La Tarasque

archived 10-31-99
Archive file# h103199b
donated by James Vandale

La Tarasque

Ancient postcard showing the dragoness La Tarasque. (circa 1905)
En Provence - La Tarasque
LL. Selecta - Levy et Neurdein Reunis - 44, Rue Letellier - Paris.

However, I have found the story of the dragoness La Tarasque who ravaged the southern part of France, the Provence.

Long time ago a huge monster emerged from the sea and chose the river Rhone as its new home. It was a dragoness, half land mammal, half fish. She outsized twelve elephants, had teeth like swords and a skin like iron. Her father was the water dragon Leviathan, her mother the giant snake Onachus, and her name was Tarasque.

Wherever the beast appeared, she brought terror and destruction. All animals fled her. She destroyed houses, and her breath was flames. Many heroes tried to kill her, and perished. After seven years of ravage a farmer found the skin of the dragoness and considered her dead. But every seven years the Tarasque hat to slough, and the farmer had only found her cast-off skin.

Seven more years went by. The Tarasque had destroyed all bridges and devoured everyone who wanted to cross the river. At last the inhabitants of the troubled area tried to lure the dragonness into a trap. Near the town Avignon there was a deep swamp. Whoever got there was lost. So they bound animals to trees near the trail leading to the swamp. The beast followed this line of prey. But when she approached the trap, she turened around and fled back to the river: The swamp belonged to the realm of the devil, and being a creature of the devil herself, the Tarasque was warned.

Again seven years passed. Then one day Saint Martha happened to visit the area. When she heard of the beast, she went out to catch it - barefooted, in her white dress, with no other weapon than a jar of holy water. The dragonnes came out to devour her, but was banned solely by the power of the cross and the holy water. St. Martha led the beast to the town, where it was killed. The citizens errected a new church in honor of St. Martha, and the town changed its name to Tarascon.

A german version of this legend can be found in:
FRÜH, Sigrid (Hrsg. u. Vorw.) (1988):
Märchen vom Drachen.
Fischer TB Bd. 2875, 172 p., Frankfurt a./Main (Fischer).

© MCMXCVI by J. Georg Friebe
Custos Musei Naturalis Historiae Vorarlbergensis, Dornbirn (Austria) last update 29.06.1997

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