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Monsters of the Gevaudan (11 Edition)by Jay M. Smith
Synopses & Reviews
In a brilliant, original rendition, Monsters of the Gévaudan revisits a spellbinding French tale that has captivated imaginations for over two hundred years, and offers the definitive explanation of the strange events that underlie this timeless story.
In 1764 a peasant girl was killed and partially eaten while tending a flock of sheep. Eventually, over a hundred victims fell prey to a mysterious creature, or creatures, whose cunning and deadly efficiency terrorized the region and mesmerized Europe. The fearsome aggressor quickly took on mythic status, and the beast of the Gévaudan passed into French folklore.
What species was this killer, why did it decapitate so many of its victims, and why did it prefer the flesh of women and children? Why did contemporaries assume that the beast was anything but a wolf, or a pack of wolves, as authorities eventually claimed, and why is the tale so often ignored in histories of the ancien régime? Smith finds the answer to these last two questions in an accident of timing. The beast was bound to be perceived as strange and anomalous because its ravages coincided with the emergence of modernity itself.
Expertly situated within the social, intellectual, cultural, and political currents of French life in the 1760s, Monsters of the Gévaudan will engage a wide range of readers with both its recasting of the beast narrative and its compelling insights into the allure of the monstrous in historical memory.
Book News Annotation:
Women and children tending flocks were the primary victims of a mysterious monster that inflicted grisly death on some 60 people. The story was big news in France and Europe from November 1764, until November 1765, when a giant wolf was hunted down and the killings were attributed to that animal. The story has been retold and studied from many angles, but Smith (history, U. of North Carolina) takes a new approach. As he states in the introduction: "The identity of the beast presents a less compelling historical subject than the attitudes, assumptions, motives, and frustrations of the human beings who struggled to understand and defeat the lethal enemy in their midst. To probe these cultural and psychological depths, we must map the mental environment of the times." He does so in this study, investigating the interactions among "popular beliefs, scientific thought, religious tensions, media markets, aristocratic culture, local criminality, and postwar French politics...." Annotation ©2011 Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)
In 1764 a peasant girl was killed and partially eaten while tending sheep. Eventually, over a hundred victims fell prey to a mysterious creature whose deadly efficiency mesmerized Europe. Monsters of the Gévaudan revisits this spellbinding tale and offers the definitive explanation for its mythic status in French folklore.
About the Author
Jay M. Smith is John Van Seters Distinguished Term Professor of History, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
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