Monday, May 9, 2011

Black metal and The Beast

About a week after comparing Wikipedia and Monsterpedia, I decided to return to Wikipedia, to see if I had any information to contribute to the discussion. Much of the entry discusses the beast as either a singular or dual entity (a solo wolf, or a wolf and its mate) . I decided to add M. Smith's opinion of the beast. The Wikipedia entry can be found here, and my addition here. In case it's been altered already (quite likely!), my addition was this: Jay M. Smith, in his book "Monsters of the Gévaudan," suggests that the deaths attributed to the beast were more likely the work of a number of wolves or packs of wolves.[4]

A few weeks ago, I mentioned a French film (Brotherhood of the Wolf), which I ended up watching in part (in other words, I got fed up with it and stopped watching with an hour still to go) . I'll leave my opinion at this: if you enjoy cultural appropriation and fortune-telling prostitutes who like to make morbid and nonsensical remarks, you'll enjoy the movie*. Otherwise.. . (*Disclaimer: I may be exaggerating the nature of this film) In all seriousness, it was drawn-out, poorly plotted and populated by weak characters. Apparently, it's quite popular in French cinema (I'm still trying to figure that one out), but perhaps this is simply because of the prevalence of the beast in French culture.


The book I requested through ILLiad has thus far been my most comprehensive resource on the beast of Gévaudan. It, of course, begins with a discussion about the beast that includes a physical description, narrative accounts and a general overview of France at time of the attacks.

Death-by-wolf was not an extremely uncommon way to perish in eighteenth century France--one rural historian (Jean-Marc Moricceau) was "inclined to put the true number of human fatalities in the early modern period closer to a staggering 9,000." (Smith 12) Smith explores many aspects of the beast , one of which is the social exacerbation surrounding the killings, just why--if wolf killings weren't all that rare at the time--the killings in the Gévaudan were so focused upon with such vigor. He suggests a variety of answers: media-exploitation, superstition, "a contemporary appetite for exotica," and religion, among many other instigators. (Smith 14)

Quite soon after the book begins (at the end of the introduction)--Smith discusses just what the true nature of the beast may have been, declaring that "the actual killings likely resulted from the work of a number of wolves, or even a succession of packs of wolves that moved through the region over a period of year " (Smith 6). Most of the other sources I found usually just list a variety of possibilities and shy from settling on a single one--so it was nice to read something more definitive, whether or not it's true.

I imagine that this willingness to state an authoritative opinion stems--partially, at least--from the academic nature of this book. Though Monsters of the Gévaudan certainly isn't unbiased, it seems to be built on a more solid foundation of knowledge than any of the other resource I've explored. Because of this breadth, it can, no doubt, form opinions more reliably (though a wider range of research certainly doesn't guarantee it perfection and penultimate truth). The book's breadth is likely a direct result of the respectability of the author, Jay M Smith, who is "is John Van Seters Distinguished Term Professor at the University of North Carolina" (Monsters 2011), thusly, a respectable academic.


I'll conclude on a rather light-hearted and corny note: a black metal band named after the beast itself (well, its place of origin). So, without further ado, the Canadian band Gévaudan (and some of the most processed black metal I've ever heard…granted, it's melodic black metal…kind of catchy though, despite the video's ah…really awesome! cgi): THE ANTI-ART. Don't ask me why they aren't wearing corpse paint...

(works cited)

"The Beast of Gévaudan." Wikipedia. MediaWiki. Web. 4 May 2011. <>.

Gévaudan. "MOVING PICTURES - PROMO THE ANTI-ART." Gévaudan. 2007-2008. Web. 09 May 2011. <>.

Le Pacte Des Loup. Dir. Christophe Gans. Perf. Samuel Le Bihan, Vincent Cassel, Émilie Dequenne. Universal Pictures, 2001. DVD.

"Monsters of the Gévaudan - Jay M. Smith." Harvard University Press. 2011. Web. 09 May 2011. <>.

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