“Animals are reliable, many full of love, true in their affections, predictable in their actions, grateful and loyal. Difficult standards for people to live up to” ― Alfred A. Montapert
When it comes to werewolves, there’s usually a lot of rending and tearing. Maybe a little shedding. Sometimes fleas. Befitting the capital of soul, Motown werewolves are historically all about the love, oft unrequited, but isn’t that what all the best R&B anthems are about? From the founding of Detroit in 1701 by French explorer Antoine de la Mothe Cadillac to today, the werewolves of Detroit have explored the softer side of lycanthropy, which nonetheless involves a lot of biting and scratching. They are wolves, after all.
Jacques Morand was a French Canadian woodsman, the founding member of the prolific Morand family (and a relation-by-marriage to Cadillac himself), born in the Batiscan region of Quebec in 1651. As one would expect from a 17th Century French Canadian puttering about the untamed wilderness, Morand was both a lover and a fighter, and apparently fairly lonely. Opinions vary on the object of his affections, but he “met and loved the daughter of an Indian trader who pitched his camp with the Indians on the shore of Lake St. Clair, but the maiden was already consecrated to her God. She had long wished to enter a convent and the wish had just been granted. This only served to madden her lover who at the price of his soul assumed the form of the Loup Garou, the phantom wolf. In this form he pursued the pious girl who saved herself by a prayer which turned the monster to stone” (Detroit, 1896, p101). This of course makes the whole episode sound rather cut and dry, whereas Morand actually had to broker a deal with local witches to turn him into a werewolf, and then stalk the young lady (commonly identified as Genevieve Parent), who had prudently already gotten herself a bit of divine mojo in lieu of a restraining order.
Long were the shores of Detroit vexed by the Snake God of Belle Isle and his children, the witches, for the latter sold enchantments and were the terror of good people. Jacques Morand, the coureur des bois, was in love with Genevieve Parent, but she disliked him and wished only to serve the church. Courting having proved of no avail, he resolved on force when she had decided to enter a convent, and he went to one of the witches, who served as devil’s agent, to sell his soul. The witch accepted the slight commodity and paid for it with a grant of power to change from a man’s form to that of a werewolf, or loup garou, that he might the easier bear away his victim. Incautiously, he followed her to Grosse Pointe, where an image of the Virgin had been set up, and as Genevieve dropped at the feet of the statue to implore aid, the wolf, as he leaped to her side, was suddenly turned to stone (Skinner, 1896, p139-140).
Now that’s a blues song. Boy loves girl. Girl hates boy. Girl turns boy into stone. The fact that it involves a werewolf just brings the funk. Not only that, it seems to have established a pattern among Detroit’s werewolves who by and large just seem to be looking for love, but are notoriously bad at expressing themselves.
Harder was the fate of another maiden, Archange Simonet, for she was seized by a werewolf at this place and hurried away while dancing at her own wedding. The bridegroom devoted his life to the search for her, and finally lost his reason, but he prosecuted the hunt so vengefully and shrewdly that he always found assistance. One of the neighbors cut off the wolf’s tail with a silver bullet, the appendage being for many years preserved by the Indians. The lover finally came upon the creature and chased it to the shore, where its footprint is still seen in one of the boulders, but it leaped into the water and disappeared. In his crazy fancy the lover declared that it had jumped down the throat of a catfish, and that is why the French Canadians have a prejudice against catfish as an article of diet (Skinner, 1896, p139-140).
Personally, as a devotee of a fried catfish in a nice remoulade sauce, I find this absolutely appalling, but it does speak to a certain difficulty among Detroit werewolves in getting a date or maintaining any sort of healthy relationship. The story of Archange Simonet sounds like a straight up case of kidnapping as it is commonly told, but what is often neglected is that the wolf was actually quite charming. He’d inadvertently scared her on the beach prior to her wedding day, but had also encountered her in the woods on the day of her marriage, and dressed for the occasion.
The wedding day at last dawned, the sun shone brightly and all nature seemed to smile on the fair bride of that day. Archange, arrayed in her simple dress of white batiste, was a charming picture of innocence and beauty. Going into the woods to gather her bouquet of wild flowers, the Garou again crossed her path, but this time she forgot her fears in her sense of the ludicrous at the figure of the beast, which had robbed some habitant of his coat and hat, and had carefully tucked his tail away. In his hand he held a cane, which he twisted in a nonchalant manner; he was a fair caricature of a Parisian dandy. Seeing she did not fly in terror, he was encouraged to give her a lovesick leer displaying his wolfish tongue and teeth. Scattering her flowers, Archange fled and arrived breathlessly home just in time to slam the door on the wolf, which had pursued her there (Hamlin, 1884, p118-119).
Perhaps the abundance of lovelorn werewolves is why so much soulful music originated in Detroit, or as the old Spanish proverb says, “He who keeps company with wolves learns to howl”.
Detroit (Mich.). Committees on centennial celebration of evacuation by the British. The Centennial Celebration of the Evacuation of Detroit by the British. Detroit, 1896.
Hamlin, Marie Caroline Watson. Legends of Le Détroit. Detroit: T. Nourse, 1884.
Skinner, Charles M. 1852-1907. Myths and Legends of Our Own Land. Philadelphia &: J.P. Lippincott company, 1896.
I am sharing this post with everyone.
Reblogged this on West Coast Review and commented:
A must read for anyone interested in werewolves, history, the blues and anything interesting. Five out of five stars from West Coast Review!
What!? This is fascinating!
Reblogged this on Kate McClelland.
Le Nain Rouge is infamous around here; we even have hold a parade in his honor. These guys have been all but forgotten. Thanks for sharing their stories. I feel like a more informed Detroiter for reading them.