|A sculpture of Marie-Jeanne Valet battling the Beast|
Two hundred fifty years ago today, in the mid- to late morning of August 11, 1765, a young woman named Marie-Jeanne Valet, 19 or 20 years old, and her sister Thérèse, 16 or 17, were attacked by the Beast.
Marie-Jeanne was a servant of the curate, or clergyman, of the parish of Paulhac. She and Thérèse were crossing the river Desges on their way to the community’s tithe farm. (Local peasants contributed a tithe, or one-tenth, of their output for the support of the local church and cleric; the crops, etc., were kept separately in a tithe barn.)
The Beast, lurking in the underbrush along the river banks, spotted the girls, and flung itself at Marie-Jeanne.
Luckily, the sensible young woman had brought along a spear, “a pole with a blade, about six inches long and an inch wide, at the end of it,” per Beast chronicler Abbé Pierre Pourcher.
She used it.
|Marie-Jeanne in action; she was called an "Amazon" and compared to Joan of Arc, the Maid of Orleans.|
Marie-Jeanne Valet impaled the Beast with her weapon, actually pushing it over, all the while shouting for help, along with her sister. According to the accounts and letters presented by the Abbé, the creature retreated, “cried out very loudly and held her paw in front of the wound,” then “threw herself in the river, where she rolled over several times” before disappearing.
Later, when questioned by authorities, the girls described the Beast as being the size of a large farm dog. It was gray with a white chest and black back, they said. Its front was bigger than its rear. It had a big flat head and big teeth.
The authorities examined Marie-Jeanne’s spear and noted that the shaft of the weapon was coated in two to three inches of blood. The intrepid Marie-Jeanne was an “Amazon,” according to the press. Royal gunbearer François Antoine, impressed with her bravery and composure, called her as a second Joan of Arc, the Maid of Orleans. The girls, meanwhile, being uneducated, could not sign the statements documenting their experience.
Today one may view a sculpture (pictured in this post) commemorating the valor of Marie-Jeanne Valet in a windswept churchyard in Auvers, France.