Nain Rouge

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Representation of "Le Nain Rouge", or "The Red Dwarf", the mythical figure that haunts Detroit and is cause for all of the problems that plague the city.

For more about the French mythological being sometimes called "nain rouge", see Lutin.

The Nain Rouge, French for "red dwarf", is a mythical creature that some believe originated in Normandy, France,[1] as a type of lutin. Contrary viewpoints speculate that the alleged creature is more closely related to the Algonquin myths of "Glooscap" who, it is said, created protective nature spirits and dwarves in the Midwestern United States.[2] Original legends tell of the creature being seen as a protector of Detroit, Michigan, but due to modern interpretations, is now feared by its residents as "the harbinger of doom."[3]

Detroit urban legend[edit]

His appearance is said to presage terrible events for the city. The Nain Rouge appears as a small childlike creature with red or black fur boots. He is also said to have "blazing red eyes and rotten teeth." (Skinner 1896)

The creature is said to have attacked the first white settler of Detroit in 1701, Antoine de la Mothe Cadillac who, soon after, lost his fortune. The creature is also said to have appeared on July 30, 1763 before the Battle of Bloody Run, where 58 British soldiers were killed by Native Americans from Chief Pontiac's tribe. The small tributary of the Detroit River which still flows through what is now Elmwood Cemetery turned red with blood for days after the battle. It is said he was seen dancing on the banks of the Detroit River.

Multiple famous sightings occurred in the days before the 1805 fire, which destroyed most of Detroit. General William Hull reported a "dwarf attack" in the fog just before his surrender of Detroit in the War of 1812.

Jane Dacy of East Elizabeth Street was at home performing errands one evening in October of 1872 when she entered a dark room and saw what the Detroit Free Press called a ghost. However, the description of "blood-red eyes, long teeth and rattling hoofs" seems more akin to the famed Nain Rouge than a mere specter. The fright of seeing the creature caused Dacy to faint and become bed-ridden.[4]

Another woman claimed to have been attacked in 1884, and described the creature as resembling, "a baboon with a horned head ... brilliant restless eyes and a devilish leer on its face." Another attack was reported in 1964.

Other sightings include the day before the 12th Street Riot in 1967 and before a huge snow/ice storm of March 1976, when two utility workers are said to have seen what they thought was a child climbing a utility pole which then jumped from the top of the pole and ran away as they approached.

More recently, in the autumn of 1996, according to an article in the Michigan Believer, the Nain Rouge was spotted by two admittedly drunken nightclub patrons, who claimed to both have heard a strange "cawing sound, similar to a crow," coming from a "small hunched-over man" who was fleeing the scene of a car burglary. The creature was described as wearing "what looked like a really nasty torn fur coat."

Detroit Beer Co., a brewpub in downtown Detroit, has as its signature brew a "Detroit Dwarf" lager, named in honor of the Nain Rouge.

In 2010, a community-based movement began a tradition of a costumed community parade in the Midtown/Cass Corridor neighborhood. Called the Marche du Nain Rouge,[5] this event is a revival of an early tradition in the legend of the Nain Rouge. At the conclusion of the parade, an effigy of the imp was destroyed, thus banishing the evil spirit from the city for another year. Each year, parade participants and spectators are encouraged to wear costumes so that when the Nain Rouge next returns, he will not recognize the persons who once again ousted him from the city limits and thus will not be able to seek personal vengeance.

The 2011 event featured a parade followed by the banishment and a party in Cass Park, drawing hundreds of guests.[6] At both the 2010 and 2011 events, an ad hoc organization calling itself The Friends of the Nain Rouge and We Are Nain Rouge have protested the banishment parade, arguing that the Nain Rouge is not to blame for the city's ills and that considering Detroit's population loss, no one should be banished from the city, particularly those who have been there the longest. Both groups also work toward making the event a celebration of Detroit's folkloric ancient guardian.[7][8] The banishment parade has also taken place in 2012,[9] 2013[10] and 2014.[11] The 2014 parade included a short speech from Alexis Wiley, Mayor Mike Duggan's representative.[12]

In fiction[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ E. Cobham Brewer (1898). "Nain Rouge". Dictionary of Phrase and Fable. 
  2. ^ Lewis Spence (1914). "Scandinavian Analogies". North American Indians Myths and Legends. 
  3. ^ (Skinner 1896) Myths and Legends of our Lands, vol. 6, by Charles M. Skinner, printed about 1896, Nain Rouge.
  4. ^ "Saw A Ghost". Retrieved 24 March 2013. 
  5. ^ "Marche du Nain Rouge". Retrieved 21 March 2011. 
  6. ^ Wattrick, Jeff. "Hundreds participate in Detroit's 2011 March de le Nain Rouge". Retrieved 21 March 2011. 
  7. ^ Detroit News
  8. ^ Detroit Free Press
  9. ^ HuffPost Detroit
  10. ^ Gus Burns MLive
  11. ^ Detroit Free Press
  12. ^ Marchers drive evil spirit Nain Rouge out of Detroit for another year By Marlon A. Walker Detroit Free Press Staff Writer
  13. ^ "IMDB:Hayley Nault". 
  14. ^ Royal Oak Firm Releases Nain Rouge Graphic Novel, Film in the Works, dbusiness, Izzi Bendall Joseph, October 22, 2014

External links[edit]