Werewolf Wednesday: The Ballad of the Loup-Garou (c. 1501)

Back in 1824, William J. Thoms included a ballad touching upon lycanthropy in the French volume of his series Lays and Legends of Various Nations: Illustrative of their Traditionals, Popular Literature, Manners, Customs and Superstitions. The book includes both an English translation and the original French form of the ballad, the latter attributed to the sixteenth-century compendium Le Jardin de Plaisance et Fleur de Rhétorique. This volume had multiple editions since its initial publication in 1501, and I am not sure how many include the ballad in question; Thoms specifically credits “the edition without date”.

Both versions, along with Thoms’ brief commentary, are reproduced below. The ballad tells the humorous story of a man who dresses as a werewolf in a misguided attempt to court a lady.


Oh list! and I will tell,
All of a gay gallant,
Who loved a wife and sought
Her husband to supplant.
She feigned consent, and said,
“My gentle love and true
Come at the vesper hour,
Dight like a Loup-Garou.”

“Ladye, with all my heart,
At eve I’ll come to thee,
Nor man, nor dame, be sure
Shall gain a glimpse of me;
Thus too will I depart,
All loyally from you”—
“Then come,” said she, “to-night,
Come like a Loup-Garou.”

Her good man then she told.
What she had done and said;
Quoth he, “’twere merry jest
To catch this gallant blade.”
Quoth she, without delay—
“To get him scared by you,
Anon be sure you shall
Here catch the Loup-Garou.”

Without fail presently,
The gallant there ycame.
All muffled in a hide.
And whispered to the dame,
Thus speaking — “Fair Neck say,
Art pleased since thus I do?”
She feigned alarm, and cried,
“Help! help! the Loup-Garou.”

Her husband was at hand.
And laid on with his club,
And all his neighbours helped
This Loup-Garou to drub,
Of blows good store got he,
For one and all set to,
And thrashed, and laughed the while,
Alas! poor Loup-Garou.

He now for mercy begged.
And cried — “Pray pardon me!
And you I pray beside,
Who fain would lovers be —
Bethink how I was drubbed.
When I but thought to woo,
And take heed, lest ye be
Served like the Loup-Garou!”

Note.— From le Jardin de Plaisance et Fleur de Rhetorique — sign k. 1. recto, of the edition without date, published by Michael le Noir. The Loup-Garou, or Wehr-Wolf, which means a man who has the power of changing himself into a wolf, figures conspicuously among the traditions of France. MARIE of FRANCE has given the history of one. in her Lay of Bisclavaret, a translation of which will be found in the present volume.

We are indebted to M. MICHEL, who is ao well known to-the lovers of Old French Romance, for his skill in editing such matters, for pointing out to us the original ballad, which we think exhibits so much NAIVETE, and is so agreeably versified, that feeling certain our readers will be gratified by its perusal we have inserted it accordingly; —

Balade du Loup Garoux

I fault que je vous die
Dung tres gentil Galois,
Qui cuidoit son amye,
La femme d’ung bourgois
Mais elle fist la fee
En disant, “Amy douU
Venes a la vespree
Faisant loup garoux.”

“Voulentiers,” dist il “Dame,
Viendray devers le soir,
Que homme naura ne femme
Qui sen puist parcevoir;
Bien me scauray retraire
Loyement devers vous” —
Elle dist “venez done faire
De nuit le loup garoux.”

A son mary va dire
Tout le fait et compter,
II dist, “cest bien pour rire
S’on le peut lattraper —
Dist elle» sans attendre,
“Affin qui soit escoux,
Tantot vous feray prendre
Leans le loup garoux.”

Tantost sans demourer
Le galant arriva.
Dune pel affublee.
Puis la dame hucha
Disant, “Gorge polie
Suis je bien a vo goux?”
Elle fist lesbaye
Criant, “Au loup garoux!”

Le Bourgeois fut abille
De frapper dung baston
Tant ceulx de la Ville
Vindront a lenviron:
Li eut mainte coupee
car ils frapoient touz,
En faisant leur risee
Du poure loup garoux.

Puis dist, “Merey vous prye1
Vueillez moy pardonner!
Et aussi je supplies
Ceuiz qui voudrony aymer,
Que de moy leur souviergne
Comment icy suis rassoux
Chascun bien le retiengne
Qui ne soit loup garoux.”

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