Les chasseurs luttent contre la Bête du Gévaudan

The young Portefaix’s fight against the Beast

History of the fight of the 7 children from Villeret de Chanaleilles described by the priest of the parish and requested by the substitute of the intendant of Languedoc in Mende.

Details of the ravages caused by the fierce Beast in the Vivarais and in the Gevaudan, in Auvergne and in Rouergue.

On January 12, the fierce Beast attacked 5 little boys from the village of Villeret in the parish of Chanaleilles.

The three oldest were about eleven years old, the two others were only eight and two little girls of about the same age accompanied them. These children were looking after cattle, on the top of a hill. Each of them was armed with a stick bearing a 4 inches sharp iron blade.

The fierce Beast surprised them as they only saw it when it was near them; they gathered as fast as possible and they took a defensive position. The Beast got around them two or three times and finally thrusted on one of the smallest boys. The three older boys swooped down on it, stung it on several occasions but could not pierce its skin. However, they made it loose its grip. It step back two feet away after having grabbed a piece of the right cheek of the boy and it ate in front of them this bit of flesh.

Soon after, it re-attacked those children with a renewed fury; it took by the arm the smallest of them all and took her in its mouth; one of them was terrified and proposed to the others to escape while it was devouring the one it took but the oldest one, called Portefaix, shouted they had either to free their friend or to die along with him.

Therefore they chased the Beast and bayed it in a swamp whose ground was so unstable that the Beast sank into it, slowing down its run. The children could join it and because they knew they could not pierce its skin with their sticks, they tried to hurt its head and especially its eyes. They stroke several blows to its mouth that was continuously wide-open but they never could reach its eyes. During that fight, the Beast always had the little boy under its feet but did not have the opportunity to bite him, as it was too busy dodgering the assaults.

Finally, these children harassed the Beast so constantly and so boldly that it dropped for the second time the little boy who was just slightly injured to the arm- by which the Beast had caught him - and wore a light scratch to his face.As the little band did not stop shouting with all his might, a man rushed up and shouted along with them. Hearing this new enemy, the Beast stood on its hind legs and ran away in a stream one mile further. Three men saw the Beast dive into it, go out of the water and roll around the ground for some time. Afterwards, the Beast took the road of Mazel and wolfed down a 15 year-old boy in the parish of Grozes in Gevaudan.

History of the fight of the young Portefaix and his friends against the fierce Beast on January 12, 1765.

On January 12, seven children from Villaret (parish of Chanaleilles), 5 boys and 2 girls, were looking after cattle on one the highest hill of the Gevaudan. The Beast attacked them. The 5 boys were: Jacques André Portefaix, 12 years old, 4’6 tall; Jacques Couston, 12 years old, 3’10 tall, Jean Pic, around 12 years old and of the same size, Joseph Panafieu, 8 years and a half, 3’5 tall, Jean Veyrier, 8 years old, same size. The two girls were Madeleine Chausse, 9 years old and Jeanne Gueffier.

Each of those children was armed with a sheath stick bearing a 4 inches sharp iron blade. They only saw the Beast when it was near them. They gathered quickly, drew their small weapons, crossed themselves and took a defensive position. Portefaix, their leader, was in front with Coustou and Pic who were the stronger. He placed the girls on the second row and behind the girls, Panafieu and Veyrier, the youngest. The Beast reached them and turned around them several times: they followed its move.

It grabbed the throat of Joseph Panafieu, one of the smallest, which was placed to the rear of the band. The three older boys pounced on the Beast, stung it on several occasions but they were never able to pierce its skin. However, they finally forced the Beast to loose its grip. It step back two feet away taking away a piece of the right cheek of Joseph Panafieu and ate it in front of them. Then the Beast came back even more furious, turning around them; it knocked down the youngest boy (Jean Veyrier) with its nose. Portefaix, Coustou and Pic kept the Beast at bay but it came back and bite the youngest boy to his lips, took his arm with its mouth and took him away.

The whole band ran after the Beast, lead by Portefaix, and forced the Beast to come into a swamp that was 50 feet away. The Beast got stuck in the mud and the children were therefore able to catch up with it.

One of them, who had put up a good fight, had lost heart when he saw the blood flowing out of the cheek of his cousin Joseph Panafieu and the little Veyrier in the mouth of the Beast. He had first proposed to the others to escape and to let the Beast eat the one it had caught. But Portefaix, their leader, shouted to join him and to free their friend or to die along with him. And all of them followed him, even the one who had a teared-off cheek. When he reached the Beast, he told them not to sting it by the rear, as it was impossible but to focus on its head and especially the eyes or to its constantly open mouth. They stroke the Beast several blows in the mouth and in the head but they could never hit the eyes.

During the fight, the Beast still kept under its legs the child it had caught but it could never bite him as it was busy dodgering the blows that the band tried to strike to its eyes or to its mouth. The Beast caught once the weapon of the small Portefaix that was damaged. After the last blow, the Beast jumped back, leaving the little Veyrier in the quicksand. As soon as it left him, Portefaix stepped between him and the Beast to prevent the Beast to pick up the child again.
The Beast withdrew on a butte. The children hounded it and routed it. It was verified that the man one speaks in the first history only showed himself when the Beast was already gone.

Document kept at the archives of Montpellier

The young Portefaix’s fight against the Beast

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