Antoine Chastel and the Beast of Gévaudan,
fiction or reality?
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Former slave to the barbarians, marginal surrounded by ferocious dogs, sadistic obsessed with the sight of blood ...
What did we not tell about Antoine Chastel!
Is this peasant from Darnes (Haute-Loire), married, father, who died at almost 80, really linked to the beast of Gévaudan who made nearly a hundred victims between 1764 and 1767?
Historical reality: correspondence, minutes, diagrams, burial acts and gazette articles constitute a solid base to draw up the chronology of facts established with a quantity of details; Provided to maintain a critical attitude towards them and analyze their veracity by crossing the sources.
The oral tradition: transmitted from word of mouth, distorted by the centuries and the imagination of the storytellers during the evenings, it is especially revealing of secular superstitions.
Fiction: it concretizes the "myth" by its powerful power of suggestion, and blurs the boundaries between reality and imaginary. To compose his work, an author can sometimes take great liberties with historical reality. He can dramatize an event, exacerbate the character traits of a character or even carry risky accusations, give in to the taste of sensationalism ... Marriage between history and fiction sometimes gives beautiful children. But more often than not, it gives birth to aberrations.
At the origin of the accusations, a novel:
On June 19, 1767, a man named Jean Chastel, residing in Besseyre-Saint-Mary (Haute-Loire), kills the beast of Gévaudan with a shot in charge of a ball and five chevrotines. It ends three long years of terror ...
In 1911, a thesis subject by Doctor Paul Puech, an eminent member of the Academy of Sciences and Letters of Montpellier, raised virulent debates. According to him, the beast of Gévaudan was a psychosis widespread by three factors: hungry wolves, mystifying, and a sadistic madman.
It was in 1936, in the Book The Beast of Gévaudan d'Abel Chevalley, that the general public is for the first time knowledge with Antoine Chastel, the son of Jean Chastel:
"[He] had once wandered in distant country, risky the galleys, known to the convicts, lived among the Huguenots of Vivarais, traveled to sea ... It was said that he had been taken by the pirates, that he had walked on Christ in Algiers (...) One day, we had seen him reappear, swarm, sewn, unrecognizable (...) For several years, he lived alone in his woods, sometimes in the pavilion, sometimes in one of the two or Three huts he had on Mount Mouchet, surrounded by half -aux mastins, still followed by his large red dog (...) "
"It is a beast, too, an awfully mutilated beast ... in its flesh (...) a castrated goat, it is disgusting but easy to lead ... (...) it was in Algiers , you know ... slave, and in Morocco, Christian valet of the beasts. Cursed flesh, scratched, two years with menageries, packs ... Ah! The hyenas, the bears, he raised, this sick gorilla! »»
Former slave of pirates and guardian of wild beasts, this emasculated and disfigured individual deeply hates the human race. The narrator's sister suggests that the beast has a master, and that it could be this "castrated goat". She plans to drag for some time to make her confess her guilt ... But some time later, the young woman's body is found atrociously mutilated into a wood. The author will not go further but still leaves heavy presumptions! ... He paints the portrait of the perfect "Serial Killer" before the time!
Where does this Antoine Chastel leave from which no one has ever mentioned the time when the story of the beast was still fresh in the memories? Two solutions: the unbridled imagination of the author or his misinterpretation of the oral tradition. But in no case with official archives which, as we will see, contradict its presumptions.
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