THE WEREWOLF OF PARIS
The belief that by occult power human beings can become transformed into animals is world-wide. In Britain, and particularly Scotland, during the seventeenth century it was generally accepted that witches could turn themselves into hares and in this guise go out at night to suck the udders of cows, leaving them dry of milk in the morning.
For many centuries wereleopards, werehyenas and were-jackals were feared throughout Africa and Asia; but naturally, as such animals did not exist in Europe, it was the human who had taken the form of a wolf that was dreaded.
Typical of the many accounts of werewolves is the story of the gamekeeper who went out at night, came upon a wolf, shot at it but only wounded the animal in the foreleg. On returning to his cottage he found his wife in bed suffering acutely, with her arm wrapped up in a blood-stained bandage and unable to give a satisfactory explanation of how she had come by her injury.
In France the werewolf is known as a loup-garou and as recently as 1925 in Alsace a garde-champêtre was tried for shooting dead what he believed to be a wolf but turned out to be a boy. This occurred at Uttersheim, a village near Strasbourg, and the whole population was solidly behind the rural policeman.
The great authority on werewolves is the late Reverend Montague Summers, and in due course we plan to publish his famous treatise The Werewolf in this series.
The present volume is outstanding in fiction on this subject, and was first published in 1934. The author, Guy Endore, was born in 1900. The opening of the tale has a very modem setting - an American girl in a Paris night club. But soon we are told of ancient documents describing a feud between two noble families in a past century, the Pitamonts and the Pitavals, who lived in castles not far from Grenoble. A young Pitamont was captured by the Pitavals, imprisoned in a well for many years and fed on chunks of raw meat that were thrown down to him three times a week. Gradually his cries for help became the snarling and howling of a wolf.
With Chapter Two we enter upon the main story, which starts in the early 1850s. A Madame Didier has brought to Paris, as a servant, a little country girl of fourteen. This innocent is seduced by a priest named Pitamont and gives birth to a son. The baby is normal and becomes a charming child; but he has hair growing on the palms of his hands!
Madame Didier has living with her Aymer Galliez, her nephew, an ex-officer crippled through having taken part in a socialist insurrection. After a while the little boy, Bertrand, begins to show strange and alarming symptoms. Galliez gradually assumes the role of uncle and guardian; he takes Bertrand and his mother back to her native village in the country. There the great struggle begins.
While at school in his early teens Bertrand, ever more frequently, suffers at night from terrible urges to roam the woods and hunt the animals in them. His first sexual experience produces a climax in his life. Desperately he fights against the inclinations that horrify him, but it is a losing battle. In the dark hours he becomes subject to physical changes. Galliez has to lock him in his room but he escapes, commits murder and gets to Paris.
It is now 1870 and the last phase of the Franco-Prussian war. Napoleon III has been captured and the Germans are shelling Paris, which is now in the hands of the Communists. The historic scenes in the besieged capital provide additional interest to the book.
Galliez has followed Bertrand to Paris and is desperately endeavouring to trace him. Meanwhile Bertrand has fallen in love, and his love is returned. When, at last, he comes face to face with his ‘uncle’ he declares himself cured.
Yet that is not the end, far from it; but it is not my function to disclose to the reader the terrible contents of the final chapters of this epic tale.