The Rougarou is a fearsome beast that is said to prowl the swamps and sugar cane fields at night, looking for prey. But what is the origin of this legend, and what are its characteristics?
The History of the Rougarou
The rougarou has its roots in 16th century medieval French folklore, where it was called the loup-garou. The term loup-garou comes from the French words for wolf (loup) and werewolf (garou). The loup-garou was a common scapegoat for crimes and misfortunes in rural France, such as missing children, ransacked houses, or livestock attacks. Some people were even accused of being loup-garous and put on trial for witchcraft or lycanthropy.
The legend of the loup-garou was brought to Louisiana by French and French Canadian settlers, who adapted it to their new environment and culture. The name changed to rougarou over time, due to different pronunciations and spellings. The rougarou became associated with the Cajun people, who are descendants of French colonists who were expelled from Acadia (present-day Nova Scotia) by the British in the 18th century. The Cajuns settled in southern Louisiana, where they developed their own distinct dialect, cuisine, music, and traditions.
The rougarou also incorporated elements from other cultures and beliefs, such as Native American legends of shape-shifters, African American tales of swamp monsters, and Catholic teachings of sin and punishment. The rougarou was used as a tool to instill fear and obedience in children and adults alike. For example, elders would warn children that if they misbehaved or ventured into the woods at night, the rougarou would come and get them. Similarly, Catholics who broke the rules of Lent for seven years in a row would be hunted down and killed by the rougarou.
The Appearance of the Rougarou
The rougarou is often described as a creature with a human body and the head of a wolf or dog, similar to a werewolf. However, some variations depict it as a rabbit, a pig, an alligator, or even a mosquito. The rougarou usually has glowing red eyes, sharp teeth and claws, and a thick fur coat. It can stand on two legs or run on all fours. It can also shapeshift into different forms or blend into its surroundings.
The Behavior of the Rougarou
The rougarou is a nocturnal creature that prefers to hide in dark and secluded places, such as swamps, forests, or abandoned buildings. It feeds on blood and flesh of animals or humans. It is very fast and strong, capable of breaking through doors and windows. It can also hypnotize or paralyze its victims with its gaze.
According to some stories, the rougarou is a human who has been cursed by a witch or by breaking Lent. The curse lasts for 101 days, during which the person transforms into a rougarou every night. The only way to break the curse is to transfer it to another person by drawing their blood. However, the person who receives the curse cannot tell anyone about it for fear of being killed by their community. If they do tell someone, they will die instantly.
Other stories say that the rougarou is permanently cursed and cannot change back to human form. It can only be killed by fire or by cutting off its head. Some legends also say that the rougarou can be repelled by placing 13 small objects near an entrance, such as coins or beans. The rougarou will be compelled to count them but will lose track because it cannot count past 12.
The Cultural Impact of the Rougarou
The rougarou has become an iconic figure in Louisiana culture and beyond. It has inspired many books, movies, TV shows, songs, games, festivals, and products that feature or reference the creature. For example:
- The Rougarou Fest is an annual event that celebrates Cajun culture and raises funds for historic preservation in Houma, Louisiana. It features live music, food vendors, costume contests, haunted tours, and more.
- Rougaroux Rum is a brand of rum produced by Donner-Peltier Distillers in Thibodaux, Louisiana. It has a special praline-flavored version called Rougaroux 13 Pennies.
- Rugaru Adventures is a zip line park located in Broken Bow Lake State Park in Oklahoma. It offers scenic views of the lake and forest while zipping through the air.
- Supernatural is a popular TV series that follows two brothers who hunt down various paranormal creatures. In season 4 episode 4 “Metamorphosis”, they encounter a man who turns into a rugaru every night.
- Scooby-Doo! Music of the Vampire is an animated movie that features Scooby-Doo and his friends solving a mystery involving vampires and a bayou beast called the rou-ga-roux.
The rougarou is still alive in the imagination and folklore of many people today. Some claim to have seen it or heard its howls in the night. Others use it as a metaphor for social issues or personal struggles. Whether you believe in it or not, the rougarou is a fascinating creature that reflects the rich history and culture of Louisiana.