Described as a shadow that haunts late-night walkers, as ravenous beast, ghost, boogeyman and jealous lover transformed, the rougarou, also known as the loup garou, is French Louisiana’s version of the French werewolf myth. Loup is French for wolf and garou translates to a man who has changed into an animal. When the French Acadians were deported from Canada by the British in 1755, those who sought refuge in Louisiana brought stories of the rougarou with them (Lugibhil).
Rougarou stories vary among families and locations in southern Louisiana. Some tell of a rougarou who punishes misbehaving children and kills Catholics who break Lent. In Swapping Stories: Folktales from Louisiana, Loulan Pitre recounts a story his father told him of a loup garou who once prowled the bayous at night, culling fisherman’s oysters and eating half of them. Other rougarou tales feature a man who is constantly followed by the rougarou and becomes so obsessed with the creature that when he finally kills it, usually by stabbing it with a wooden stick, he spends the rest of his life mourning its absence.
There is also the common motif of the wanderer who encounters the rougarou at night, draws its blood and is thus caught under the spell of the rougarou for a year. In these versions, the rougarou is often someone the victim knows.
The rougarou interests us not only for its strange, shifting menace, but also for what it reveals about the importance of storytelling for human connection and entertainment. Expert in Cajun folklore and University of Louisiana professor Barry Ancelet says of rougarou lore, “Whether they believe there is seriously a character who roams the night or not is unimportant. They believe in the stories. And they believe in the ability to scare people through the stories. It becomes a way of connecting one generation to the next” (Lugibihl).
Loulan Pitre, “An Oyster Culling Tale.” Collected by Pat Mire and Maida Owens
on September 20, 1993. Swapping Stories: Folktales from Louisiana.
Ed. Carl Lindahl, Maida Owens, and C. Renee Harvison.
Glen Pitre, “Loup Garou as Shadow Companion.” Collected by Pat Mire and
Maida Owens on September 20, 1993. Swapping Stories: Folktales
Lugibihl, Steve. “The Rougarou: A Louisiana Folklore Legend.” The
Nichollsworth. 26 April, 2001: Lagniappe.