Video. When the wolf devoured the children in the Sarthe | The mail

Historian Benoît Hubert believes that seven fatal attacks by a wolf that occurred between 1 May and 30 September 1753 were the work of a single animal. © Samuel QUIGNON / Le Petit Courrier – Echo of the Loir Valley

It’s a ancestral fear which today has left our lands but has persecuted the inhabitants of the area for centuries campaigns of France : the wolf.

Based in Sarthe in Le Mans, the historian e researcher Benoît Hubert has taken over in various archives local, a series of deadly attacks by a cannibal wolf who killing at least seven children in Belinois and in the Loir Valley in 1753.

15 years ago, I discovered a manuscript by Marin Rottier de Madrelle in the archives of the Society of Agriculture, Sciences and Arts of the Sarthe which are kept in the Le Mans media library. In his story, this local gentleman referred to two devoured children. I wanted to check if it was marginal or if there were other cases.

Benoît Hubert, historian

Seven children killed

The first offensive listed on May 1, 1753 is about 11-year-old Magdeleine Frontault, who lives near the city of Saint-Ouen. The next day there is a 12-year-old orphan devoured in turn from a wolf to Saint-Gervais-en-Belin.

A few weeks pass and on May 29, again a little girlMarie Vérité, 8 years old, was the target of a “wolf deer” during a procession which she attends. They save her but she dies a few hours later. On 6 June you are on the other side of the forest of Bercé a Parigné-l’Eveque that the monster kills a child, Pierre Pilon, 7 years old.

Parish register

On 8 June, in Changé, 8-year-old Joseph Lebarbier was “devoured by the beast”, indicates the priest in his parish register.

The next day Julien Tournesac, also 8 years old, was buried after being “devoured by a ferocious beast ” to Brette les Pins.

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The beast of Maine

Finally, September 30th it is Request hit by “a carnivorous beast” that devours 9-year-old Jean Robert.

For Benoît Hubert, who teaches history at the Marguerite Yourcenar high school in Le Mans, all these attacks were carried out by only one and even wolf cannibal which he calls the “Beast of Maine”.

Two women attacked but not killed

According to his research, the same man eating monster he also allegedly assaulted two women, one of whom was accused Saint-Ouen-en-Belin was saved by his clothes, including a whale bone collar that the animal was unable to get out.

The second, attached to Saint-Biez-en-Belin on the same day, he managed to defend himself with a distaff.

More than 3000 fatal attacks in France between 1580 and 1830

To conduct his research, the historian also relied on the work of an academic from Caen, Jean-Marc Moriceau, who appears to be specialist. His work has unearthed 3,000 death certificates of people devoured by wolves in France between 1580 and 1830. (An updated work appeared in 2022 Story of the bad wolf).

Still a danger?

With the return of the wolf to the region, Benoît Hubert became more interested in this animal which he considers fascinating.

“If he comes back could blame that man ? There have been no more wolf attacks in France since the beginning of the 20th century.And century, but it still happens to be so Asia It’s inside Russia For instance. “

From necrophagia to cannibalism

At that time, there were two types of wolves preying on humans. First the famous wolves deer (large wolves capable of attacking deer) who would have acquired the taste of human flesh by feeding corpses left after great epidemics or some Conflicts like the Fronda.

In these periods “the populations were massacred and not necessarily buried. These wolves first nscavengers it would become cannibals. “

Rabid animals

In the second case we are dealing with rabid wolves.

“But these animals attacked any target, especially men. Rabid wolf attacks were recorded in Sarthe during the mid-18th century.And to Kettle And Vallon-sur-Gee. “

The researcher’s methodology

What methodology Does it use Benoît Hubert to find the tracks of the child-eating wolf?

For the specific case of the Beast of Maine, on the basis of the document written by the hand of the lord of Belinois, Manceau found the victims on the parish registers the aforementioned municipalities then meticulously extended the search circle to neighboring municipalities, then to subsequent ones.


The steward’s reports are also precious, they contain the amount bonuses awarded to those who have killed a wolf.

A paw of the animal then produces a month’s wages for a day laborer,

Benoit Hubert

Recurring patterns

The statistics from the corpus of 3,000 cases of wolf attacks have made it possible to establish certain diagrams.

Another child-eating wolf in the forest of Bercé

Browsing through the very rich parish registers, Benoît Hubert believes he has found another wolf-eating child in the Sarthe. He has so far found the death certificates of five children killed by wolves. “I recorded an attack on Changé, then one on Ecommoy, two on Marigné-Laillé and one last on Mayet, a dismembered 6-year-old boy. But there are certainly others. Here, I’ve had it for months. I think it’s the same beast, “says the historian who will now search for other attacks around the Bercé forest around this time.

“This happens mainly in the period from April to October: when the vegetation allows to hide the approach of the predator and there are people outside. But we also see that in the vast majority of cases they are poor children who care about keeping a cow, a goat … “

The myth of the werewolf in the Sarthe

The superstition sometimes attributed the misdeeds of the child-eating wolf to gueru (or gairoux), humans struck by a curse: the famous werewolves.

The Beast of Maine struck about ten years before the famous Beast of Gevaudan to which some have attributed evil powers.
The Beast of Maine struck about ten years before the famous Beast of Gevaudan to which some have attributed evil powers. (© maléfi © Engravings from the Treatise on physiognomy by Charles Le Brun and Louis Morel d’Arleux, 17th century)

Louis Simon evokes this myth in his memoirs, specifying not to give it credit.

The history of the Maine beast will be revived and romanticized in 19And century. In the newspaper published by the bishopric, Maine provincethe Marquis de Mailly took matters into his own hands: he dissolved a Silver bullet which he entrusted to the gamekeeper of L’Hermitage who manages to kill the beast. All this did not happen but the society of the time tells us. After the Revolution, the clergy, in any case this clergyhighlights a avenging god “, Analyzes Benoît Hubert.

Terror in Touraine

The researcher explains that a beast made reign terror in the Loire Valley and in particular in Touraine. From January to June 1693 one or more wolves almost committed themselves 150 attacksincluding 77 victims around the Benais.

Other rounds of attacks took place near and in the present Loir and Cher from 1742 to 1755.

shocking scenes

Shocked by what they had seen, the priests sometimes he took the time to detail the stigmata left by wolves.

This is especially true on 9 June 1751 in Nouzilly, north of Tours, where the body of a 15 year old shepherd.

Here is the description given by the man of the church: “They brought the sad remains of his corpse into the church wrapped in a woman’s apron and covered with his robes full of blood. La Beste had cut the tracheal artery and part of her right cheek, she had eaten a thigh separated from her body up to the knee; so that the bone of this thigh, all consumed from the upper part, was naked of flesh such as if it had scraped on purpose by a knife. The Beast had eaten his entire belly to devour his intestines and gnawed at his ribs. ”

Benoît Hubert will hold a lecture entitled Wolf are you there? The Killer Summer of the Maine Beast (1753) Thursday 12 May 2022 from 16:00 to 18:00 at the Crédit Agricole de l’Anjou et du Maine, 48 place de la République in Le Mans. Free admission. Reservations required at the following address:
Other themes on history, heritage and culture in Sarthe and Mayenne can be discovered with the Studiae Cenomanensis association.

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