Rougarou

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The rougarou (alternately spelled as Roux-Ga-Roux, Rugaroo, or Rugaru), is a legendary creature in Laurentian French communities linked to European notions of the werewolf.

Versions[edit]

The stories of the creature known as a rougarou are as diverse as the spelling of its name, though they are all connected to francophone cultures through a common derived belief in the Loup-garou (French pronunciation: ​[lu ɡaˈʁu], /ˈl ɡəˈr/). Loup is French for wolf, and garou (from Frankish garulf, cognate with English werewolf) is a man who transforms into an animal.

Louisiana folklore[edit]

A traditional Cajun Courir de Mardi Gras costume based on a Rougaroo (figure on left)

Rougarou represents a variant pronunciation and spelling of the original French lou-garou.[1] According to Barry Jean Ancelet, an academic expert on Cajun folklore and professor at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette, the tale of the rougarou is a common legend across French Louisiana. Both words are used interchangeably in southern Louisiana. Some people call the monster rougarou; others refer to it as the loup garou.

The rougarou legend has been spread for many generations, either directly from French settlers to Louisiana (New France) or via the French Canadian immigrants centuries ago.

In the Cajun legends, the creature is said to prowl the swamps around Acadiana and Greater New Orleans, and possibly the fields or forests of the regions. The rougarou most often is described as a creature with a human body and the head of a wolf or dog, similar to the werewolf legend.

Often the story-telling has been used to inspire fear and obedience. One such example is stories that have been told by elders to persuade Cajun children to behave. According to another variation, the wolf-like beast will hunt down and kill Catholics who do not follow the rules of Lent. This coincides with the French Catholic loup-garou stories, according to which the method for turning into a werewolf is to break Lent seven years in a row.

A common blood sucking legend says that the rougarou is under the spell for 101 days. After that time, the curse is transferred from person to person when the rougarou draws another human’s blood. During that day the creature returns to human form. Although acting sickly, the human refrains from telling others of the situation for fear of being killed.[2]

Other stories range from the rougarou as a rabbit to the rougarou being derived from witchcraft. In the latter claim, only a witch can make a rougarou—either by turning into a wolf herself, or by cursing others with lycanthropy.[3]

Native American/First Nations folklore[edit]

The creature, spelled Rugaru, derives from Native American/First Nation legends, though there is some dispute. Such folklore versions of the rugaru vary from being mild bigfoot (sasquatch) creatures to cannibalistic Native American or Native Canadian wendigos. Some dispute the connection between these folktales and the francophone rugaru.

As is the norm with legends transmitted by oral tradition, stories often contradict one another. The stories of the wendigo vary by tribe and region, but the most common cause of the change is typically related to cannibalism.

A modified example, not in the original wendigo legends, is that if a person sees a rugaru, that person will be transformed into one. Thereafter, the unfortunate victim will be doomed to wander in the form of this monster. That rugaru story bears some resemblance to a Native American version of the wendigo legend related in a short story by Algernon Blackwood. In Blackwood's fictional adaptation of the legend, seeing a wendigo causes one to turn into a wendigo.

It is important to note that rugaru is not a native Ojibwe word, it is in fact, a word in the Métis language Michif meaning "Werewolf". This explains the striking similarity to the French word for werewolf, loup garou.[4]

It's possible the Turtle Mountain Ojibwa or Chippewa in North Dakota picked up the French name for "hairy human-like being" from the influence of French Canadian trappers and missionaries with whom they had extensive dealings. Somehow that term also had been referenced to their neighbors' stories of bigfoot.[5]

Author Peter Matthiessen argues that the rugaru is a separate legend from that of the cannibal-like giant wendigo. While the wendigo is feared, he notes that the rugaru is seen as sacred and in tune with Mother Earth, somewhat like bigfoot legends are today.[6]

Though identified with bigfoot, there is little evidence in the indigenous folklore that it is meant to refer the same or a similar creature.

In popular culture[edit]

The rougarou are the main shifter creatures in Olivia Leighton's "The Quarter" paranormal romance series.

The Audubon Zoo in New Orleans has an exhibit on the Rougarou and features a life-sized mannequin of what the Rougarou might look like.

Rougarou is also the title of an online literary journal published out of the University of Louisiana at Lafayette.

The NBA team formerly known as the New Orleans Hornets filed for several new name trademarks among which was the Rougarous.[7]

The Rougarou Fest is a festival that celebrates the folklore of the Louisiana bayous. It takes place on the last Saturday in October in Houma, Louisiana.

Dr John's song, "Loop Garoo," was released in 1970. This includes his standard voodoo references, but also seems to refer explicitly to alligator hunting. This same usage was reflected in Swamp People (season 4, episode 24), when the hunters capture a giant gator referred to by locals as Rugaroo.

It was probably first heard on television, pronounced as "Lougarog," in the 1970s TV-movie "Moon of the Wolf," starring David Janssen and Barbara Rush.[citation needed]

The creature is featured in an episode of Cajun Justice, an AE Television show. A camp owner alerted authorities and video taped what he suspected to be a Rougarou in the weeds behind his camp.[8]

The Rougarou was featured in the Destination America show Monsters and Mysteries in America.

Haven season 4 episode 11, a Rougarou is the suspect in some horrific murders featuring hearts being eaten straight out of the victim's chests.

Supernatural season 4 episode 4, a Rougarou is the monster-of-the-week.

The legend of the rougarou plays a prominent role in the History Channel television series Cryptid: The Swamp Beast. An unknown creature has been mutilating and killing animals and perhaps humans in southern Louisiana; some locals attribute the attacks to a rougarou.[9]

Footnotes[edit]