Today, in honor of Flashes in the Dark posting my story, “Between the Wolf and the Dog,” I’m going to make a sort of a different Haunt Jaunt. In fact, today you might notice an International theme.
I’ll launch the journey with this post on France’s Morvan forest. Later this afternoon I’ll jaunt over to Italy’s Poveglia Island. I’ll wrap things up this evening Down Under.
This first post might appeal to cryptozoology enthusiasts like Gummerfan the Monster Hunter, as well as ghost enthusiasts who appreciate French Haunt Jaunts like Jessica of Ghost Stories and Haunted Places. (And, Jessica, if you read this and know of any haunted places in this region that you’ve written about, please feel free to post your links in the comments. I would love to read them!)
USING FRANCE’S WEREWOLF LORE
I learned of the Morvan as I was researching places in which to set my first book, Beneath the Morvan Moon. I’d gotten the idea after reading about a real-life case in Romania where a woman sued to have her husband’s head finally buried with his body.
Why was his head buried separately from his body in the first place?
Fifty years earlier the villagers feared he was a vampire and beheaded him. They buried his head separately to prevent him from coming back to life. (That is a TRUE case!)
I decided to do what writers do and inject that story with some fiction to make it my own. I was out of my vampire phase at that point. I wanted a different monster. But what?
When I started researching werewolf lore, I was drawn to France’s rich wolf-story history. I learned of some real life lycanthropy cases (like Jean Grenier).
Except their werewolf transformations were not just bite-induced and full moon-influenced. Some required a wizard who bestowed upon the cursed a cloak made of wolf fur. (FYI, That legend is what I based “Between the Wolf and the Dog” on, a.k.a. the story that’s on Flashes in the Dark today and inspired this bit-o-Haunting Jaunting fun.)
That’s all it took to get the ideas flowing. Frail, old, near-death grandma gives her granddaughter a map marked with two Xs and asks her to make sure her former lover gets a proper burial. Add in some wolves, another character in search of his family’s heirloom cloak (which he knows has werewolf properties and plans to use for evil), the cloak selling antique dealer (and heroine’s love interest)…I had the makings for my story. But exactly which part of France to set it all in?
NO GOOD WIND AND NO GOOD PEOPLE
In Burgundy, the French have a saying: “No good wind and no good people ever came out of the Morvan.”
When I came across the above saying, BINGO!, I knew I had my place. Even before I researched further and discovered the Morvan was forested and would make a good haven for wolves.
Except, as far as I know no wolves roam the Morvan these days. (Or, like the fictional pack in my book, do they but they stay so well hidden that no one knows about them?)
Nor do any werewolves, but with its history (it was a preferred hideout for many criminals over the centuries because it was so harsh and inaccessible) how do we know none ever roamed there? Or that their progeny doesn’t still linger behind to this day? (Or that the Wizard of the Wolves himself ever lurked there?)
Aside from criminals, other groups who’ve called the Morvan home over the years include the Gauls. They were among the area’s very first inhabitants. And Celtic mythology, legends, and folklore prevail to this day. (Another reason it appealed to me.)
Druids, other religious orders, and royalty have also both reigned in this area. Wars have been fought on its soil. For a long time logging was the major industry there.
Such a diversified history of legends and inhabitants has certainly given it quite the character.
THE MORVAN TODAY
The last thing I want to do is give anyone a bad taste for this place. Magical, mystical and mysterious though its past may have been, it’s also a beautiful area. (See the picture below for an example.)
In fact, today the Massif Central-Morvan (in 2005 the European Union joined the region with the Massif Central and recategorized it as a mountainous zone) is a green tourism hot spot. (I’m holding out hope that one day paranormal tourism might also catch on too.)
WHERE TO STAY
I created a fictional Chambres d’Hôtes (B&B) in the fictional village of Brevard for my book, but here are three real-life places to stay in the Morvan:
- Hotel Resturant du Parc in Château-Chinon
- Au Vieux Morvan in Château-Chinon
- La Buissonniere in Corbigny
WHAT TO SEE
Probably a must on any Haunt Jaunter’s list would be Quarre-Les-Tombes and the 112 empty sarcophagi surrounding its church’s square. Why they’re empty, no one knows. It’s a great mystery. But near here you’ll also find the dolmen in the Fôret au Duc.
The lands of Château-Chinon afford views of the three crosses of the Calvary.
And Anost, even though it’s a popular tourist center, also has great path-access to the forest. (In case you want to go in search of the Wizard of the Wolves…)
BENEATH THE MORVAN MOON
I don’t normally plug my book anymore. For one, it’s been out for almost six years now. A person gets tired of promo!
But more importantly the publisher priced it way too high. (To begin with, then jacked up the price even more a couple of years ago!)
However, when I went to Amazon today to link it up here, I noticed new copies are going for the bargain rate of $2.85!
So…I figured it wouldn’t hurt to include the cover below.
But if you do buy it, beware. Notice how I said “first book” and not “debut novel”? (I used to call it the latter…until I realized what a freshmen effort BTMM was.) I made the common beginner’s mistake of doing WAY to much set up for the first 100 pages.
However, if you make it past that point it becomes a fast-paced read.