Werewolf Wednesday: Jean Grenier on Trial (1610)

LaConference

The seventeenth-century werewolf Jean Grenier has turned up a few times in this series, but always in second-hand accounts. I thought it was time I put the spotlight on a historical text that covers his case: La conférence du droict francois avec le droict remain, published in 1610. Any translation errors in the below summary are mine.

The document describes an incident from May 1603 in which a court hears about a series of gruesome infanticides that a boy named Jean Grenier claims to have committed in the form of a wolf.

Jean himself, present at the scene, asks to be imprisoned and gives a full testimony alongside three witnesses, one of whom is thirteen-year-old Marguerite Poirier. Jean’s testimony asserts that…

…while he wore a wolf’s skin, he was transformed into a wolf; that in this form he killed & ate dogs; that he had killed near his village a white dog, partially eaten its throat, & drunk the blood, but that the flesh & blood of dogs was not as good as that of children; that he had entered a house on the road from sainct Anthoine a d’Isle, had found no one but a small child, whom he had gone to eat near a garden hedge, and having given the biggest portion to a nearby wolf, went and ate a girl…

The testimony reaches Jean’s encounter with Marguerite, who beat him off with a stick. We then learn about Jean’s accomplices: one is Pierre Labourant, who keeps a wolf’s skin and a jar containing some sort of salve for Jean; the boy offers to procure these items of evidence for the court;. Jean also mentions running “in the company of eight or nine” on certain days of the week, “when the moon is low”. Labourant himself, meanwhile, lives in a house in the forest where he gnaws at a metal chain around his neck. Inside the house are various men being roasted, boiled or burnt.

In another anecdote, Jean describes being taken into the forest “to talk to a tall black gentleman, mounted on a black horse” who gave him cold kisses, made promises of food and money in exchange for services, and branded Jean on the thigh. Accompanying Jean was a man named Pierre de Tillaire, who underwent the same treatment at the hands of this “tall black gentleman”. Another accomplice is Jean’s father, Pierre Grenier.

More descriptions of brutal attacks follow. Jean Grenier is held in captivity, while the court rules that his father and Pierre de Tillaire be investigated.

Pierre de Lancre, who was involved with the Jean Grenier trial, would cover the case in detail in his 1612 book Tableau de l’inconstance des mauvais anges et demons. An English translation, On the Inconstancy of Witches, can be purchased here.

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