In the June of 1764 a creature appeared in Gévaudan - now part of the département of Lozère - which very quickly spread terror among the inhabitants of this bleak and poor rural area. Survivors of its attacks stated without hesitation that the creature was no ordinary wolf but some other kind of animal previously unknown there, which they called 'The Beast'.
It was audacious - disconcertingly so - and its target was mainly young boys and girls who'd been given the job of looking after cattle. It struck unpredictably, and over a wide area. It survived repeated attempts to shoot it, emerging apparently unscathed.
It seemed that nothing could destroy it. It had the knack of avoiding all the traps that were set for it, and it foiled every attempt by the country's best huntsmen, acting on the orders of King Louis XV himself, to track it down.
In despair, the peasants increasingly put their trust in the views expressed by the Bishop of Mende, believing that they were dealing with a demon which only God could destroy.
Finally, after four years of carnage, the Beast fell to the bullets of a local man, Jean Chastel, and the attacks ceased once and for all.
Not only did Chastel have knowledge of the area, he had also discovered that the Beast was no common animal; furthermore, it was not acting alone but was under human control. So simply killing it was not necessarily enough to bring the attacks to an end; he'd have to go beyond that, and having weighed up the situation carefully, that's what he did, to rid his homeland of its suffering.
This work shows in some detail that the story is even more complex than that, and involves a conspiracy - but who could have come up with such an idea, and why?
The whole thing happened 25 years before the French Revolution, and tensions were beginning to be felt in the provinces. Old grudges were coming out into the open again . The local nobilty could readily have been tempted to take revenge for the wrongs it had suffered at the hands of a monarchy already showing signs of weakness. The Beast and all the murderous havoc it wrought would be one way, among others, of destabilising the kingdom.
By 19th June 1767, after one thousand days, and at the cost of the lives of 78 people that we know of (64 of them children) in 160 officially recorded attacks, this diabolical scheme finally came to an end. Since then, in France, the blame for the whole ghastly business has always been laid at the door of the wolf, though in point of fact, the wolf had nothing whatever to do with it.
This book gives all the information necessary to understand the complexities of the affair, as well as unequivocally absolving the wolf of any blame. I have taken it upon myself to argue in its defence since in my opinion the Beast was neither a wolf nor a wild animal but could only have been a person and an animal acting together. On the face of it, this might seem a far-fetched hypothesis, but it does ultimately stack up, and so, although it flies in the face of received opinion, and at the risk of upsetting certain sensibilities, I hold to what I believe to be the true course of events, without in any way diminishing the boundless compassion due to the Beast's many young victims.
A typo appears in the back cover, where it is mentioned Louis XIV, whereas of course, you have all corrected it, it is Louis XV...
Year of publication of the presented edition : 2013 (430 pages)
Editor : De Borée
The author :
Born in Vaucluse in 1948 into a farming family, Hervé Boyac became a forester because of his love of nature. Self-taught, his 35-year affection for the wilderness, and 25-year fascination with wolves, has taken him to many countries in search of wolves and wildlife more generally. An active member of the association FERUS, who defends these great predators, he advocates for an acceptable return of the wolf to our country.
His interest in mythical versions of the animal also led to his work on the Beast of Gévaudan for close to 20 years now, and to publish his first book in 2004 “The Beast of Gévaudan”, a plea for the wolf. His new work sheds new light on this first one. In addition, the author has appeared on many television and radio broadcasts, participated in hundreds of conferences, and contributed a number of publications to various magazines and newspapers.
The multiple hikes he has taken alone, or accompanied, to the very sites of the attacks have allowed him to immerse himself in those places, verify the distances and travel times, note certain topographical or toponymic details, and reveal indications of human activity from the period of the Beast.