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Le Loup-Garou

There is a creature that has terrorized many villages across Europe before it made its way over the Atlantic Ocean to the Americas. This creature hides among regular humans during the day and most nights but on the nights of the full moon, it cannot hide any longer. It attacks livestock and takes the form of a giant humanoid wolf. In English it is the Werewolf, in French it is called Le Loup-Garou. In 1700s Québec le Loup-Garou was considered a very real fear and now it is considered an old French legend.


On the Saint-Laurent River – James Pattison Cockburn, crédit: Bibliothèque et Archives Canada, no d’acc 1934-39

            Le Loup-Garou terrorized the area of Québec for years but 21 July 1766 the Québec Gazette reported a werewolf attack at St. Rock, near Cap. Mouraska. Le Loup-Garou took the form of a beggar, asking for work and promising to do things that he could not do. Then at night a loup-garou would terrorize the village, destroying livestock all around the area. 2 December 1767 le Loup-Garou had returned, this time in Kamouraska and Québec City. Le Loup-Garou allegedly caused considerable destruction to the city and when the citizens attacked it and hurt it, le Loup-Garou just came back angrier.

            What happened after that? Did le Loup-Garou die? Were the citizens victorious?

            No one seems to know. It was as if the creature just disappeared. It was never reported again in a major newspaper but rumours of it surrounded the province of Québec.

            Now le Loup-Garou has become a folktale in Québec and there a two popular stories involving a Loup-Garou. Interestingly enough, both versions involve a man named Hubert who ends up being the werewolf.

            The first tale of le Loup-Garou comes from a small unknown village. In this village there was a miller by the name of Joachim Crête. Crête hired a stranger, who had shown up at his door, named Hubert. Hubert was a reliable hard-worker who did not ask for too much. After work every night the two of them would drink and play checkers, they were known for being too excessive in their drinking. Afterwards, Hubert would leave the house into the dead of night. Crête wasn’t suspicious of the behaviour, but he did think it was a little odd.

            Then a loup-garou began mauling sheep around the town. Hubert asked the miller what he thought of these stories and Crête just laughed, calling them silly rumours. It couldn’t be more than a pack of wolves.

            But one night the mill broke. The miller and Hubert went to fix it but the mill just wouldn’t budge. The miller lost track of Hubert and went back inside, deciding to fix the mill in the morning when they had light. Then a huge black dog, the size of a human, with massive fangs and glowing red eyes entered his house. Crête called for Hubert and the dog responded. It was at that moment that the miller believed his worker to be le Loup-Garou.

Crête fell to his knees to pray and that is when Hubert sprang on him. The miller grabs a sickle from the wall and cut off le Loup-Garou’s ear, as this is considered one way to kill a loup-garou. The beast disappeared and Hubert reappeared moments later, but he was missing an ear. The miller was hit with realization and Hubert fled from the area, never to be heard from again.

The second tale begins with a hunter and trapper named Hubert Sauvageau (French for savage) and his apprentice André. The two of them make a camp in the woods with a stranger name Léo. Rumours of a loup-garou were prominent at the time and Hubert asks André if he knows how to spot one and what to do if faced with one. Hubert tells him what he should do and gives him a good luck charm. If a werewolf attacks, André is to throw the good luck charm at the white spot in the middle of his head. The three of them tuck into their beds to go to sleep. Hubert leaves the camp when he believes the other two are asleep, but André is woken by Hubert’s movements.

There is howling and rustling in the forest around the camp and a massive white wolf appears. It drags a deer passed André and the sleeping Léo. It begins to eat the deer near the camp. As dawn comes, the wolf gets up and goes into the forest with Hubert reappearing moments later, instantly going to sleep in his bed.

André is convinced that his mentor is le Loup-Garou and wakes up Léo, telling him everything he had seen. He shows Léo the carcass of the deer but there are no tracks around it. It is said that a loup-garou never leaves tracks behind. Léo becomes convinced and they discuss what to do.

When Hubert awakens, the other two of them confront him. He admits that he is le Loup-Garou but he would never hurt them, they had proof of that last night. But Léo is not convinced and says Hubert can’t make any promises. Hubert asks them not to tell but Léo says he cannot keep it a secret and that he would kill a loup-garou if necessary.

The next night le Loup-Garou comes back and goes to attack Léo. André throws the good luck charm at the spot on le Loup-Garou’s forehead, drawing blood. It turns back into Hubert who thanks André for freeing him of the curse.

Le Loup-Garou – credit: Library and Archives Canada; Copyright: Canada Post Corporation

What do the Quebecois believe makes a person a loup-garou?

Well, it is said that anyone who misses their Easter duties seven years in a row is immediately cursed to be a loup-garou. In some cases, the only way to save this cursed person is to know who they are in their human form and draw its blood when they are a loup-garou. Or as previously stated, cutting off an ear of a loup-garou will destroy. A loup-garou can be very dangerous if it is not saved or killed.

In the area of Québec, it was truly believed that a loup-garou was terrorizing them and mauling the livestock. Whether it was a loup-garou or just a pack of wild animals is unknown for people who believe in the supernatural. Now le Loup-Garou lives as a folk legend in Québec culture. So when you go out in the wilds of Québec always be aware of the natural and supernatural dangers that lurk in the trees.

Bibliography

DStaff. “Werewolf-Legend of Quebec.” DME: Documystere (July 25, 2012). Updated February 12, 2014. Accessed April 11, 2019. documystere.com/monstres-creatures/loup-garou-legende-du-quebec/

Friedman, Amy and Johnson, Meredith. “The Loup Garou (A French Canadian Tale). Uexpress (February 28, 1999). Accessed April 11, 2019. www.uexpress.com/tell-me-a-story/1999/2/28/the-loup-garou-a-french-canadian

Langlois, Hubert. “Beware the ‘loup-garou’.” CBC Archives: Quebec Now (December 25, 1973. Radio Show. Accessed April 11, 2019. www.cbc.ca/archives/entry/monsters-and-myths-beware-the-loup-garou

Schmitz, Nancy. “Loup-Garou.” The Canadian Encyclopedia (March 12, 2007). Edited January 21, 2015. Accessed April 11, 2019. www.thecanadianencyclopedia.ca/en/article/loup-garou

Summers, Ken. “Beastly Burdens: Investigating the Menacing Loup-Garou, Quebec’s Werewolf.” Week in Weird (November 8, 2011). Accessed April 11, 2019. weekinweird.com/2011/11/08/beastly-burdens-werewolf-quebec/

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Nanabijou – The Tale of The Sleeping Giant

The Sleeping Giant from the The Bluffs in Thunder Bay March 2018 – original photo by Piercing Moon Creations

Whenever you take a trip to Northern Ontario, the main hub is Thunder Bay. This city is made out of two older cities: Fort William and Port Arthur, amalgamated in the 1970s. Fort William is one of the oldest and first fur trading posts in Canada and North America, and it has only grown since that time. Before colonization began, Thunder Bay was home to many tribes of Algonquin people.

Sitting at the most Northern part of Lake Superior, it serves a beautiful view of the largest Great Lake. The most impressive sight that can be seen from any hill in Thunder Bay it that of The Sleeping Giant. A formation of land that looks like a giant who laid down in the water and fell asleep. Now, rocks, trees and other life live upon this giant who has never gotten up. It is a wonderful sight to behold.

            The tale of this giant is old and if one has been to Thunder Bay, they have likely heard of Nanabijou and the silver mine resting at his feet. There are variations to the tale but this is one of the popular ones. The legend tells how this particular formation of land came to be.

            There was a powerful and benevolent god, Nanabijou (or Nanna Bijou or Nanabozho) who loved the Ojibwa tribe of the Great Lakes region. He watched over them and helped them in their times of need. One of these times was the arrival of Europeans, whitemen, in the area who had begun setting up trading posts and seeing what resources could be gleaned from the land. With them, the Europeans, brought disease and alcohol, both having long-lasting and detrimental effects to the native population of Canada. It was during this difficult time that Nanabijou offered a gift to the Ojibwa tribe, a gift that the Europeans must never learn about or it would turn to a curse and Nanabijou would turn it to stone.

            The gift was silver.

            The Ojibwa people began mining the silver. They produced such finely crafted items with the silver better than all of the Algonquin tribes in the area. Others began to be envious of this. The ones who were the most envious were the Sioux.

            The Sioux went to the Ojibwa camp and began to torture and kill the Ojibwa but the Ojibwa refused to give up Nanabijou’s gift. Figuring that they could not get the information by force, the Sioux decided on a different tactic. They sent a scout, disguised as an Ojibwa tribesman, into the camp. He sat and listened, finally learning the location of the mine. Once he had found out what he had come for, he left, stopping at a trading post on his way.

            Having nothing to pay with, the scout traded a piece of silver which excited the two Europeans working the trading post. To find out where the scout had gotten the silver, and where they could get more, the Europeans gave him alcohol. Once drunk, the Sioux scout divulged all of the secrets and immediately the two Europeans set off to find the silver mine.

            Nanabijou was not blind and he knew exactly what was happening. As soon as the Europeans knew where his gift was located he sprang into action. Angry and disappointed Nanabijou created a massive storm from Lake Superior. Waves became taller than hills and the wind whipped trees from the ground. Water filled the Europeans boat, killing them. Then, Nanabijou laid down, arms crossed over his chest and the mine under his feet away from everyone. There, Nanabijou lays to this day, protecting his gift.

The Sleeping Giant from Waterfront Park Thunder Bay, May 2018 – original photo by Piercing Moon Creations

            The Ojibwa knew what had happened instantly and gave their thanks at being allowed to access what silver they had. The “whitemen,” however, still try mining to this day.

            To mine Silver Islet is a massive undertaking as the mine is 384 metres deep and beneath the dangerous and cold waters of Lake Superior.

            In 1870 the Montreal Mining Company sold it to Alexander Sibley of Silver Islet Mining Company. They had a rough start but once William B. Frue became lead engineer they knew to build a breakwall to protect the islet and had pumps that were to continue running at all times, pumping water out of the mine.

            The mine became so deep that the timber supports could not handle the rock weight and they had to leave a thick silver vein running down the mine leading to the roof to help drag the rocks up. After thirteen years mining came to a halt. The mine needed coal badly to keep the pumps going and a shipment of coal needed did not arrive. The pumps ceased and the mine flooded. After that, other attempts were never really made to reopen the mine. So, the mine closed and Nanabijou still rests with the mine at his feet.

Resting Under Our Feet, March 2018 – original photo by Piercing Moon Creations

            While this legend also holds some fact to it and artifacts from this tribe have had silver, there does not seem to be any from the stated islands themselves. The story of The Sleeping Giant is possibly just a version of a much older story that can no longer be traced to its origins. It is an incredibly important tale of the area and it is part of the history. There is no denying that the Sleeping Giant is a beautiful sight and it lays protecting a silver mine and the tribes of Lake Superior.

Bibliography

Kerry, Sullivan. “The Native American Legend of the Sleeping Giant and the Whiteman.” Ancient Origins: Reconstructing the Story of Humanity’s Past (July 19, 2016). Accessed March 25, 2019. www.ancient-origins.net/myths-legends/native-american-legend-sleeping-giant-and-whiteman-006302

Oades, Will. “The Surprising, Shocking, Startling, Astonishing Story of Silver Islet.” Ontario Parks (August 30, 2018). Accessed March 25, 2019. www.ontarioparks.com/parksblog/sleeping-giant-silver-islet-mine/

Reid, Stephanie. “Nanabijou – The Sleeping Giant.” Northern Ontario Travel (March 24, 2017). Accessed March 25, 2019. www.northernontario.travel/thunder-bay/legend-of-the-sleeping-giant

“Sleeping Giant (Ontario).” Wikipedia. Accessed March 25, 2019. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sleeping_Giant_(Ontario)

“The Sleeping Giant: An Ojibwa Legend.” First People – The Legends (2016). Accessed March 25, 2019. www.firstpeople.us/FP-Html-Legends/TheSleepingGiant-Ojibwa.html

Looking Towards a Giant, March 2019 – original photo by Piercing Moon Creations