Time for some of my favorite legends: the loup-garous and rougarous. Get ready for a big information dump.
Before we talk about rougarous, we have to talk about loup-garou, or – basically – French werewolves. Their name means “one who turns into a wolf.”
Firstly, some media (like Blood & Chocolate, even though I will admit I rather enjoyed the movie; and Dungeons & Dragons, in which loup-garou are for some reason just werewolves except actually badass once in a while, unlike their lesser counterparts in that setting) likes to throw around the idea that there is some kind of difference between loup-garous and werewolves. There isn’t.
Loup-garous and werewolves are the same thing. Loup-garous are werewolves. Rougarous are also werewolves.
Now for some history! When the French came to the Americas, specifically to Canada, they brought their werewolf legends with them, and they became tied into the werewolf legends already there among the Native Americans. The new creature that resulted is often called the American loup-garou.
There are a few differences…
French loup-garous are some of the only werewolves in folklore that had transformationstied to the full moon.
American loup-garous, on the other hand, can transform at will, night or day. And, despite the name, sometimes they would take the form of other animals (though this was very rare, and generally they were werewolves).
Both legends state that shedding the blood (not killing; if you can actually make it bleed, which was extremely difficult) of a loup-garou will make it return to human form and lift the curse. However, the attacker is then victim of that curse for precisely 101 days.
The curse will go away on its own (after 101 days) if the person hasn’t told anyone about their encounter with a werewolf and/or that they are a werewolf themselves. But if they ever uttered a word to anyone about being a werewolf or even encountering one, they’ll bear the curse forever.
Which, honestly, is a sweet deal, because loup-garous and rougarous in werewolf form always retain full human intelligence, memory, and sense of self on top of incredible senses and physical abilities, and the ability to change at will.
Why on earth would you not want to be one? I missed that part.
So, anyway, loup-garous would often go out and get vengeance on people. This association with American loup-garous may be connected to certain Native American werewolf legends, in which werewolves were considered beings of vengeance and guardian angels who would protect the good-hearted from those who would wrong them. As you’ll see, this also holds true for rougarous!
So now we move on to rougarous…
Traveling south to the Bayou, these French-Canadians took the American loup-garou legends with them. They became again mixed with the legends already present in the area, becoming the rougarou, hunting around the swamps and woodlands of New Orleans.
The biggest difference between rougarous and American loup-garous from up north is their appearance. While American loup-garous were sometimes (but, again, rarely) other animals and transformed fully into said animal, rougarous did not.
Rougarous are always wolves, never any other animal (and never a dog), and they maintain a humanoid appearance with a wolf head.
So are you thinking what I’m thinking?
Yeah. Rougarous are badass.
But wait, it gets even better.
All legends about rougarous specify just how terrifying they are. Intelligence and awareness of who they are is stressed. They are always said to be very difficult, if not impossible, to kill, and they’re some of the scariest bogeyman stories you’ll find down in that region.
Oh, and they have the vengeance thing going on too, like I mentioned.
But they’re not bad guys!
They will befriend and protect select people – usually orphans, widows, and the poor in general. Anyone rejected by society and downtrodden, but good at heart, will have the protection of a guardian angel werewolf.
If that isn’t just the coolest thing ever, I give up.
But don’t go anywhere yet, because it gets better still. How could it? Somehow, it does.
Rougarous are party animals. Ha ha. No, seriously. They are.
Rougarou balls are fires in the forest, usually in a clearing in the swamp, where werewolves are said to gather and hold big parties, dancing and howling around the fire, before they go out on a hunt.
And lastly, yes, you’re right about the religious part! They’re the only American werewolf legend with religious connotations. The rougarou supposedly does hunt down Catholics who don’t follow the rules of Lent. It also will generally hunt those who don’t obey the Ten Commandments/generally go around doing evil.
So now you know why they’re some of my favorites.