Cryptid Profile: Rougarou
The Rougarou is a creature of folklore that strongly resembles that of the werewolf and has very strong history within the state of Louisiana. Most notably, French Louisiana, which stretches across the southern part of the state.
Settlers to America have long brought their stories and legends of monsters and myths with them across the ocean and have blended them together with the stories of the local people and already established culture for centuries. The legend of the Rougarou is no different; French-European settlers blended stories with Acadian settlers (any peoples that dwelled along the atlantic coast north of Virginia in the 16th century) in the mid 1600′s and from there, the legend took on a new and original tone. Much like that of the werewolf (which has deep roots in European history) an unsuspecting victim is cursed or damned, and takes on physical and transformative traits which resemble those of a dog or wolf. But this new and original form of human-wolf did not fully transform and seemed to actually be ashamed of it’s newfound power as opposed to the werewolf of old that embraced its wolf form and supernatural powers.
The Rougarou is described (according to classic Cajun legend) as being a creature with a normal human body from the shoulders down (with extremely faint canine definition in the feet), but with a wolf or dog neck and head. It is very lean yet muscular and it stands a minimum of six feet tall. It is said to prowl the the swamps, fields and forests of the Acadiana (a 22 parish region) and Greater New Orleans regions. It is often thought to be shy and tries to hide from the local townsfolk out of fear and shame due to its curse, but that does not mean it is not vicious at times. If need be, it is fully capable of using violence and aggression as a means to hunt and defend itself.
Another variation of the old legend is that the Rougarou is a beast sent forth by the devil to hunt down and kill followers of the Catholic faith who do not follow the rules of Lent as given by God. This story is closely linked with the French Catholic stories of Loup-Garou (Loup is French for wolf, and Garou is from Frankish garulf, which is cognate with the the English werewolf) that warn about humans who have been punished and transformed into a wolf creature due to their breaking of the rules of Lent seven years in a row.
A more “monstrous” legend is known as “The curse of the Rougarou.” In this folktale, a human has been cursed (either by witchcraft or by disobeying God) and must remain a Rougarou for 101 days. During this time, the cursed one is in their human form by day, and creature form by night. While in human form, they appear to be sickly and remain secretive about the situation for fear of death from the locals. While in Rougarou form, the creature is constantly on the prowl or victims to satisfy its bloodlust. After the 101 days is complete, the curse can be transferred on from the current victim to a new victim, but only if the Rougarou draws another humans blood while in its monstrous form. This can be accomplished by either biting or scratching (again, much like that of a werewolf).
Throughout history though, it appears that the legend of the Rougarou has most often been used to inspire great fear in misbehaving children and obedience in easily persuaded adults. Elders of the region were often known to tell stories involving the Rougarou as a means to persuade children to behave, obey their parents, do their chores, and go to church. If the children did not listen, they were told the Rougarou would get them once the sun went down and night rolled in. It was essentially a cajun version of the boogeyman.
As time went on though and the creature became more mainstream, it took on a more monstrous appearance (as do most myths and legends). What started as a cursed soul with a humans body and a wolfs head that was reclusive and transformed into a snarling, blood thirsty, man-sized human wolf hybrid that attacked anyone who dare step foot into its swamp.
-The Pine Barrens Institute
*Image Credit: Google