Which of you booknerds has ever heard of a rougarou? Anyone? Well, in case you haven’t, or have but are curious to learn a bit more, allow me to tell you: a rougarou is a Cajun legend of a beast that traditionally prowls the swamps around the Greater New Orleans area and is most often depicted as a human with a dogs head—Louisiana does not have wolves native to the area. But if it sounds like a werewolf, you’d be right! It has several similarities, but is also different enough to be classified as its own monster. As I lived in New Orleans for a few years, I was fascinated by many of the local legends and beasts, so much so that the rougarou and New Orleans itself became the inspiration for my short horror story “The Cautionary Tale of Bertrand Allary”.
There are several variations to the rougarou legend, some of the most common deviations are used like boogeyman stories to scare children into obedience, particularly around Lent. Where if you break Lent 7 years in a row, you’ll be turned into the dog-like beast. But another variation that I liked more and served as the basis for my rougarou was the blood sucking version—this is New Orleans after all, I’d be remiss not to draw from the legend with vampire vibes as well. In this version, a rougarou is under the spell for about a third of a year, but the curse can be passed from person to person when the rougarou draws human blood. During the day, the rougarou reverts to human form, if they draw blood from a new victim, but often appears very sickly in the daytime. They can’t tell anyone of their curse though, for if they do, the curse remains permanent. It’s tragic and terrifying, and exactly the kind of folktale I love!
Additionally, when I was brand new to New Orleans, I was intrigued by its history: how and when they drained most of the state to be livable and its long history of organized crime, to be exact. It was such an interesting time that it felt like too good of a backdrop to go to waste. Which is why I based “The Cautionary Tale of Bertrand Allary” in the early 1920’s. Then, to marry that with the legend of the rougarou? It created such a wonderful, atmospheric vibe that, even though I don’t often write strictly horror stories, I had a blast writing Bertrand’s tale.
What followed was the story of how one man delves into a curse and sickness he doesn’t understand, or truly believe in. Because, really, who would honestly believe something like a rougarou existed? The story documents his descent into becoming both a villain and a monster, along with how he tries to combat that change. I don’t want to share too much more than that in order to avoid spoilers with what becomes of Bertrand and his friends, but if you are intrigued and want to read the whole of the story, be sure to get a copy of “The Heart of the Devil” villains anthology where the story appears in full!