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Monsters and myths: Beware the ‘loup-garou’

The Story

What fearsome creature howls under the full moon? In French Canada, it can only be one thing: the legendary loup-garou, the lone werewolf of Quebec lore. Like any good legend, the story of the loup-garou changes with the teller. In this version, a young man named André apprentices as a hunter and trapper with an experienced coureur de bois who has a terrible secret: he is a loup-garou. Storyteller Hubert Langlois relates the tale on CBC Radio. 

Medium: Radio
Program: Quebec Now
Broadcast Date: Dec. 25, 1973
Performer: Hubert Langlois
Duration: 7:48

Did You know?

• The story heard in this clip ends after the loup-garou appears once more. It attacks Léo, a stranger who has made camp with André and his mentor Hubert Sauvageau (sauvage is French for "wild" or "savage"). Armed with his good-luck charm, André hurls it at the loup-garou and strikes it square on the white spot on its head, drawing blood. Before their eyes the loup-garou transforms into Sauvageau, who thanks André for freeing him from a curse.

• The story of the loup-garou came to Quebec in the 17th century with immigrants from France. Legends of werewolves, also known as lycanthropes, had a long history in France and Germany. Popular belief held that werewolves were humans under a spell that transformed them into wolves. People suspected of being werewolves were burned at the stake alongside those accused of witchcraft.

• In some versions of the story, Hubert Sauvageau comes out of the woods and is taken in by the local miller, Joachim Crête. The churchgoing townspeople disapprove of the two men's drinking habits, and are alarmed when sheep and cow carcasses start turning up. Late one night Crête encounters a fierce wolf and manages to cut off its ear during a violent struggle. In the morning, Crête notices that his friend Sauvageau is missing an ear.

• In October 1990 Canada Post released a series of 39-cent stamps celebrating some of Canada's most famous monsters. The loup-garou was one; the others were Ogopogo, the lake creature of Okanagan Lake; Sasquatch, the giant man-beast of western forests; and the kraken, a giant squid from the waters off Newfoundland. Of these, only the kraken is accepted by scientists as real.

• Another well-known Quebec legend is the story of the chasse-galerie -- a flying birchbark canoe. The legend tells of a canoe, propelled by the power of the devil, that whisks a group of voyageurs from the bush to civilization to celebrate New Year's Eve. On the return flight, one of the passengers looks back at the devil. The canoe plunges from the air and is caught in the branches of a large pine tree.

• Many Quebec legends were preserved by Marius Barbeau (1883-1969), one of Canada's best-known folklorists. As an anthropologist at the National Museum in Ottawa (now the Canadian Museum of Civilization), he collected traditional Canadian songs, stories and artifacts. His focus was largely on the French-language traditions and those of many of Canada's aboriginal groups. Barbeau produced over 1,000 books and articles on Canadian folklore.




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