tell you the story of his death.

His name was Jean. He was married, father of that child who became my great-grandfather, and he lived with his younger brother, Francois d’Arville, in our castle in Lorraine, in the midst of the forest.

Francois d’Arville had remained a bachelor for love of the chase.

They both hunted from one end of the year to the other, without stopping and seemingly without fatigue. They loved only hunting, understood nothing else, talked only of that, lived only for that.

They had at heart that one passion, which was terrible and inexorable. It consumed them, had completely absorbed them, leaving room for no other thought.

They had given orders that they should not be interrupted in the chase for any reason whatever. My great-grandfather was born while his father was following a fox, and Jean d’Arville did not stop the chase, but exclaimed: “The deuce! The rascal might have waited till after the view —halloo!” Read More

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“At Christmas a boy lame of a leg goes round the country summoning the devil’s followers, who are countless, to a general conclave . . . and the whole multitude become wolves.”

At Christmas a boy lame of a leg goes round the country summoning the devil’s followers, who are countless, to a general conclave. Whoever remains behind, or goes reluctantly, is scourged by another with an iron whip till the blood flows, and his traces are left in blood. The human form vanishes, and the whole multitude become wolves. Many thousands assemble. Foremost goes the leader armed with an iron whip, and the troop follow, “firmly convinced in their imaginations that they are transformed into wolves.” They fall upon herds of cattle and flocks of sheep, but they have no power to slay men. When they come to a river, the leader smites the water with his scourge, and it divides, leaving a dry path through the midst, by which the pack may go. The transformation lasts during twelve days, at the expiration of which period the wolf-skin vanishes, and the human form reappears. This superstition was expressly forbidden by the church. “Credidisti, quod quidam credere solent, ut illæ quæ a vulgo Parcæ vocantur, ipsæ, vel sint vel possint hoc facere quod creduntur, id est, dum aliquis homo nascitur, et tunc valeant illum designare ad hoc quod velint, ut quandocunque homo ille voluerit, in lupum transformari possit, quod vulgaris stultitia, werwolf vocat, aut in aliam aliquam figuram?”–Ap. Burchard. (d. 1024).

From Sabine Baring-Gould’s marvelous volume The Book of Were-Wolves (1865).

Read “The Werewolf,” A Short Fable by Angela Carter

“The Werewolf,” a short story by Angela Carter (collected in The Bloody Chamber and Burning Your Boats):

It is a northern country; they have cold weather, they have cold hearts.Cold; tempest; wild beasts in the forest. It is a hard life. Their houses are built of logs, dark and smoky within. There will be a crude icon of the virgin behind a guttering candle, the leg of a pig hung up to cure, a string of drying mushrooms. A bed, a stool, a table. Harsh, brief, poor lives.To these upland woodsmen, the Devil is as reals as you or I. More so; they have not seen us nor even know that we exist, but the Devil they glimpse often in the graveyards, those bleak and touching townships of the dead where the graves are marked with portraits of the deceased in the naif style and there are no flowers to put in front of them, no flowers grow there, so they put out small votive offerings, little loaves, sometimes a cake that the bears come lumbering from the margins of the forests to snatch away. At midnight, especially on Walpurgisnacht, the Devil holds picnics in the graveyards and invites the witches; then they dig up fresh corpses, and eat them. Anyone will tell you that.Wreaths of garlic on the doors keep out the vampires. A blue-eyed child born feet first on the night of St. John’s Eve will have second sight. When they discover a witch – some old woman whose cheeses ripen when her neighbours’ do not, another old woman whose black cat, oh, sinister! follows her about all the time, they strip the crone, search for her marks, for the supernumerary nipple her familiar sucks. They soon find it. Then they stone her to death.

Winter and cold weather.

Go and visit grandmother, who has been sick. Take her the oatcakes I’ve baked for her on the hearthstone and a little pot of butter.

The good child does as her mother bids – five miles’ trudge through the forest; do not leave the path because of the bears, the wild boar, the starving wolves. Here, take your father’s hunting knife; you know how to use it.

The child had a scabbby coat of sheepskin to keep out the cold, she knew the forest too well to fear it but she must always be on her guard. When she heard that freezing howl of a wolf, she dropped her gifts, seized her knife, and turned on the beast.

It was a huge one, with red eyes and running, grizzled chops; any but a mountaineer’s child would have died of fright at the sight of it. It went for her throat, as wolves do, but she made a great swipe at it with her father’s knife and slashed off its right forepaw.

The wolf let out a gulp, almost a sob, when it saw what had happened to it; wolves are less brave than they seem. It went lolloping off disconsolately between the trees as well as it could on three legs, leaving a trail of blood behind it. The child wiped the blade of her knife clean on her apron, wrapped up the wolf’s paw in the cloth in which her mother had packed the oatcakes and went on towards her grandmother’s house. Soon it came on to snow so thickly that the path and any footsteps, track or spoor that might have been upon it were obscured.

She found her grandmother was so sick she had taken to her bed and fallen into a fretful sleep, moaning and shaking so that the child guessed she had a fever. She felt the forehead, it burned. She shook out the cloth from her basket, to use it to make the old woman a cold compress, and the wolf’s paw fell to the floor.

But it was no longer a wolf’s paw. It was a hand, chopped off at the wrist, a hand toughened with work and freckled with old age. There was a wedding ring on the third finger and a wart in the index finger. By the wart, she knew it for her grandmother’s hand.

She pulled back the sheet but the old woman woke up, at that, and began to struggle, squawking and shrieking like a thing possessed. But the child was strong, and armed with her father’s hunting knife; she managed to hold her grandmother down long enough to see the cause of her fever. There was a bloody stump where her right hand should have been, festering already.

The child crossed herself and cried out so loud the neighbours heard her and come rushing in. They know the wart on the hand at once for a witch’s nipple; they drove the old woman, in her shift as she was, out into the snow with sticks, beating her old carcass as far as the edge of the forest, and pelted her with stones until she fell dead.

Now the child lived in her grandmother’s house; she prospered.

Read “The Werewolf,” A Short Fable by Angela Carter

“The Werewolf,” a short story by Angela Carter (collected in The Bloody Chamber and Burning Your Boats):

It is a northern country; they have cold weather, they have cold hearts.Cold; tempest; wild beasts in the forest. It is a hard life. Their houses are built of logs, dark and smoky within. There will be a crude icon of the virgin behind a guttering candle, the leg of a pig hung up to cure, a string of drying mushrooms. A bed, a stool, a table. Harsh, brief, poor lives.To these upland woodsmen, the Devil is as reals as you or I. More so; they have not seen us nor even know that we exist, but the Devil they glimpse often in the graveyards, those bleak and touching townships of the dead where the graves are marked with portraits of the deceased in the naif style and there are no flowers to put in front of them, no flowers grow there, so they put out small votive offerings, little loaves, sometimes a cake that the bears come lumbering from the margins of the forests to snatch away. At midnight, especially on Walpurgisnacht, the Devil holds picnics in the graveyards and invites the witches; then they dig up fresh corpses, and eat them. Anyone will tell you that.Wreaths of garlic on the doors keep out the vampires. A blue-eyed child born feet first on the night of St. John’s Eve will have second sight. When they discover a witch – some old woman whose cheeses ripen when her neighbours’ do not, another old woman whose black cat, oh, sinister! follows her about all the time, they strip the crone, search for her marks, for the supernumerary nipple her familiar sucks. They soon find it. Then they stone her to death.

Winter and cold weather.

Go and visit grandmother, who has been sick. Take her the oatcakes I’ve baked for her on the hearthstone and a little pot of butter.

The good child does as her mother bids – five miles’ trudge through the forest; do not leave the path because of the bears, the wild boar, the starving wolves. Here, take your father’s hunting knife; you know how to use it.

The child had a scabbby coat of sheepskin to keep out the cold, she knew the forest too well to fear it but she must always be on her guard. When she heard that freezing howl of a wolf, she dropped her gifts, seized her knife, and turned on the beast.

It was a huge one, with red eyes and running, grizzled chops; any but a mountaineer’s child would have died of fright at the sight of it. It went for her throat, as wolves do, but she made a great swipe at it with her father’s knife and slashed off its right forepaw.

The wolf let out a gulp, almost a sob, when it saw what had happened to it; wolves are less brave than they seem. It went lolloping off disconsolately between the trees as well as it could on three legs, leaving a trail of blood behind it. The child wiped the blade of her knife clean on her apron, wrapped up the wolf’s paw in the cloth in which her mother had packed the oatcakes and went on towards her grandmother’s house. Soon it came on to snow so thickly that the path and any footsteps, track or spoor that might have been upon it were obscured.

She found her grandmother was so sick she had taken to her bed and fallen into a fretful sleep, moaning and shaking so that the child guessed she had a fever. She felt the forehead, it burned. She shook out the cloth from her basket, to use it to make the old woman a cold compress, and the wolf’s paw fell to the floor.

But it was no longer a wolf’s paw. It was a hand, chopped off at the wrist, a hand toughened with work and freckled with old age. There was a wedding ring on the third finger and a wart in the index finger. By the wart, she knew it for her grandmother’s hand.

She pulled back the sheet but the old woman woke up, at that, and began to struggle, squawking and shrieking like a thing possessed. But the child was strong, and armed with her father’s hunting knife; she managed to hold her grandmother down long enough to see the cause of her fever. There was a bloody stump where her right hand should have been, festering already.

The child crossed herself and cried out so loud the neighbours heard her and come rushing in. They know the wart on the hand at once for a witch’s nipple; they drove the old woman, in her shift as she was, out into the snow with sticks, beating her old carcass as far as the edge of the forest, and pelted her with stones until she fell dead.

Now the child lived in her grandmother’s house; she prospered.

“At Christmas a boy lame of a leg goes round the country summoning the devil’s followers, who are countless, to a general conclave . . . and the whole multitude become wolves.”

At Christmas a boy lame of a leg goes round the country summoning the devil’s followers, who are countless, to a general conclave. Whoever remains behind, or goes reluctantly, is scourged by another with an iron whip till the blood flows, and his traces are left in blood. The human form vanishes, and the whole multitude become wolves. Many thousands assemble. Foremost goes the leader armed with an iron whip, and the troop follow, “firmly convinced in their imaginations that they are transformed into wolves.” They fall upon herds of cattle and flocks of sheep, but they have no power to slay men. When they come to a river, the leader smites the water with his scourge, and it divides, leaving a dry path through the midst, by which the pack may go. The transformation lasts during twelve days, at the expiration of which period the wolf-skin vanishes, and the human form reappears. This superstition was expressly forbidden by the church. “Credidisti, quod quidam credere solent, ut illæ quæ a vulgo Parcæ vocantur, ipsæ, vel sint vel possint hoc facere quod creduntur, id est, dum aliquis homo nascitur, et tunc valeant illum designare ad hoc quod velint, ut quandocunque homo ille voluerit, in lupum transformari possit, quod vulgaris stultitia, werwolf vocat, aut in aliam aliquam figuram?”–Ap. Burchard. (d. 1024).

From Sabine Baring-Gould’s marvelous volume The Book of Were-Wolves (1865).

“A Snake Is Afraid of a Man That Is Naked,” and Other Great Occult Tips on Animals (Heinrich Cornelius Agrippa von Nettesheim)

From Heinrich Cornelius Agrippa von Nettesheim’s Three Books of Occult Philosophy or Magic, (1533)

The bird called bustard flies away at the sight of a horse, and a hart runs away at the sight of a ram, as also of a viper.

An elephant trembles at the hearing of the grunting of a hog, so doth a lion at the sight of a cock; and panthers will not touch them that are anointed all over with the broth of a hen, especially if garlic hath been boiled in it.

There is also enmity betwixt foxes and swans, bulls and jackdaws.

Amongst birds, also, some are at perpetual strife one with another, as also with other animals, as jackdaws and owls, the kite and crows, the turtle and ring-tail, egepis and eagles, harts and dragons.

Also amongst water animals there is enmity, as betwixt dolphins and whirlpools, mullets and pikes, lampreys and congers.

Also the fish called pourcontrel makes the lobster so much afraid that the lobster, seeing the other but near him, is struck dead.

The lobster and conger tear one the other.

The civet cat is said to stand so in awe of the panther that he hath no power to resist him or touch his skin; and they say that if the skins of both of them be hanged up one against the other, the hairs of the panther’s skin fall off.

And Orus Apollo saith in his hieroglyphics, if any one be girt about with the skin of the civet cat that he may pass safely through the middle of his enemies and not at all be afraid.

Also the lamb is very much afraid of the wolf and flies from him. And they say that if the tail or skin or head of a wolf be hanged upon the sheep-coate the sheep are much troubled and cannot eat their meat for fear.

And Pliny makes mention of a bird, called marlin, that breaks crows’ eggs, whose young are so annoyed by the fox that she also will pinch and pull the fox’s whelps, and the fox herself also; which when the crows see, they help the fox against her, as against a common enemy.

The little bird called a linnet, living in thistles, hates asses, because they eat the flowers of thistles.

Also there is such a bitter enmity betwixt the little bird called esalon and the ass that their blood will not mix together, and that at the braying of the ass both the eggs and young of the esalon perish.

There is also such a disagreement betwixt the olive-tree and a wanton, that if she plant it, it will either be always unfruitful or altogether wither.

A lion fears nothing so much as fired torches, and will be tamed by nothing so much as by these; and the wolf fears neither sword nor spear, but a stone—by the throwing of which, a wound being made, worms breed in the wolf.

A horse fears a camel so that he cannot endure to see so much as his picture.

An elephant, when he rageth, is quieted by seeing of a cock.

A snake is afraid of a man that is naked, but pursues a man that is clothed.

A mad bull is tamed by being tied to a fig-tree.

(NB: I took the editorial liberty of turning Agrippa’s marvelous paragraphs into a list, which I think reads a bit better, or at least more absurdly).