erewolves Cases from Medieval French Chronicles
As centuries passed there arrived a point when fanciful stories told to amuse people were replaced by real incidents and real suffering. Suddenly tales such as Stubbe’s started to emerge. It was as if people believed that werewolves were every where. The trial records of lycanthrope increased at an epidemic rate. In France alone between 1520 and 1630 some 30,000 individuals were labeled as werewolves, many of them underwent traumatic interrogation and torture. Confessed or not, most of them suffered vile death at the stake. Here few recorded sensational werewolf trials have been mentioned.
The case of Pierre Burgot and Michel Verdun
The trial of Pierre Burgot and Michel Verdum, two French peasants in 1521 got wide spread notoriety. Nineteen years ago when Burgot was desperately trying to gather his storm frightened sheeps, he came across three mysterious black dressed horsemen. One of them assured him the future protection of his sheep and gave him some money. In return the stranger asked Burgot to obey him as the Lord. Burgot accepted the offer and agreed to meet them again. In the second meeting the so-called Lord announced the full conditions of the deal; Burgot must denounce the God, the Holy Virgin, the Company of Heaven and baptism.
As year passed Burgot became reluctant to maintain the pact. Then he was called by Michel Verdum. Verdum ordered him to strip naked and rub a magic ointment on his body. When Burgot had followed as instructed he found his arms and legs had become hairy and his hands reshaped into paws. Verdum transformed himself into werewolf too and together they ran through the surrounding countryside. They committed various awful crimes. They tore to pieces a seven-year-old boy, killed a woman and abducted a four-year-old girl. The unfortunate girl was fully eaten up by two of them. When they were caught they were duly put to death. Their picture was hung in the local church as a reminder of all the evil deeds that men could commit under the influence of Satan.
Gilles Garnier, “the hermit of Dole,"
After finding several half-eaten children the authorities of the town Dôle in Frenche-Comté province put a price on werewolves’ head in 1573. Two months after the injunction, an alleged werewolf named Gillas Garner was arrested. Most of his victims were nine to twelve-year-old children. He slew them with his paws and teeth. To satisfy his appetite, he ate flesh from their thigh, legs and belly. The story of his crimes and execution still survives through folk songs.
Werewolf of Caude
Again in 1598 Jacques Rollet was tried for killing and eating a boy of fifteen. He was known as the werewolf of Caude. When he was found in the woods, he was half-naked with long matted hair and blood covered hands. He was still holding a lump of flesh. At his trial he described how he had slaughtered various people, including a number of attorneys, lawyers and bailiffs. Though he was sentenced to death he was later sent to a madhouse. Strangely enough he stayed there for only two year.
Among other werewolf cases, the story of a tailor stands out for its peculiarity. The alleged werewolf would hide in the forests and for a passerby. Whenever he could get a chance, he jumped out and killed the unsuspecting person. He had a shop and used it as a bait for children. He would tempt them into his shop and kill them. In his cellars he store body parts and bones in barrels. The records accumulated during his trial were so repulsive that the court decided to destroy them.
The Boy Lycanthrope
There is a record of a child werewolf as well. He was Jean Grenier of Aquitaire. His story was more or less like that of Burgot. When his father had beat him, he ran away from home and wandered around the countryside. One evening another boy named Pierre La Tihaire took him to the depths of the woods. According to them, the Lord of the Jungle was there. He was a tall black dressed dark man upon a dark horse. The Lord got off his horse and kissed Grenier with icy lips. In the second meeting both of the boys submitted themselves to the acclaimed Lord who scratched tattoos on their thighs as brands. He brought out a wine bag and gave them a drink. He also presented them wolf skins and an ointment. The Lord taught them how to rub their bodies with the ointment before putting on the fur.
During their reign of terror fifteen children including one from Grenier’s cradle disappeared. When finally Grenier was caught in 1603, he confessed of eating them all. At that time he was fourteen, physically and mentally retarded.
Taking into account of his age and limited mental capacity, the Judge ordered Grenier to be confined in a cloister for life. There he refused to eat any regular food and devoured offal instead. Seven years later when a man called Pierre de Lancre visited him, he had grown gaunt and lean. His deep-set black eyes were like fire balls, hands were like claws with bent nails and teeth were like canines. Apparently he enjoyed hearing about wolves and readily imitated them. After one more year he died, to be remembered forever in the anal of werewolves as the “boy lycanthrope”.
Greiner’s case is amongst those that contributed to the shift in attitude towards the werewolf phenomenon. The head of the inquest committee who looked into this case found him incapable of rational thought mentioning “The change of shape existed only in the disorganized brain of the insane. Consequently it was not a crime that could be punished”. Judges began to regard werewolf cases with more tolerance.